Is La Zona Worth the Hype?

Fort Worth’s buzziest new tapas bar on Magnolia might be facing an identity crisis.

Unique concept La Zona opened on West Magnolia Avenue in January and gets big style points for its epic vision — one building with cocktails and tapas, another for churros and coffee, and a patio sandwiched in between with movies projected on the patio. But, it’s still working on service issues and tweaking its menu and hours. I’m told that a new lunch menu, as well as an updated cocktail menu, could roll out soon.

The entire grouping is known as La Zona and intended to resemble a little plaza that you just happened to stumble upon while exploring Madrid, Spain. The larger building houses Hotel Madrid, which is set up like the lobby/bar of a typical pensión (boutique hotel), complete with a room key holder. The smaller one is called St. Sophia and is a tiny espresso bar (no real seating inside) that also fries fresh churros — these are the real deal and are now available during lunch service as well.

The stage is definitely set, but with some longer than expected wait times (this problem is being remedied by new management in place since April) and a hit-or-miss menu, La Zona is still finding its way.

The bar still seems more efficient than the kitchen (I have visited three times now). The freshly crafted cocktails are delish, and drink orders arrive quickly.

A few of the starters are pretty good, like the Queso Frito ($6.50), which is fried goat cheese balls served with crackers and honey. I also enjoyed the charcuterie and cheese board ($14) and the meatballs in cream sauce ($7). But, the Calamares Fritos ($8), served with a spicy marinara, was tough and flavorless, and the Huevos Rotos french fries with a dusting of ham and cheese are a bore ($7).

Most of the menu is comprised of pizzas. The most successful specimen is the Pepperoni Pizza ($13), loaded with cheese and oily pepperoni. But, the Mushroom ($12) has few mushrooms to speak of and none of the promised white truffle oil.

Non-pizza options include the La Zona Burger ($11), which has a fried egg and a nice smear of “sauce secreto,” offering up a hint of blue cheese. The Grilled Cheese ($9) is a decadent dish, marrying the flavors of melting gouda, strawberry jam and salty prosciutto ham.

For dessert, order the churros, fresh from the fryer with cinnamon sugar, or the Wedding Cake ($6), which is moist and rich with an apricot brandy sauce.

What Fort Worth really needs is an interesting tapas bar. I just wish La Zona would focus more attention to crafting a good menu to go along with its environment.

La Zona

Location: 1264 W. Magnolia Ave.

Hours: Hours vary by day

Phone: 817.489.5055

What We Liked: With new solar shades in place, you can still enjoy an evening on the patio with a quirky vintage movie projected on one wall.

What We Didn’t: Spotty service at times, and the kitchen doesn’t execute as well as the bar.

Recommendations: Visit in the morning before it gets too hot and sit on the patio with churros and coffee.