Cafe Reviewed: Wednesday, November 19, 2008
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A server who is not Marion Barber delivers the goods anyway at Duke’s. Photo by Lee Chastain.
Duke’s Original Roadhouse
2250 Airport Fwy, Bedford.
817-354-4002. 11am-2am daily.
All major credit cards accepted.
Duke’s Original Roadhouse
Sampler platter $10.99
Enchilada dinner $7.99
Spicy Buffalo salad $9.99
Chocolate enchilada $4.99
A D V E R T I S E M E N T
A D V E R T I S E M E N T
Roll, Baby, Roll

Out in Bedford lies the heart of Americana kitsch, tank-top-clad servers, eclectic, savory fare, and … Dom.

By LAURIE BARKER JAMES

What do you do when you and some friends are in the Mid-Cities around happy hour and are craving a mid-week pick-me-up? You could do a lot worse than swing into Bedford and hit Duke’s Original Roadhouse, where you’ll find some potent weekday drink specials — $3 you-call-it Wednesdays, $5 pitchers — and an impressive menu.
Duke’s décor could best be described as schizophrenic Americana. Vintage ’50s-era Coca-Cola signs and pin-up girls mix with cutesy country- and urban-cowboy kitsch. Watch out for the giant cow’s head. The thing looks like it’s watching you, and you might feel guilty about ordering a burger under its unnerving stare.
Likewise, the menu is a mix of cheeky American standbys and the unusual. Scanning the broad menu, you’ll see everything from chicken-fried steak — it’s as big as your head, by the way — to the entire repertoire of Tex-Mex and … Dom Pérignon? No kidding. And for only $200 a bottle.
The salsa served with the complimentary chips came warm. More like a spicy, Mexican-ified marinara, it was good — a little off-putting at first but tasty overall, which actually describes the whole Duke’s experience. It may take you a while to get used to it, but once you do, it’s gooood.
Can’t decide which of the mostly fried appetizers will go best with your happy hour? Get the sampler: fried button mushrooms, hot wings, and fried chimichangas, cleverly named “banditos.” As a bonus, you get three dipping sauces: a horseradish-flavored ranch, a thick and chunky queso, and blue cheese. The banditos were OK, but the mushrooms — in a peppery, crunchy batter — were terrific. The wings were huge, in a sauce that was spicy but not atomic, vinegary, and absolutely addictive.
The enchilada dinner (two of your choice of beef, cheese, or chicken) came with beans and tasty, cilantro-heavy rice. Topped by mild queso, the chicken enchiladas featured generous portions of flavorful, moist bird.
Enamored with the hot wing sauce, we also tried the Buffalo salad: a giant bowl of mixed greens and veggies (heavy on the celery), with wings, wing sauce, and a kind of smoky hickory dressing. The cool crunch of the salad almost assuaged the guilt that came with eating fried chicken doused in blue cheese dressing with more piquant blue cheese crumbles.
Duke’s offers only three desserts: apple pie, key lime pie, and the “chocolate enchiladas,” described in the menu as “a chocolate lover’s dream.” There’s no false advertising here: They were absolutely dreamy. Two tender, moist crepes came filled with sweet cream cheese, nuts, and chocolate chips. On top, plenty of whipped cream, chocolate sauce, and a tart raspberry sauce made the dish plate-lickin’ good.
A restaurant that offers this many choices has to be using frozen or prepackaged food, right? Not so at Duke’s. That giant chicken-fried steak? Freshly breaded. And not a cut of frozen poultry involved. Those chocolate enchiladas? Made when we ordered them. Ditto the regular enchiladas. Even the wing sauce was made in-house.
Duke’s has an impressive patio that evidently caters to folks who want to see and be seen, as well as smokers. The music inside and out was a totally awesome mix of mid-’80s post-punk and rock, but the volume seemed to get louder as dinner progressed, which was a bit distracting. Also distracting: the scantily clad female servers, who all looked to be well under 30. Still, if you’re looking for a place that offers fresh food and good-sized portions along with rockin’ drink specials, Duke’s might be your little patch of heaven out on Airport Freeway.


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