Cafe Reviewed: Wednesday, August 25, 2004
Executive Chef Toby Tindall with the tilapia torta.
Café West
Tilapia torta $9
Rib-eye torta $8
Go West, Young Man

A tiny new cafe in the Marriott Courtyard on I-30W packs a mighty, dignified wallop.


Café West

6530 W Fwy, FW. 817-210-0129. Breakfast 6-10am Mon-Fri, 6am-1pm Sat-Sun. Lunch daily. Lunch buffet 11am-2pm Mon-Fri. Dinner 5-9pm Sun-Thu, 5-10 Fri-Sat. All major credit cards accepted.

A restaurant in a Marriott Courtyard hotel might be the last place you’d expect to find excellent food prepared by a chef who executes his own recipes with signature flair, but that’s Café West. Now in its fifth month, the tiny Ridgmar area eatery is beginning to draw folks from beyond the immediate zip code, according to chef Toby Tindall. He says that regulars come from as far as Weatherford.

It’s easy to understand why. Tindall, who cut his teeth at a Whataburger nearly 20 years ago, earned his fine food chops at Sardine’s Ristorante, Café Aspen, and as executive chef for a local Holiday Inn. He has a great palate and seems to make each dish as if one of his best friends was going to eat it. While the Café West menu is focused on Tex-Mex, Tindall’s specialty, it also offers bits of French, Italian, Creole, and Spanish.

If the café works, that will be because of Tindall. The room itself is off the hotel lobby, which means, for many diners, that it’s got two strikes against it already. But give it a chance. The room is cozy, with intimate round tables for two mixed in among four-tops and a couple of couches. There’s also a small bar in one corner that boasts a former Weekly bartender of the year, Brian Naehritz. The only potential distractions are the two tv’s, but since they’re placed just so — off to the corners of the bar — you’re not forced to look at them.

A recent lunch visit was illustrative of the entire Café West experience, from breakfast to dinner. The tilapia torta, on soft sourdough, was stuffed with two sparkling, fresh tilapia fillets, sautéed, lightly breaded, and well-seasoned. The sandwich — finished with crisp lettuce, crunchy diced tomatoes, and succulent onions sautéed in tilapia juices — was bolstered by a generous dollop of some of the best guacamole in town. This wasn’t mashed avocado with lemon or mayonnaise. Tindall’s guac includes a reduction of spiced, homemade (non-alcoholic) Bloody Mary mix and a few drops of a half-dozen different hot sauces. The tart punch added by the spread highlighted the tilapia’s fine, light flavor without overpowering it.

The sandwich came with a large scoop of chipotle potato salad, an impossibly light confection of Idaho potatoes, bits of colby and Monterey Jack cheese, and diced roasted red bell peppers that lent sweetness and a pink hue to the dish, in homemade aioli (garlic mayonnaise) seasoned with lime and smoked chipotle peppers. Add the pickled okra that snapped when you bit into it and jalapeños, and the order made for a meal rather than a mere sandwich.

Equally good though slightly less adventurous was the rib-eye torta, a simple though oversized arrangement of sliced, seasoned, tender rib-eye steak cooked with caramelized green peppers and onions, topped with a combination of melted cheddar and jack. The steak was full of the slightly fatty flavor that rib-eye is famous for and came out medium-rare, as ordered. The sides were also great in their simplicity. The freshly cut, thin (though not shoestring) fries, seasoned with a mild red chile powder, were crisp, full of bite, and highly addictive. And a warm diced-tomato salsa — served alongside another helping of the delightful pickled okra and jalapeños — screamed with a half-dozen different flavors of chile that all worked well together, giving the dip an edgy sizzle, not just heat for heat’s sake.

Aside from the grill menu — which also offers chicken quesadillas ($8), beef nachos ($8), and an intriguing ceviche caesar salad with marinated shrimp ($9), as well as a number of other sandwiches — Café West puts out a daily lunch buffet with each day themed to a culinary tradition — French, Italian, Creole, and so forth. On the day of this visit, there were chicken enchiladas with mushrooms in a cheese sauce alongside diced breakfast potatoes. But the last portion was going out as my guest and I were entering. The café’s eclectic dinner menu includes appetizers that range from ceviche to quail to Texas chili, and entrées that go from a 16-oz. rib-eye with Texas taters to a French cassoulet (bean and smoked sausage stew) to smoked salmon salad.

Though not the easiest place to find (look for the DynCorp building on the north side of I-30), Café West is worth the trouble. Reservations aren’t necessary, but that may not be the case in a few months.

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