Cafe Reviewed: Wednesday, June 06, 2002
Yellow Flag

Use caution when approaching Creek Side Café, across from the Texas Motor Speedway.


Creek Side Café

3300 Championship Parkway, FW (inside the Westin Beechwood near the Texas Motor Speedway). 817-961-0800. Sun 7am-1pm; Mon 6:30-10:30am and 11am-2pm (occasionally open for dinner, call ahead); Tues-Fri 6:30-10:30am, 11am-2pm and 6-10pm; Sat 7-11am and 6-10pm, no lunch. AE, debit, Diner’s Club, MC, V.

reek Side Café could become a great place to seek respite from the roaring crowds at the nearby Texas Motor Speedway. But before that can happen, the restaurant’s pit crew needs to make a few adjustments.

The café inside the Westin Beechwood Hotel on Championship Parkway opened in September, hoping to bring out the more dignified side of spectators from the testosterone-charged noise-fests at the racetrack across the road.

The restaurant, under the direction of executive chef Greg Ische, and trusty assistant Jeff Glick, touts itself as a spot where you can find contemporary American cuisine with a Texas twist.

“Contemporary” is evident on the small menu that includes trendy items such as free-range chicken, mixed organic greens, fiesta Cobb salad, sweet-corn risotto, and macerated fresh fruit with lavender-honey syrup. Texas tastes receive a tip of the toque with offerings of hamburgers, ribs, onion rings, french fries, and cole slaw. But trying to please Texans with flavorless ribs, onion rings that are really shoestrings served in a fancy black iron basket, or frozen french fries so bland you would think they were purchased at the racetrack’s concession stands might cause this restaurant to stall.

Now we’re not really trying to mock the menu (except the fries), but keep in mind this is a restaurant inside a hotel that’s, well, not exactly La Quinta. When you order onion rings here, you know you’re going to get tinkered-with fare — which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Creek Side’s O-rings are made from razor-thin onion slices, coated in a buttermilk batter flavored with Tabasco sauce. They’re briefly acquainted with the deep fryer, and end up as slightly crispy, spaghetti-like strands that have a good onion flavor without being greasy. But we couldn’t even taste the Tabasco.

The jumbo prawn cocktail had a Mexican rather than a Texas flavor. Served in a frosted margarita glass, the giant shrimp promised on the menu were shamelessly small; they had been chopped into bits and pitifully buried in a gazpacho-style sauce of yellow tomatoes, purple onions, cilantro, and a few drops of tequila. A hint to the pit crew — when you’re diving for chopped shrimp, it’s no fun biting into a hard shrimp tail. The whole thing reminded me and my guest of those cocktails available (for a much lower price) at any one of the Mexican taquerias the Fort Worth area is abundantly blessed with.

Two or three folks could easily handle a full slab of ribs. These meaty suckers held large hunks of beef that unfortunately lacked the tasty smoky flavor of ribs served at run-of-the-mill BBQ houses. The meat seemed a little too firm and just a hint hard as well. The ribs are marinated in bacon grease, which may account for the odd texture and unusual flavor. And there’s nothing special about the house sauce. It tasted just like Kraft’s version, straight from the grocery store shelf.

We didn’t see much Texan about the pan-seared Atlantic salmon, but we gave it a try anyway and were thankful. It had a fresh flavor not often found in fish this far from the source. The bright pink filet was served on a bed of creamy corn risotto. (The menu promised ancho chili in the risotto, but it was disappointingly mild. We didn’t once have to grab the iced tea.) The herbs and cilantro scattered atop the pasta dish gave it a subtle hint of sweetness, and the crunchy corn acted as a foil to the creamy rice.

We tried the most Texan of desserts — pecan pie topped with vanilla-scented whipped cream. The vanilla cream, which tasted more like ice cream, gave the concoction a subtle undercurrent of flavor that took the gooey, sweet edge off the sugar-packed pie. We wondered why someone hadn’t thought of this combination before.

The pie was flawless and worth the begging we had to do for it. Our server did not even ask if we wanted appetizers or dessert. Her attitude was one step down from the teens standing behind the cash register saying, “You want fries with that, dude?” She was distracted and unconcerned to the point of being rude.

The restaurant is done up in amix-and-match style, cobalt blue water glasses harmonizing with the burgundy woodwork all around. A glass wall overlooks a patio and a golf course. We never did see the namesake creek. The downside of sitting anywhere near the window wall is having to endure a wicked Texas sunset. Several groups shuffled to different tables to avoid the westward glare of the setting sun during our evening visit.

Creek Side chefs work in an exhibition kitchen, but you can see them only from the elbows up. There is a full bar, but, since the area is dry, you’ll have to “join” the no-membership-fee club to drink.

The restaurant is also open for breakfast every morning and lunch every day except Saturday, which we found strange. Reservations are accepted, and the staff advises calling ahead since the number of patrons on any given night is directly related to what’s going on across the street or at the hotel itself.

Creek Side Café could be an enjoyable complement to this racy side of town. With a little tinkering of the engine and some more training for the pit crew, it might even become worthy of the few extra highway laps it will take most Fort Worthians to get there.

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