For several years, Fort Worth has been accustomed to the southwest bend in the Bluebonnet traffic circle being anchored by a seafood restaurant -- first by the long-running neighborhood fave Fishmonger's Seafood Market and Grill, then by Ocean Rock, which closed last year.
Its replacement, then, might take a bit of getting used to: While the newly opened Rock Bottom Bar and Grill certainly has a vast selection of seafood items, some of its best dishes never swam.
At its core, Rock Bottom is a sports bar, with a quintet of flat-screen TVs, 27 beers on tap, pub tables, bubbly servers and its signature Three Olives Purple drink, a vodka, poured from a tap, colored TCU purple.
Along with this change of scenery comes a something-for-everyone menu that includes burgers, seafood, salads, wraps, sandwiches and breakfast items such as huevos rancheros. Also, there's a Sunday brunch.
This is the second outing for owner Conner Kirkpatrick, a Fort Worthian who formerly ran the Walrus bar and restaurant in downtown Dallas. Kirkpatrick says he wants to appeal to a wider range of diners than just seafood lovers, as well as reach an audience beyond the sports bar enthusiasts. He's certainly on the right track: Large-portion dishes are prepared mostly in-house using fresh ingredients, and many go against the grain of typical sports-bar fare.
A cup of Baja chicken enchilada soup ($2.99) was a good example. Ordered as an appetizer (an entree-size bowl is $5.49), the soup was made up of tender chunks of chicken, pico de gallo and tri-colored tortilla strips. Sprinkled on top was a cheddar and jack cheese mix, which, when melted, gave the flavorful soup a nice, thick texture.
Just as impressive was the wonderful Black & Blue burger ($8.99), one of Rock Bottom's four half-pound burgers (the 1-pound Big Bottom Burger is $10.99). Served open-face, it was covered in a homemade blue cheese dressing, with blue cheese crumbles, shredded lettuce, sliced tomatoes and diced pieces of peppered sweet bacon. Subtle peppery spices gave the hand-pressed patty extra zing, but what made it so great was what it was served in: a lightly toasted honey-wheat bun. The contrasting flavors created a near-perfect balance of sweet and smoky. Alongside the burger came a generous portion of well-seasoned hand-cut fries.
Baja fish tacos ($10.99) were a disappointment. Three soft corn tortillas were filled with long, grilled slices of tilapia, along with feta cheese, cabbage and pico de gallo. But even all the toppings couldn't muster much flavor out of the fish. The house-made salsa, served on the side, and accompanying black beans and Spanish rice were pleasant, if not innocuous.
Much better was the dynamite catfish platter ($12.99). Instead of the usual cornmeal batter, three catfish fillets were coated in a thick, flour-based batter, similar to that found on chicken-fried steak, that had been seasoned with paprika, garlic and cayenne pepper. The seasoning complemented the fish, albeit spicily. Crisp coleslaw came on the side, along with fries and a pair of round jalapeño hushpuppies that bit back.
Dessert came in the form of "cake flights" ($2.99 each or three for $7.99), petite portions of a satisfyingly tart lemon sponge cake and a creamy strawberry cheesecake. They were not made on site, but were nonetheless delightful. Other flavors included Key lime pie and red velvet cake.
Service started out a little shaky -- the server was initially spending more time in the bar chatting with friends -- but improved vastly as the meal went on. A manager swung by, too -- more assurance that Rock Bottom hardly lives up to its name.