The T&P Tavern is starting to seem like the Little Engine That Could.
Joanne and Nathan Weber opened the T&P in the old railroad station on Lancaster Avenue as a bar and grill in December 2008 but had to close it in October 2009. They were able to reopen Sept. 23, but the "grill" part was gone, with only snack food to go with what was then a dozen beers on draught. That number has since doubled.
A few weeks ago, the T&P relaunched its menu, a modest selection of sandwiches, sliders, salads and tacos. All items are either $7.50 or $8, except for the $12 cheese board, which is meant for two.
The tavern doesn't exactly announce itself. It may be in the beautiful and historic T&P building, but it's at the southern end of downtown Fort Worth, several blocks from the Sundance Square action. Bar manager Andrew Hawkes compared T&P's customers to a Cheers crowd -- it's not so much that everybody knows your name, but everybody who comes to the T&P seems to have been told about it by someone else who was told by someone else, and so on.
When we dropped in on a chilly Sunday evening, the huge covered patio was empty save for a few smokers. The smoke-free interior of the bar is gorgeous, with high ceilings and art-deco design reflecting the room's 1930s-era origins, when trains were still the most popular way to travel long distances. Posters for old rail lines and miniature railroad-crossing signs decorate the long bar. There are also more modern touches, such as the muted TVs quietly broadcasting Sunday sports.
Green chiles always call my name, so I opted for the Albuquerque turkey panini, $7.50. Having lived in New Mexico for a few years, I'm used to more original takes on a green-chile dish than a turkey sandwich, but I had few complaints. The turkey is stacked high. The chiles were on the mild side, which might disappoint some fire-eaters, but here it allowed their tangy flavor to come out, and the provolone cheese and tomato provided nice complements to the chile and meat. The salad-dressing spread, however, was unnoticeable, and the pressed sourdough bread didn't hold up to the wet ingredients. Hang on to the plastic fork and knife -- they'll be necessary.
My companion, a vegetarian, ordered the chipotle portobello mushroom panini ($7.50). When the food came, she also had been brought a turkey sandwich, rather than the only vegetarian sandwich on the menu. The bartender, who also took our food orders, apologized and quickly corrected the problem -- and I got a bonus turkey panini to have for lunch the next day. The correct sandwich was a nice mix of dusky-flavored roasted mushroom, provolone cheese and vegan chipotle mayo, which had a nice kick. Without the cheese, as the menu notes, this is a 100 percent vegan sandwich.
The sandwiches came with chips and dips. The turkey panini was accompanied by tortilla chips and T&P's signature salsa, which had the right combination of chunky texture, tomato flavor and heat. We also tried the veggie chips and dip, but the dip, some sort of sour cream concoction, was the only real misfire on the table -- I got an aftertaste that was almost chemical. Good thing the salsa was there, because the veggie chips stood up to it well.
There are other intriguing items on the menu, like the Cajun brisket po-boy -- an open-faced sandwich on a French roll with pulled brisket, sauteed onion and smoked gouda. I'll be back to give that one a whirl.
The menu has no appetizers or desserts, and the sandwiches are reasonably priced, but the main reason to go here is still to have a beer or two. The ever-changing draught beer menu featured local brews such as Rahr Blonde Helles Style Lager and Rahr Winter Warmer, farther-flung stuff such as Lagunitas IPA, usual suspects (Shiner Bock, Guinness Stout) and even Bud Light, whimsically referred to in the online menu as "Our 'I don't know what else to order beer.'")
Wine is also available, as are martinis, including the Elvis, a re-imagining of Elvis' beloved fried peanut butter-and-banana sandwich ... as a drink. Sounds, um, intriguing, but with such a good beer menu, I'll pass, thankya verra much.