From the outside, Rosa's Grill looks like another Jacksboro Highway hole-in-the-wall, which makes the inside a bit of a surprise: spacious, brightly lit, with hardwood floors and a welcoming, down-to-earth atmosphere.
The northwest Fort Worth spot has been open since April; owner Robert Lopez says that the restaurant -- named after his wife -- is a tribute to his mother, Elvira Estrada, and that it incorporates a lot of the cooking techniques he learned from her. (She passed away a week after it opened.)
In a world of Tex-Mex, this is mostly a straight-up Mexican restaurant, as evidenced by the menudo and posole on the menu, which also has a generous selection of tortas and burrito dishes. Lopez told us after our visit that one of his most popular items is higado encebollado, a traditional Mexican liver-and-onions dish.
As the "Grill" in the name indicates, though, there are also burgers and chicken sandwiches, and Rosa's has an appealing breakfast menu.
During a lunchtime visit, I went with the special, carne guisada ($6.99 regularly, $5.99 on special), a Mexican stew made with chunks of meat and a spicy gravy. It was the comfort food I was expecting, if a little smaller than heartier options you can find elsewhere. The beef was cut in flavorful hunks, and the sauce got most of its power from flakes of black pepper.
The only drawback was the weather: It was a warm day. I'm betting that carne guisada is even better in cold weather, when its warming qualities raise the comfort level even more. The rice and refried beans served on the side were good but nothing out of the ordinary.
My friend went with a grill option, the Daddy's Special ($7.99), a two-patty jalapeño-bacon cheeseburger with grilled onions and iceberg lettuce. The bacon and cheese were placed between the two patties, a touch he appreciated, because it kept them from competing with the onion and jalapeño toppers (and, he noted, made for a much less messy burger than you often get with such a loaded sandwich). The verdict: a winning burger.
Chips and salsa are extra here but worth the $2.99 for the salsa alone -- a thick, smooth version with a rich tomato start and a spicy but not overpoweringly hot finish. The tortilla chips, dusted with red chile powder, were crisp and sturdy, as they should be. When we asked about queso, the server told us Rosa's doesn't really have queso but more of a nacho-cheese sauce. We ordered it anyway, and although I don't think I'll ever object to melted cheese, that's exactly what this was -- very thin and lacking the spiciness of a good queso. But we were warned.
Service was attentive without being obtrusive; the server never interrupted our conversation. But Rosa's is a place where you might well strike up a conversation with other customers, if only to talk about how you discovered the place or the memories the food evokes.
Robert Philpot, 817-390-7872