A collaboration between two long-time Magnolia restaurateurs yields some good eats and creative drinks.
By Laurie Barker James Fort Worth Weekly | March 1, 2017
If you’ve been around the Near Southside over the last decade, you’ve probably watched with equal parts joy and consternation as the neighborhood has changed. Old standby restaurants have come and gone, to be replaced by startups run by upstarts (many of which have also come and gone). Good news: The Lazy Moose is no gentrified, trust fund-baby bar. Located in the heart of all the action, West Magnolia Avenue, the laid-back, rustic space is a collaborative effort between Vance Martin, chef/owner of nearby Lili’s Bistro, and David Shaw, who opened Shaw’s Patio Bar & Grill with wife Ann Diakis-Shaw in the building formerly occupied by Scampi’s Mediterranean Grill. Old timers will remember Theo Shaw, Ann’s father, who helmed the kitchen at Scampi’s in the 1990s, when the expansion of Magnolia’s food and booze options was only a dream.
David Shaw & Vance Martin
On the evening my dining companions and I visited Lazy Moose, Shaw was making the rounds and overseeing the brief, inventive menu. The server told us there were plans to hire a chef. With Martin helming the menu thus far, the selections tended toward the unusual and creative.
The bill of fare is divided between appetizers, salads, and larger sandwiches. The chicken wings are a nod to classic bar nosh –– four huge, meaty, juicy flash-fried wings seasoned inventively with Thai-spiced lime and lemongrass instead of Buffalo sauce. And the sweet potato brie was novel. Cubed, soft-sautéed sweet potatoes mixed into a sweet brown sugar-and-cinnamon sauce covered a nice size triangle of perfectly gooey brie. Raisins and nuts added texture to the otherwise soft dish, which could easily double for dessert.
Green chili polenta fries were a great take on pub grub cheese fries. Six slabs of lightly crispy-creamy polenta had been arranged Jenga-style on a plate and covered with a spicy green chili sauce offset by mild melting cheese. Thicker and more luscious than French fries, the polenta fries were possibly the most stellar thing on the appetizer menu.
From the sandwich side of the menu, the soft shell crab bahn mi (sic) provided a generous helping of crab (soft fried tentacles and all) heaped with slices of ham, shaved veggies, and a spicy aioli on top of a toasted sourdough bun. The thing was messy and almost impossible to share, but it tasted delicious, and the crab was immaculately fresh.
The tenderloin sandwich with pears and Gorgonzola cheese on a crunchy baguette was a little easier to eat, thanks to a portion of beef that was almost buttery in texture. The vinaigrette accompanying the pears and tomatoes atop the meat was sweet/tart, to accent the fruit and balance the tenderloin. Both sandwich plates came with Gorgonzola sweet potato fries (a take on a Lilli’s Bistro classic). Unfortunately, an overwhelming amount of rosemary on the spuds obscured the flavor. Shaking off the excess seasoning got rid of the herb, but it also jettisoned a good portion of the cheese.
There was a single dessert item on the menu when we visited, but we were just too full from eating what amounts to hearty appetizers to even contemplate dessert.
If you land at the Moose on a weeknight before 7 p.m. (the place is dark Monday), you’ll hit a sweet spot of a happy hour. The menu features local and regional beers, a margarita, and an impressive-looking maple bacon cider: whiskey, cider, and maple syrup accented with slices of bacon. The lemongrass martini was exceptional: lemongrass-infused Tuaca with a ginger-lemon sugar rim.
Is the Lazy Moose a really fancy bar or a restaurant with a bar menu that attempts to outstrip the food? Does it matter?