No restaurant can be everything to everyone, but TruFire Kitchen & Bar comes close. Southlake marks the second branch for TruFire, which debuted in Frisco, a like-minded prosperous suburb, in 2008. Affordable and amenable, this Mediterranean-Italian-American hybrid has one of the more accommodating sensibilities you’re likely to find in a restaurant.
You want pizza? It has pizza. Sandwiches? Salads? Pastas? Yes to all three, along with low prices on wine and accessible hours at lunch and dinner.
TruFire is like the ideal easygoing friend who’s always ready to hang out, whether for a quick drink or a nice dinner. But TruFire is not boring. There is fig for the foodie and sliders for the meat lover. The menu is not comprehensive — but it feels that way because what it does have is smart and up-to-date.
That means hummus ($9), the Mediterranean chickpea dip that has gone mainstream. It was served with roasted red peppers, chunks of feta cheese and rectangles of warmed, herb-flecked pita bread. The hummus was smooth but not runny; it had enough body that you could scoop it with a fork. The flavor subtly balanced sesame, garlic and lemon, without any one component overwhelming the rest.
For a few more dollars, you could get that hummus on the falafel platter ($13), along with a couple of salads and the Middle-Eastern fried fritter known as falafel. Like many of the items on TruFire’s versatile menu, this dish could function as an entree for one, or a starter to split among many.
There were seven small falafel patties, made from a spiced mixture of pureed chickpea and lentil. The texture was admirably bumpy, with some bits of chickpea left whole. The salad part of the platter was made up of a simple Greek salad with feta, and tzatziki, the creamy cucumber-yogurt salad flavored with dill.
Everything was assertively flavored and worked well in combination with the other items on the plate. The big disappointment was the bread. Thick and inflexible, it ruled out impromptu sandwich-making, and wasn’t that good on its own, even with the oil and herb spread.
TruFire had one appetizer you don’t see everywhere else: charred artichoke ($9). Three artichoke halves were trimmed down to the edible parts, doused with garlic butter and crumbs, and roasted until the edges were blackened. We pulled the outer leaves and scraped off the pulpy flesh with our teeth, leaf by leaf, until we reached the prize: the artichoke heart, tender and rich.
Meatball sliders ($11) came four to an order, on soft wee buns, with cheddar cheese and grilled onion. The meatballs were thick and tall, giving you lots of garlicky meat with every bite. But they seemed clunky.
Our favorite dish was the Latin fire pizza ($16), with thickly sliced avocado, caramelized onion and chopped steak on diablo sauce. Fortunately, the cheese was applied with a discreet hand so that it didn’t overshadow the toppings. The diablo sauce had some pretty serious spicy zip. You can get your pizza with regular crust or whole wheat, which is relatively rare.
There is also a section of specialties such as the signature Tru Mac ($16), an upscale rendition of macaroni and cheese. Corkscrew-shaped cavatappi pasta came coated in a garlic butternut cream sauce with cheddar and goat cheese, bacon and truffle oil — lots of gourmet flavors that put it head and shoulders above the usual mac and cheese, serving as the embodiment of TruFire’s aspirations to be approachable and yet a cut above.
Salads range from classics like the Caesar ($6 small, $11 large) to the more exotic ahi tuna ($17) with mixed greens and avocado-mango chutney. There’s a full bar with margaritas and mojitos. But the prices on bottles of wine are so cheap — as low as $25 for a nice red — that wine seems like the smart way to go.
TruFire owners David Kazarian, Jay Clark and Tony Weiss have worked for a number of chains, such as Romano’s Macaroni Grill, Tin Star and more. Their restaurant savvy shows: TruFire has the polish and confidence of a chain, but with an attention to detail and culinary ambition that most chains lack.