Bryan and I accidentally stumbled on Bonnell’s Fine Texas Cuisine when my husband was looking for a new place to enjoy for a special anniversary. We hadn’t heard much about it but the menu was so appealing, we were instantly drawn in. We researched Chef Jon Bonnell and it appeared that he was quite the accomplished chef.
If you are wondering what “fine Texas cuisine” refers to, let me simply explain. Texas cuisine is most anything that can be killed on a deer lease in Middle of Nowhere, Texas; deer, elk, rattlesnake, pigeons and quail. Don’t let the rustic nature of the game deter you from trying this fabulous restaurant!
Pulling up to Bonnell’s, it doesn’t look like anything special. It is a stand alone building on the side of the highway in South Fort Worth but we were quickly engulfed in the warmth and hospitality that has obviously been set as a standard by Jon Bonnell himself. It is an older building but it only adds to the cozy appeal. The natural, cozy ambiance is due to the dark wood trim, brick walls, old western photos and memorabilia. The dining room is separated into intimate sections by an X formation of half plank and half glass walls through the center of the room. While there is the feeling of privacy in each nook, there is still a feeling of openness provided by the glass design.
Bryan and I snuggled into a perfect table in the back of our nook. We ordered a bottle of Terrazas Malbec as we decided on how to split up our meals so we could have the best sample of the menu. This malbec was smooth and light. It was a great buy at just $36 which was the restaurant markup price. I put it on my list to stock up on at home.
The menu offers a create-your-own combination appetizer which is the perfect way to go. We were able to sample the calamari (a must have for Bryan), the elk tacos, crispy Bandera quail legs, Texas shrimp and creamy grits and the Oysters Texafeller. I loved every bit. I probably would not reorder the elk tacos. It wasn’t that they weren’t good. They were. There were too many other absolutely amazing things to enjoy. Bryan loved the oysters so much that he ordered another single order of them. They were the most perfect oysters nestled in their shell on top of spinach and topped with hollandaise sauce. The slid down like butter. Wow! Even the oyster shy need to try these. The calamari sauce was uniquely unusual combination of spicy and sweet chili sauce. There wasn’t a drop of anything left on our appetizer plates.
After much contemplation and debate, Bryan settled on the Pecan Wood Grilled Breast of Pheasant. It was served with chipotle mashed potatoes, baby zucchini and baby carrots. After a week of Lean Cuisines, I was drawn to some real food and ordered the Cocoa-Rubbed All Natural Filet served with Lone Star au gratin potatoes and broiled tomato provencal. If you, like I, wonder what Lone Star potatoes are, please see photo. Such a fun plate! My steak was perfectly seasoned and cooked. There is nothing like the first bite of a perfect steak when your teeth sink into the soft meat and the juice bursts with flavor! I would have to say that my favorite part of the main dish were the tomato provencal. I had three good sized tomatoes, slowly roasted with bread crumbs and parmesan. They were simplistic and so tasty.
Neither Bryan nor I have ever had pheasant. I tend to shy away from most anything that would have a gamey taste. This bird was juicy, tender and outright delicious. I enjoyed it much more than chicken which tends to get dry. I highly recommend this dish for anyone. You don’t even have to be adventurous in your cuisine choices. Not even kids would know the difference.
We lingered through our meal. It is that kind of place. We even witnessed a wedding proposal and made friends with an elderly couple at the next table. The hospitality is contagious obviously. We ate enough for 6 people it seems but felt the need to still get dessert and after dinner drinks. It was such a great night that we didn’t want to leave. We ordered crème brulee and port wine, the perfect ending to a perfect meal.
Jon Bonnell just published his first cookbook that I saw when we arrived. I asked our server if she could add one to our bill. She did better than that. Here came Jon himself with the cookbook. He chatted a bit and signed the book personalized to me. Now I fully understand all the hype around his unpretentious reputation. Even with all of his impressive accomplishments, he is a very real guy.
You can make reservations through Open Table (www.opentable.com) and I highly recommend it. Guests linger here. Like I said, it is just that kind of place. Put this one on your list.
Except from www.bonnellstexas.com:
Chef Bonnell has cooked at the prestigious James Beard House in New York City in 2004, 2005 and 2008. He has also been featured on NBC’s The Today Show, CBS’s The Early Show, ABC’s Nightline, ABC’s GMA Now, Better TV, as well as The Food Network’s BBQ with Bobby Flay and The Food Network’s Meat & Potatoes. Bonnell’s has continued to win the “Award of Excellence” from Wine Spectator from 2004 to 2010 and currently hold the highest food rating in the state of Texas by the Zagat Survey of Texas Restaurants