Saturday, January 30, 2016

Cruisin’ in Keller

Life has conspired to keep us in town for many days, but that hasn’t stopped the Near-
Sharp-shinned hawk in oak
Normal Travelers from visiting some of the local parks and eateries. We’d seen, from posts on Next Door, that some folks in our neighborhood didn’t know about the plethora of good restaurants in the area, so this inspired the topic of this blog. Of course, the majority of places to eat are Tex-Mex, but there are several other options available. Before we actually moved to Keller, all I knew was that it was a rural town that had schools with good athletic programs; they beat our school in baseball, football, and basketball, regularly. Keller, located fifteen miles north of Fort Worth, is in the western edge of the Eastern Cross Timbers ecosystem.

The area was first referred to in 1716 by Domingo Ramón who commented in his journal
Background: Keller Town Hall pond
Top L to R: Creek, Bobcat sculpture
Bottom L to R: Cormorants, Donkeys
about the areas of thick oak tree growth that opened into the prairie. Here settlers of Scots-Irish-English descent most commonly cultivated sustenance farms along with peaches, pears, and grapes; they raised hogs because of the abundance of acorns. Out on the prairie, colonists raised cattle; however, their houses were usually within the timbered regions, as well. In the mid-1840s, families from Missouri first homesteaded near the head-waters of Big Bear Creek. The land supported settlements at Double Springs and on the site of what was to be Keller. In 1852, members from the Lonesome Dove Baptist Church moved in and established the Mount Gilead Baptist Church about half a mile south of Double Springs. Not only serving as a church, it was the only schoolhouse in that part of the county until the early 1900s. By the 1870s, Double Springs boasted a cotton gin, grist mill, blacksmith shop, and several stores. By 1879, rumors about the coming of the Texas and Pacific Railway abounded and residents began to move nearer the speculated route. These folks called their settlement Athol. Seventeen years later, a railroad depot was built; in honor of John C. Keller, a Texas and Pacific Railway official, the name of the community was changed from Athol to Keller.

With the new rail service came new towns all along the line, including Watauga, North Richland Hills, and so on. Keller’s population boomed, and 40 acres of land were dedicated
Top L to R: Comet Dancing, Certified Scenic City,
Statue of Liberty (side and front views)
Bottom: Egret sculpture
for public use. A post office was established in 1888. Streets in the original town site still have the names given to them in 1881. Those running north and south are Lamar, Main and Elm; those going east and west are Price, Taylor, Hill, Vine, Bates, Olive and Pecan. Old-town Keller is but a tiny part of the current city, with its borders reaching several of those tiny towns that came into being when the Texas and Pacific came through this part of Texas.

While my three favorite places (Sea Siam, Maria Cucas, and Kassandra’s) are still where we go to most often, there are lots of places to eat in Keller.  For information about my rating system, see Reading the Reviews.

What we did:

Top: Bear on the Trail
Bottom L to R: Robert Duval, James Dean, Gary Cooper
One day, as we were out running errands, Dave and I noticed that North Richland Hills has added more images to its Signal Art Program. The four new pieces of street art are: Bear on the Trail, Gary Cooper, James Dean (replacing the Lone Ranger and Tonto), and Robert Duval. Dave’s favorite is the bear. 

What we ate:
Three and one-half carrots
Café Medi (129 Olive St, Keller, TX 76248, 817-337-3204) provides a rather wide selection of Mediterranean foods in a casual setting. Located in ‘Old Keller’, the house that serves as
Left T to B: Pita, Pastitsio
Center T to B: Lemon rice soup, Shawarma
Bottom T to B: Tea, Tomato basil soup, Baklava
the restaurant is comfortably quaint. Our meal began with hot tea: mine was Pomegranate while Dave opted for Earle Gray. We also both chose soup rather than salad. Dave said that his tomato basil could have come from a can; however, my lemon and rice soup was very good. It was thick with cream and rice, but with a tangy flavor.  Dave ordered Pastitsio for his entrée. This is a sort of Greek lasagna: layers of meat, cheese and pasta. The green beans that accompanied it were spicy and slightly crisp. Neither of us was sure why rice was one of the sides that came with the pasta. Dave liked this meal a great deal. My chicken and beef Shawarma was spicy and had just the right amount of vegetables with it. The accompanying pita bread was served warm. This meal was very good until we ordered our dessert. The Baklava was cold and tough enough that I couldn’t cut it with a knife; it did have a good flavor.

El Paseo (1110 Keller Parkway, Keller, TX 76248, 817-741-4100) is a pretty restaurant with
Top L to R: Menu, Flautas
Bottom L to R: Chips, Fajitas
lots of seating. The staff is pleasant and efficient. Our first pleasant surprise was the chips and salsa. Both are made in the restaurant and have a delightfully different flavor. The chips have chili powder fried into them; the salsa seems very mild, but has a ‘slow burn’ that starts at the back of your tongue and comes forward. We really liked this appetizer. Dave was very pleased with his lunch portion of chicken and beef fajitas and I liked my chicken flautas. The other nice surprise was that the guacamole was not loaded with onion, meaning that I could enjoy the traditional accompaniment to my flautas. Prices are just a bit high for lunch.

Three carrots
Las Piñatas Restaurant and Cantina (5250 N Tarrant Parkway #100, Fort Worth, TX 76137, 817-605-9550) sits up on a hill overlooking a neighborhood. While the view isn’t the
Left T to B: Chips, Taco, Soup
Right T to B: Menu, Fajitas
best, the restaurant is pleasant. Although the address is Fort Worth, it is actually located in Keller. Our waitress was a bit of a ditz, confusing flautas with fajitas for Dave’s order. The chips were very crisp and the salsa was a reddish brown rather than the traditional red; it was tasty and mild. My taco was good, but nothing special. Dave had a cup of tortilla soup that he said was good. His fajitas were good as were the vegetables and the tortillas that went with it. We both agreed that the beans were okay, but not memorable.

Lupe's Tex-Mex Grill (2122 Rufe Snow Drive, Keller, TX, 817-428-7700) sits on the
Top L to R: Menu, Chips
Bottom L to B: Flautas, Quesadilla
dividing line between Keller and Watauga. This locally owned restaurant has a twist on the usual chips and salsa that arrives at the table while you’re trying to decide what to order. They serve a heated black bean dip with subtle flavors that mix nicely with the chips. The salsa seems mild at first, but sneaks up and leaves a pleasant burning sensation at the back of your throat. The salsa and beans are a nice combination. Dave had flautas that he said that the flavor were okay. I had quesadilla that were filled with meat and cheese; they were pretty good. Our server seemed rushed and terse even though we were among a very few customers wanting a late lunch.

Rufe Snow Café (6801 Rufe Snow Drive, Watauga, TX 76148, 817-576-2807) is just across the border of Keller into Watauga. This little café is well known in the area for its
Left T to B: Catfish, Chicken strips
Right: Salad
southern cuisine. It isn’t fancy, but it is good. My only complaint is that there is one person who does everything except the cooking, so service is slow and sometimes she gets fairly confused about what is and is not available. Although I have been very pleased with their catfish, I always wonder just what sort of sauce I may be able to get and if the sides offered have actually been cooked that day. Dave had chicken strips that he liked; the beans were made with bacon grease, so were very flavorful. The bread, served warm, reminded me of those yeast rolls we used to get in the school cafeteria. My salad was fresh and there was plenty of it.


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