Restaurants / Openings

This New Fort Worth Restaurant is a Real Beauty — Maria’s Mexican Kitchen Makes You Want to Stay a While

Your First Taste Review of Prolific Chef Felipe Armenta's Latest

BY // 07.14.21

Stepping into Chef Felipe Armenta’s newest restaurant can be a revelation for Fort Worth foodies. Maria’s Mexican Kitchen just recently opened at 1712 S. University Drive. Spoiler alert: it bears no resemblance to its rustic restaurant predecessor Hoffbrau Steak & Grill House.

Armenta’s love letter to his late mother Maria is a beauty. The prolific chef, (who created Tavern, Press Café, Cork & Pig Tavern, Pacific Table and Towne Grill at Alliance), grew up under her tutelage at the family’s Armenta’s Cafe in San Angelo. And his mother’s famous mole recipe takes a star turn at this new restaurant. Mom’s signature braised short rib dish that Armenta fondly recalls from many family holidays is also featured.

The shady patio with high design and mission style appeal welcome you to Maria’s. Photo by Courtney Dabney.

The new Fort Worth restaurant’s façade is reminiscent of a white-washed Spanish mission. To the right hand side is a shady and tranquil patio with its own water feature and plenty of eye-catching tile work.

Armenta tells PaperCity Fort Worth that he wanted to translate a bit of colorful and tranquil San Miguel de Allende in Mexico to his new restaurant. If this is an accurate representation, I’m booking my flights now.

The results of Maria’s Mexican Kitchen’s complete overhaul, brought to life with the designing eye of Kellye Raughton, owner and lead designer of Maven on Camp Bowie, are truly stunning. Getting diners to pay their check and leave could now become the real trick.

The ceilings shimmer with high gloss lacquer. Herringbone and black terrazzo flooring makes a dramatic statement. Florals mix playfully with geometric prints and pops of chartreuse, pink and bold artworks. I rarely take “potty pics” but I couldn’t help myself. Do yourself a favor and check out the high design of even the restrooms.

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Dramatic florals in the ladies room. Photo by Courtney Dabney.

Armenta’s classic one page menu is laid out like at his other restaurants, with clever appetizers and inspired salads. (Arementa’s salads are among the best main course salads you’ll find anywhere.) As always there is a specialty of the day, or in this case Specialtes De La Noche ― like halibut en vapor, or a sizzling chile relleno.

My friend dove into an ahi tuna salad. The interesting mix of diced mango and avocado was tossed with macadamia nuts, green olives, goat cheese, slivered red onion and jalapeño in an almond butter and mango dressing. Perfectly seared tuna was sliced thickly and fanned around the greens, making for a hearty meal. It was a seaside vacation on a plate.

Maria’s menu offers a fresh take on the Ahi Tuna Salad. Photo by Courtney Dabney.

On my first visit to Maria’s Mexican Kitchen, I ordered the equivalent of a sampler platter to taste as many flavors as possible. The enchiladas tres colores arrived like a Mexican flag of three enchiladas (your choice of either chicken or short rib filled) draped with three of Maria’s famous sauces: poblano, mole, and sour cream. Each one creamier and silkier than the next.

And yes, the mole is something special with plenty of cocoa and mellow charred ancho chile flavor. It came with a side of buttery rice and black beans.

The Enchiladas Tres Colores draped in creamy sauces. Photo by Courtney Dabney.

I’ll be back soon to try the fajitas famosas with the fam.

Maria’s Mexican Kitchen Drinks

The horseshoe-shaped bar, cascading with greenery and florals overhead, serves a variety of wines, beer and specialty cocktails such as the classic Armenta Margarita, which can be found at many of the chef’s restaurants. New to Maria’s is a nod to TCU, which is located just up the street. The Horned Frog contains Herradura Blanco and Chambord liqueur, lightened by a splash of ginger beer and lime.

There is also The Colonial, named in honor of the restaurant’s other nearby neighbor. It stays in the same color palette as the famous golf course and the restaurant with vodka and green chartreuse, ginger beer and lime.

The water feature with bold tile work, framed with landscaping at Maria’s Mexican Kitchen. Photo by Courtney Dabney.

Brunch is served on Saturdays and Sundays from 10 am to 3 pm. That menu includes classics such as huevos rancheros along with decadent items. Including the new Pan Frances ― a baked buttery brioche doused with cinnamon and sugar, topped with vanilla ice cream and a drizzle of dulce de leche sauce. This dish takes the motto “eat dessert first” to heart.

To sum it up, the creative and authentic family menu is only part of the draw at Maria’s Mexican Kitchen. If you can get a reservation (still a hot commodity with Armenta’s Fort Worth restaurant being so new) the beauty of the space both inside and out will make you want to linger.

Like you would on a coastal vacation.

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