Upscale restaurant provides good food, atmosphere, service

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    Like most Saturday nights, The Gunsmoke Grill and Saloon located on the corner of Cockrell Avenue and Berry Street was full of hungry patrons. In September’s issue of Fort Worth, Texas magazine, Gunsmoke was rated as one of Tarrant County’s top six restaurants, and has quickly become a Fort Worth staple.Gunsmoke opened in July 2004 with a laid-back d‚cor, serving the usual sandwiches and salad, but General Manager Jude Ross said it soon changed the menu and interior to give Metroplex restaurant goers an opportunity to get upscale dining without having to go to downtown Fort Worth.

    “We have everything you would want downtown, but closer,” Ross said. “We have food you cannot get anywhere else, but at less of a cost than downtown.”

    Gunsmoke, which keeps its old west ambiance through features like hardwood tables, chairs and saloon doors at the entrance of the restaurant, also holds an 1800s hardwood Victorian bar. Gunsmoke achieves high marks on modern-day ambiance with candle light and the quiet music of Cole Porter playing in the background.

    During my visit, tables filled with older couples dressed in slacks and breezy silk dresses formed the relaxed, yet up-scale crowd of the restaurant. People laughed and chatted as plates piled with steaks covered in decadent cream sauces were hurried out by elegantly dressed waiters.

    Not only does Gunsmoke’s mix of old west and modern dining make it appealing, but the exceptional friendliness and service of the staff bring a homelike quality to this fancy restaurant. Even though my trip to Gunsmoke was on a Saturday night, my waiter patiently walked my amateur taste buds through appropriate wine and dinner selections, making sure to check that every course was properly made to my liking.

    Ross, who started out at Gunsmoke as a bartender, said, “Gunsmoke is different because we call people by name. We want them to feel like they are going home when they come here. That is why we keep it business casual and jeans are accepted. We want people to just come in and enjoy the food without having to get dressed up. We say hello to everyone and keep things relaxed.”

    Gunsmoke’s top-rated menu features items like jalape¤o beef with a cucumber and red onion salad, tenderloin steaks with crab meat and b‚arnaise sauce, and scrumptious desserts like chocolate ganache fudge cake and pecan pie with bourbon sauce.

    My meal, consisting of crab cake, tenderloin and the chocolate ganache cake, was not only delicious, but had a distinct flavor as well. The crab cake was served with thinly sliced andouille sausage that gave it a spicy, tangy taste most seafood dishes lack.

    The medium-well steak I ordered was cooked to perfection, but just in case, the waiter brought a mini flashlight, so I could be sure when I cut into it in the dim lighting.

    The chocolate ganache cake was thick and fudge-like without being heavy. Everything also had a decorative presentation without being overdone.

    Gunsmoke’s Executive Chef Keith Hicks , who has worked in states from New Jersey to California, said that every season he revamps the Gunsmoke menu, keeping popular items but also freshening it up with seasonal foods to keep a “cool flavor” going.

    Waiter Michael Buekers, a TCU senior, has worked at Gunsmoke since its opening.

    “I love working here. Keith Hicks is an unbelievable chef and it has a great atmosphere,” Buekers said.

    Courses at Gunsmoke average about $20, but unlike many upscale restaurants, include potatoes, vegetables or another side without any extra cost.

    For wine connoisseurs, Gunsmoke not only impresses with its food, but also with a selection of over 250 bottles, including wine from more than six different countries, and from each period of Texas’ history.

    “When I started at Gunsmoke, we got a few complaints, but now we have perfected it, and people drive in from Dallas and Plano to eat here,” Buekers said. “Word of mouth has really gotten around.”

    Gunsmoke, along with seven other Fort Worth restaurants, are participating in Dining for Disaster Relief. All restaurants will be offering a three course meal for $50 with half of the proceeds going to the American Red Cross to support Hurricane Katrina victims. Dining for Disaster will be held through Saturday.

    For reservations call 817-920-0833.

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