Restaurants / Openings

Fort Worth Gets a New Healthier Barbecue Spot — And This Prolific Restaurant King is Only Getting Started

Felipe Armenta is Opening Three New Restaurants in May Alone

BY // 05.05.21

There will be a distinct waft of barbecue in the air soon at Press Cafe. Owner Felipe Armenta tells PaperCity Fort Worth that he is adding something new to the equation soon. Press BBQ will begin smoking in a trailer outside of the cafe, bringing umbrella covered lawn seating with it.

It will open just next to Mellow Johnny’s Bike Shop within weeks.

You might recall that another barbecue restaurant was planned for the same space a couple of years back. Originally, Flores Barbecue set up there, drawing a crowd. Then, there was an ownership and name change to Campo Barbecue. Plans were in the works to build a standalone restaurant on the Clearfork site with pit masters Chris Reale and Lou Lambert at the helm.

Lambert told PaperCity Fort Worth that when it came down to leasing arrangements, the numbers just didn’t make sense in the end. Of course, Reale and Lambert are part of the team that is reopening Roy Pope Grocery and they just took over the reins at another Fort Worth icon, Paris Coffee Shop, as well.

With Lambert out, Felipe Armenta’s new Press BBQ is now taking over the site.

Prolific restauranteur Felipe Armenta is opening no less than three new concepts in a matter of weeks.

“For now, it will be open Wednesday through Sunday, and we’ll expand hours from there,” Armenta says. His goal is for Press BBQ to be a “healthier take on barbecue.”

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“We’ll have smoked meats and deviled eggs on the menu, plus healthier items like my chopped kale salads and grain bowls instead of the standard potato salad and ranch beans,” Armenta notes.

His ancient grain rice bowl on the Press Cafe menu includes sauteed fresh vegetables, farro, quinoa, green tea rice and avocado in a spicy soy glaze. Envision that topped with smoked barbecue. With options such as those, keto and paleo diet followers will finally be able to enjoy their barbecue without regret.

Press Cafe, which was one of the first things to open in The Shops at Clearfork, is typically packed during this Texas season of patio perfect weather. For good reason. It is lush and shady and situated next to the Trinity River. It turns out this riverside setting is just as perfect for a casual backyard barbecue spot.

The Felipe Armenta Empire

Armenta also took over the longtime Hoffbrau Steak & Grill House at 1712 S. University Drive, very near another bend in the Trinity River (as PaperCity first reported back in December). His first true Tex-Mex restaurant, Maria’s Mexican Kitchen, is now set to open this Monday, May 10, just after this Mother’s Day weekend.

Which is fitting because Maria’s Mexican Kitchen is a love note to Armenta’s own mother Maria.

“I have always loved the site and when it came available around Mother’s Day (2020), it seemed the perfect opportunity,” he says. “My mother passed almost two years ago. It’s named for her. A thank you to her for all she taught me in the kitchen.”

The completely reconfigured Maria’s Mexican Kitchen is now sleek and sexy with a U-shaped bar, and plenty of aquatic tones and pops of color reminiscent of the romantic and tropical city of San Miguel de Allende in Mexico. The whitewashed Maria’s, complete with its own patio, fountain and potted herb garden wall, is located at 1712 S. University Drive.

The next restaurant to open in Armenta’s burgeoning restaurant empire is Towne Grill at 9365 Rain Lily Trail in North Fort Worth. The Alliance corridor is strewn with chain restaurants. This independent, chef-driven restaurant will be a welcome change.

“That area is doing so well,” Armenta says. “We thought is would be good to add a chef-driven restaurant concept. It’s a great location, next door to Mi Cocina.” Armenta is readying the restaurant for a May 24 opening.

Towne Grill can expect the same menu as Armenta’s Tavern. The crab cake salad is pictured here. Photo by Courtney Dabney.

The veteran restauranteur first opened his Tavern restaurant in Fort Worth in 2010. He says Towne Grill “is going to be a spinoff of Tavern. The menu will be the same, but we are adding fresh oysters and a raw bar to the mix.”

Armenta’s Pacific Table, with one location just a few blocks down University from the new Maria’s Mexican Kitchen (the other is in Las Colinas), has a similar raw bar with oysters and specialty sushi.

“Towne Grill is one-third larger than the original Tavern with 220 seats inside and another 80 on the patio,” Armenta says. He plans to add umbrellas for shade. “It will have plenty of woods but will be much brighter with a modern and eclectic feel,” he says.

Must-try menu items include an appetizer of queso Americano with house guacamole, the wood-grilled rainbow trout topped with pommery sauce and pecans, everyone’s favorite crab cake salad and, of course, the luscious Key lime pie.

Expect Press BBQ to debut within a matter of weeks (or sooner), Maria’s Mexican Kitchen to open May 10, followed by Towne Grill on May 24.

Felipe Armenta has certainly cracked the code of how to plant the right restaurant in the right location ― crafting menus that keep diners coming back for more. For any restaurateur, opening three new restaurants in the month of May, in the midst of notorious staffing shortages during a global pandemic, is no small feat.

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