It figures: We ring out 2016 with fine-dining mainstay Cacharel gone, but with excitement at a fever pitch over new hangouts for fried chicken ( Gus’s), tacos and fried pies ( Fuel City) and chili con carne (the Chili Parlor at the White Elephant Saloon).
The late Star-Telegram travel writer Jerry Flemmons wrote decades ago that Texans loyally consume the “three major food groups”: barbecue, Tex-Mex and “fried.”
Chili con carne fits into one, if not two, categories.
Chili’s legacy began in San Antonio, where women stirred pots on the Alamo plaza. History calls them the “chili queens.”
But commercial chili powder was first packaged and sold in Fort Worth by Pendery’s, still a local spice shop at 1407 Eighth Ave. near West Magnolia Avenue.
The new Chili Parlor at the White Elephant Saloon takes up the history of the 1970s Lone Star Chili Parlor across the street, serving chili from a window inside the 40-year-old saloon.
Chef Tim Love’s signature beefy Texas red chili is the drawing card, but there’s always a second variety, with a wide choice of chips or Fritos, pico or peppers for toppings.
(This might set a new standard for Texas’ best Frito pie.)
On opening weekend, the Elephant served up more than 500 bowls. It’s sold at lunch and evenings daily (but not in midafternoon), and also after midnight weekends.
A guide to Gus’s
Gus’s World Famous Fried Chicken finally landed on West Magnolia Avenue at South Adams Street.
To answer the three most common questions:
• No, it only comes in spicy;
• Yes, you can call in an order during off-hours, but not during a lunch or dinner rush;
• Yes, there’s parking, but only on the street or in the Magnolia Green garage on Alston Avenue two blocks away.
Gus’s is a Tennessee spicy chicken favorite that spread to two Texas cities known for loving spicy food: Austin and Fort Worth.
Fried pies = fuel
Not every mega-convenience store can brag that it’s “Where Dreams Come True.”
But if your dream is a beef or chicken potpie in a fried-pie version, or a brisket or pulled-pork pie, or Texas Monthly’s No. 1 taco in Texas — then dreams come true at the new Fuel City location on the Airport Freeway.
The new location takes the Dallas Fuel City’s winning combination of convenience-store-tourist-attraction-taco-stand and adds a flagship store for The Original Fried Pie Shop, serving fried pies, meat pies and milkshakes.
Other attractions include longhorn cattle in a pen out back along with a donkey named Precious, a zebra named Zorro and a donkey-zebra “zonkey” named Stormy.
Saginaw, you’re getting a Fuel City, too, at Blue Mound Road (Texas 156) and Industrial Avenue two blocks north of Loop 820.
New Year’s detour
Cacharel’s departure sends more business to the other nice Arlington restaurants such as Restaurant506 at the Sanford House, celebrating New Year’s Eve with an $80 dinner featuring lamb, pork or a beef-tenderloin-and-lobster-thermidor combo.
For dessert, there’s ginger cree brulee. Restaurant506 is regularly open for lunch and dinner Wednesdays through Saturdays and for lunch Sundays (but not Jan. 1) at 506 N. Center St., 817-801-5541, restaurant506.com.