Monty's Corner is still in its infancy. This is apparent in its quarter-full dining room one recent weekend morning; the multiple versions of its menus, and its uneven "Hangover Brunch" -- a mix of soothing Southern comfort fare, Bloody Marys and one very disappointing po-boy sandwich. A return visit a few weeks later for lunch gave us a bit more hope that Monty's may be sticking around for a while.
Monty's Corner is chef Shawn Horne's newish entry to the thriving West 7th area dining scene. It opened in late February, in the space formerly occupied by Mac's on 7th. That steakhouse, which also has locations in Colleyville and Arlington, closed after a couple of years and made it clear just how competitive the dining landscape is, not just along West Seventh, but in Montgomery Plaza, too. Just a few doors down from Monty's Corner is the wildly popular Gloria's, Boomer Jack's and Pei Wei. The group that owns Sushi Axiom, another neighbor, co-owns Monty's with Horne.
Horne made his mark in Dallas with Horne & Dekker and Kitchen 1924, and the Hangover Brunch became one of his signatures. But after our recent visit, we'd say it remains to be seen if the concept will catch on in Fort Worth.
Ensconced at one of seven patio tables, we were ably taken care of, from our Bloody Marys ($6 each or $12 for an "Endless" option) on. And the drinks were near-masterful, too: enticingly spicy and a perfect mix of alcohol versus tomato juice.
Taking obvious cues from New Orleans, the menu is remoulade-rich, and on the day we dined, it included a mixture of breakfast and lunch items. After a decadent run-in with a basket of complimentary, salty-sweet biscuits, we started with the fried green tomatoes ($7), a small plate of four slices, garnished with a dusting of parsley and coupled with a Parmesan-ranch dipping sauce. Thick-crusted and well-seasoned, they hit the right notes: crispy, juicy and tangy.
The NOLA scramble ($12), rock shrimp atop a corn-flecked bowl of grits, was equally authentic: The salty, fried shrimp were a sharp textural foil to creamy, Gouda-studded goodness. (Don't be misled by the "scramble" in the dish's name. No eggs here.)
The buttermilk pancake plate ($10) was a hungry man's haven: surrounding the powdered sugar pancakes were "pig candy" (bacon with brown sugar), sausage and home fries. The standouts on the entree were neither the this-close-from-being-burnt pancakes (too dry) or the sausage, but the fatty-and-sweet bacon and the addictive home fries, little squares of carbohydrate manna.
But boy, our oyster po-boy ($8) was poor. Huge, quarter-size nuggets of fried oyster were bland, and the spicy remoulade on the hoagie roll was neither spicy nor much of a remoulade; there was hardly any of it there. A meager tomato slice and lettuce officially rendered the sandwich unimpressive. The rest of the plate was covered with home fries. An additional side would have been a better idea.
A second visit to Monty's Corner, on a weekday afternoon, was mostly solid if not dazzling. We started with an appetizer of firecracker shrimp ($8) in a spicy sauce and yogurt cream. They were addictive, but here's a warning: The portion, even for two, is so generous that you might need to cut yourself off.
The tortilla soup ($6) was billed as "the best ever" by our eager server, and it almost lived up to his claim. Tender chicken and a nicely balanced, lightly spicy broth set the soup apart from the mostly over-salted tortilla soups we have tried around town.
The Atlantic salmon ($12) comes with mushrooms, asparagus and citrus butter (I swapped the asparagus out for a crisp, fresh, perfect side of green beans.) The hearty serving of salmon was cooked nicely, with a gorgeous char, giving the outside a nice crisp. It was perfectly lovely, but not so memorable that I'd immediately gravitate back to it on the menu on a future trip.
The chicken-fried steak ($10), served with "mashers" and sweet cream corn, was a solid plate of comfort food and a surefire ticket to an afternoon nap. But here in Texas, this CFS won't score any points for originality -- an average, peppery breading covered a decent piece of meat.
But it was the "mashers" that really stood out -- rustic and creamy, and not overly flavored with garlic, these potatoes reminded us what good old-fashioned mashed potatoes should taste like. Potatoes. The sweet corn added a nice crunch when mixed with the mashers.
We haven't been to Monty's Corner for dinner yet, but a number of off-the-beaten-path dinner items sound intriguing, notably the pork osso buco ($24) and the barbecue braised short ribs ($28). In such a competitive corner of Fort Worth, Monty's will have to do all it can to stand out from the pack.
Additional reporting by Heather Svokos, Star-Telegram