Cafe Reviewed: Wednesday, November 28, 2007
The sammys are big and tasty at the Swanky Shack.
Swanky Shack
The Alley Cat $5.95
The Sassy Cat $5.95
The Wild Cat $6.25
Fairy Tail

Almost too-good-to-be-true combos of powerful flavors lurk inside the Swanky Shack.


Swanky Shack
2813 Race St, FW. 817-238-3216. 10am-4pm Mon-Fri, 8:30am-4pm Sat. Closed Sunday. All major credit cards accepted.

Inquiring minds want to know: Where’s the newest place to gather for weekend coffee klatches, leisurely breakfasts, handmade sandwiches, and a homey atmosphere that percolates with the same positive, renaissance vibe shared by its neighborhood?
The recently opened Swanky Shack fits that bill and then some. Located in a small, square, multicolored house on Race Street near the Six Points intersection of Riverside Drive and Belknap Street, just east of downtown, the Shack is an ultra-casual shelter from the prefab town homes sprouting up all over the Fort. Owner Robert Rannebarger clearly has comfort, familiarity, and high culinary adventure in mind, right down to the paradoxical name, sky-painted ceiling (replete with model airplane), and bright yellow covered patio in front.
Veteran Fort Worth foodies may recall a similarly named restaurant located just around the corner on Sylvania Avenue that closed a few years ago. There’s nothing of that old-timey, worn-linoleum diner feel about the new Shack, and, in truth, the name is the just about the place’s only connection to the neighborhood’s past — that and its congenial presence.
This new, completely different incarnation of the Shack has daily specials written on a chalkboard over the kitchen and signs that say “Drink Coffee — You Can Always Sleep When You’re Dead.” But it mostly eschews cutesy clutter in favor of friendly service, a knowledgeably stocked but modest coffee bar, and a short lunch menu of sandwiches and sides that amply rewards the big American appetite by delivering distinct flavors in generous portions.
The Alley Cat is a build-it-yourself sammy whose list of ingredients takes up nearly one side of the paper menu. You can pile it as high as the kitchen scaffolds will allow, and I decided to engineer my order fearlessly: roast beef and strips of grilled chicken breast with provolone, mayonnaise, horseradish, and a parade of toppings seemingly in need of a Zantac rescue, including red onions, banana peppers, jalapeños, tomatoes, and black olives. My monstrous creation looked nearly as tall as some toddlers seated nearby, but the ingredients were so sparingly assembled that each was allowed to play its part without overwhelming the palate.
The Sassy Cat was deceptively named, since there was no spiciness in this stellar chicken-salad sandwich on nutty, cakey wheat-berry bread. “Cool Cat” might have been closer to the truth. The mayo-rich, non-sweet, chunky-style salad had the pleasant temperature of just-out-of-the-icebox. The thin, bright red tomato slices on top packed a lot of taste and also helped make for a nice presentation.
The Wild Cat was advertised as “spicy, but not too hot!” — and that’s about right. The juicy, slightly salty chicken breast was gingerly covered in a reddish, barbecue-like, mildly prickly buffalo sauce that served mostly as an aftertaste. The flavor of the bird flew high. A scattering of savory blue cheese crumbles tried to dominate the overall taste of the concoction but couldn’t — the other flavors, including that of a smooth, slightly melted slice of provolone, were as powerful, separately or in tandem.

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