Cafe Reviewed: Wednesday, September 05, 2002
Coffee House Gallery
Migas with sausage andhome fries $5.95
Grilled Portobello burger withside of gazpacho $7.50
Urban Oasis

In the middle of southside blight, Coffee House Gallery does everything right.


Coffee House Gallery

609 S Jennings Av at Pennsylvania, FW. 817-335-4646. Coffee and pastry service daily at 7am. Lunch and dinner, Mon-Fri 11am-11pm. Brunch and dinner, Sat-Sun 10am-11pm. MC, V.

The purple banners strung on the light poles between downtown and Pennsylvania Avenue describe the area as the “new urban village.” But abandoned buildings, boarded-up storefronts, and strange souls staggering down the streets make parts of the neighborhood look more like an urban wasteland.

There are, however, signs of life — chief among them: Coffee House Gallery, or CHG, as it calls itself. Part gallery, part restaurant, CHG is the sort of hangout Fort Worth needs more of — reasonably priced places where you can grab a good meal or linger over a steaming cup of coffee. Sitting at one of the front tables looking out on Jennings Avenue, with Lance Jones’ colorful and playful paintings on the wall and k.d. lang crooning on the sound system, feels more like Greenwich Village or Montrose than Cowtown.

The building was once home to a dry cleaner’s, but you couldn’t tell it now. There’s a long bar running down the Pennsylvania side of the building, a half dozen tables and chairs at the front, and, on the back wall, an inviting pair of red leather sofas on which someone is nearly always perched, nursing a cup of joe and reading a newspaper. A plus for summer diners: killer AC and lots of ceiling fans to keep the air moving even during midday scorchers.

CHG is a work in progress. The owners started with a concept for a coffee bar, then added a kitchen and decided to offer lunch and dinner. The full breakfast CHG initially offered has been replaced with pastries and drinks during weekdays, though there’s still an appealing weekend brunch.

There’s not much on the menu you couldn’t find elsewhere, but everything my guest and I had came prepared and presented several notches above average. At lunch, we tried the grilled Portobello and grilled chicken sandwiches with sides of gazpacho. The soup, accented by a refreshing hint of cilantro, was chunky enough to make us think it had been made with fresh tomatoes instead of canned. Neither of our sandwiches was anything exotic — the Portobello was sprinkled with feta cheese, and the chicken came on a fresh Kaiser roll with the lettuce, tomato, and red onion on the side. But they were both good enough to draw us back for a repeat trip.

For Sunday brunch, my date ordered veggie tacos stuffed with scrambled eggs, asparagus, mushrooms, and green onions, garnished with fresh pico. The tacos were wrapped in two healthy-sized flour tortillas and served with a cup of chopped pineapple, strawberry, melons, and red grapes.

I ordered migas, which restaurants always seem to botch. So I was happily surprised that the eggs arrived fluffy, the tortillas semi-crisp, the diced veggies fresh, and the cheese sprinkled on top instead of stirred in with the eggs.

Both dishes came with home fries — which CHG makes with small red potatoes. And the pico that came with both was just right for my date’s taste but on the bland side for mine. Diners who like it hot might ask for a jalapeńo to slice and toss atop the migas.

There’s nothing on the menu that costs more than $8, and most lunches and dinners are a few bucks cheaper. CHG has a daily burger specials and two changing dinner plates (one vegetarian) that range from quesadillas to lasagna.

The take-home menu boasts that CHG is a “safe place for everybody to hang.” In an area that’s badly wanting many things, CHG is an oasis.

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