Fort Worth diners who follow local chef and Fuzzy's Taco Shop creator Paul Willis from kitchen to kitchen now have a bit of a trek ahead of them: to Granbury, where Willis' Buffalo Gap Steakhouse & Cantina opened in March in a former barbecue restaurant.
Buffalo is owned by Cleburne father-son team and restaurant first-timers Tony and Bob Allen. Willis -- developer of several high-profile Fort Worth restaurants such as Fuzzy's, Yucatan Taco Stand, H3 Ranch and the former Pedro's Trailer Park -- was hired to design the menu and restaurant.
The atmosphere is less Fuzzy's, more H3. This is a large, full-service, fine-dining restaurant where servers garnish baked potatoes tableside and dishes are served on white porcelain plates or in stainless-steel bowls. An extensive wine list has bottles from $20 to $160. Decor has a weekend-cabin feel, with a fireplace, rustic tables and chairs (along with comfortable banquet booths), and dark-stained pine walls decorated with taxidermy and Santa Fe art; it's very cozy and warm.
Despite its snug ambiance, it's family-friendly. There's a kids menu, along with several items on the regular menu under $10, including a cheeseburger ($7), served with garlic-Parmesan potato sticks, and a beef or chicken enchilada plate ($8). On a recent Saturday night, there were as many kids and teenagers as wining-dining adults.
As the name of the restaurant implies, the menu combines elements of steakhouse and Tex-Mex. There are five steak choices, ranging in cuts and prices, and a half-dozen "Latino-Mex" dishes with heavy traces of Yucatan and Fuzzy's, such as a pulled barbacoa sandwich with shredded beef and Chihuahua cheese ($7). Salads, a handful of fish dishes and chicken-fried steak round out the menu.
Of the five steak options, we chose the 12-ounce reserve angus rib-eye ($20.99). It came precisely cooked to the requested medium-rare -- its exterior charred with grill marks, its interior gleaming with a healthy pink color. On the side came a miniature pitcher of au jus, but it wasn't necessary; it was already well seasoned with a crown of garlic butter. It was accompanied by a large baked potato and a house salad blanketed in a white wine-and-feta cheese vinaigrette dressing.
One of the specialties, a tenderloin and chile relleno combination ($21), garnered mixed results. A 4-ounce tenderloin medallion arrived perfectly cooked medium-rare and was topped with a flavorful cabernet mushroom demiglace. The pan-fried chile relleno, however,
was small and flat, and its flavor was drowned in a pool of Monterey Jack cheese. The promised tortilla strips were missing. Accompanying mashed potatoes were described as "white cheddar," but that ingredient wasn't detected. It also came with three thick flour tortillas, which tasted store-bought.
Much more impressive was the fried chicken salad ($8), big enough for two. Fresh mixed greens were tossed with tomato chunks, real bacon, diced red onion and a delicious bacon-honey-mustard dressing that was made in-house. On top were a dozen pecan-crusted chicken tenders, all crisp and juicy.
Our meal started with a bowl of terrific lobster bisque ($5), rich, thick and containing not only bits of lobster but chunks of crawfish, and ended with an equally rich, sizable slice of buttermilk pie ($5), smothered in whipped cream and praline ice cream -- one of several desserts brought in from local and regional bakeries.