Fort Worth's restaurant scene continues to rapidly expand, with new, cheffy spots opening at a seemingly breakneck pace. The flip side of that expansion: places like Hatch's Corner, where, year after year, there are no star chefs or trends, just straightforward, simple and terrific comfort food.
Opened 27 years ago by Howard Hatcher, the tiny Forest Hill restaurant has, through the years and different management, occasionally tinkered with new ideas. But two years ago, Hatcher's grandson, Corey Hatcher, brought the restaurant full circle, to resemble Howard's original spot.
That means soul food and home-cooking staples such as pork neck bones, fried chicken, barbecue, catfish and chicken-fried steak, all freshly made in-house. Food is served cafeteria-style: Diners move through a line, selecting meats, vegetables, rolls and dessert; you can order items a la carte or by the plate ($3.59 and up).
Everything we sampled was excellent, especially the chicken-fried steak. It was the perfect size -- not gargantuan and not tiny -- and its well-seasoned flour batter was crisp and crunchy; there wasn't a drop of grease. The steak was thin, fork-tender and not the least bit stringy, as can often be the case with chicken-fried steak. Get the white gravy on the side and you can eat this with your hands.
Also worth trying: fried catfish, crackling with a light, nicely salty cornmeal batter, and the subtly tangy meatloaf, which, even under the weight of a thick tomato sauce, never did crumble.
Barbecue was a nice surprise. Smoked on-site over pecan in a double-barrel smoker, sliced brisket was tender and smoky and etched in ribbons of fat that melted away in our mouths. We didn't mind the ladled-on sweet sauce; barbecue connoisseurs who loathe sauce can request it on the side, although it is worth sampling.
Although they're not made in-house, beef hot links were good, too, with perfectly snappy casings and smooth textured meat wielding a fiery after-bite.
Among the vegetables, we loved the stewed okra, swimming with tiny chunks of tomatoes; the simple green beans, firm and nicely seasoned with pepper; and the cooked cabbage, which instead of the usual bacon was mixed with tiny bits of brisket -- a nice touch.