Soul With a Side of Jazz

| photography by Alex Lepe |

One part jazz club and one part soul food eatery, Buttons has earned a reputation over the past seven years for making patrons feel at home.

Walking into Buttons on any given night, it’s hard to miss the signature white beard and megawatt smile belonging to Chef Keith Hicks. Since his days at Ovation on Camp Bowie, Hicks has earned a reputation for being accessible and hands-on, a chef of the people who is as likely to offer his customers a good conversation as a good meal.

When Buttons first opened in Fort Worth in December 2008, it offered all of the elements that first drew patrons to Chef Hicks at Ovation—authentic soul food, exceptional live jazz and a lively cosmopolitan atmosphere designed for leisurely enjoyment late into the night.

The vibe at Buttons is reminiscent of a ‘70s jazz club, and its design feels cozy and welcoming. The menu is a mix of Southern comfort and traditional soul food, with plenty of fried seafood and slow-cooked dishes. For a starter, Buttons’ decadent Fried Green Tomatoes ($10) have been a favorite of mine since it opened. Plated like a Southern Benedict, thick tomato slices are dusted in cornmeal and fried to perfection, then topped with thin slices of grilled ham, red eye gravy and béarnaise plus one over-easy egg. It’s finished with a cool spring mix salad to balance the smoky-spicy flavors underneath.

The Old School Pot Roast ($18) and Oxtails ($22) are delicious (the oxtails are only available on the weekend), but guests must try Buttons’ Famous Chicken & Waffles ($19) at least once. The hand-battered chicken is flavorful, juicy and topped with fried shoestring sweet potatoes. Though not crispy, the Belgium waffles are delicate and sweet, served with a side of melted butter and warm blueberry syrup. Even if you aren’t a fan of collard greens, a side of garlicky, pork-infused collards is too delicious to skip.

Another classic dish is the Shrimp, Fish & Grits ($19). A plate of hardy jalapeño cheese grits with just a hint of spice is served with two delicately fried catfish filets and (not enough) shrimp, and finished with a smoky, red eye gravy and over-easy egg. The egg is optional, but gives the dish more creaminess. Fried shrimp are an unusual choice, and I found mine to be a bit overcooked.

For dessert, the Raspberry & White Chocolate Bread Pudding ($7) was outstanding. The buttery pudding is tender, not soggy, and topped with a just-sweet-enough Chambord sauce and vanilla ice cream.

Although the restaurant offers daily lunch specials as well as $10 signature entrees on Mondays, for the best Buttons’ experience, first-time guests should opt to dine on a night when live music is scheduled. One of the most popular events is Sunday jazz brunch, with live music starting at 1 p.m. The buffet is extensive and includes an omelet bar and more than a dozen breakfast and lunch items.

Buttons consistently offers its patrons and Fort Worth the quintessential flavors and hospitality of the South, with a side of soul.

Location: 4701 West Fwy. (off of I-30, close to Hulen St.)
For Info Call: 817.735.4900
Price Range: $$-$$$
Hours: Sun.-Tues. 11 a.m. – 10 p.m., Wed.-Thurs. 11 a.m. – 12 a.m., Fri. 11 a.m. – 2 a.m., Sat. 12 p.m. – 2 a.m.
What We Like: Open until 2 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays, Buttons is a great late-night option. For anyone who enjoys live jazz music, this is one of the best picks in the Metroplex.
What We Don’t Like: The beer and wine list is pretty limited, and we found the atmosphere too subdued and the food and service a little uneven on a Monday night.
Our Recommendation: The Sunday jazz brunch is a wonderful way to try several of the restaurant’s signature items in one trip. Plan on showing up early to get prime seating and definitely leave room for a cup of gumbo.