Southern-Fried Comfort

Long-time Fort Worthians know to hit up Ol’ South or Vickery Café for a classic, home-style meal, but for residents in Near Southside, Old Neighborhood Grill has been an enduring favorite for nearly two decades.

Long before Esperanza’s, Chadra Mezza and WineHaus joined Park Place’s restaurant row, Peter Schroder opened the doors of his little neighborhood diner, south of the medical district in Berkeley Place.

Old Neighborhood Grill (ONG) has a quaint charm that is easy to love. From its checkered tile floors and the vinyl tablecloths on its tables to the black-and-white photographs that line the walls, ONG takes you back to a simpler time the minute you walk through the door. Open for breakfast, lunch and dinner six days a week, ONG is a place best appreciated when you aren’t in a rush—like a leisurely Saturday morning when you can linger over a second cup of coffee and chitchat with the staff.

Each time I visited, I found the dining room busy but not full. Guests order at the front counter from either a large chalkboard of regular menu items or a smaller board with rotating favorites before finding a table. The menu is diverse with a mix of diner classics like burgers, pork chops and chicken fried steak, as well as Southern comfort foods such as fried catfish, shrimp and grits or chicken and waffles.

If you’re in the mood for an appetizer, I suggest trying ONG’s Stuffed Jalapeños ($5.25), which are breaded and fried to a perfectly golden brown and stuffed with a creamy cheddar spread in lieu of traditional cream cheese and served with a side of ranch. The cheddar was a pleasant surprise, and the peppers weren’t overly spicy.

The burgers came highly recommended, but we opted for the self-proclaimed “perfectly seasoned” Chicken Fried Steak ($9.95) and a Fried Shrimp and Catfish Combo Basket ($11.25). The Chicken Fried Steak was a good size and tender with a flavorful breading and generous helping of cream gravy. The catfish pieces and shrimp were on the small side with a dense cornmeal coating. The seafood had good flavor, but I definitely would have preferred fresh instead of premade cocktail and tartar sauces.

ONG offers a decent selection of classic sides, from mashed potatoes and gravy to coleslaw and green beans, and I was impressed with the fresh-cut, sweet potato fries. Hot from the fryer, they are absolutely perfect.

No matter what, leave room for dessert. A beautiful selection of pies is on display at the front counter, but we went with our server’s suggestion and sampled a piece of chocolate meringue pie ($2) from the cooler. A decadent and rich chocolate custard base is piled high with fluffy and lightly browned meringue. I was tempted to buy a second slice to save for later.

From start to finish, ONG offers solid preparations and classic flavors. Diners can definitely find more inventive takes on Southern cuisine a few blocks over on Magnolia, but for consistently good diner eats and the best in Southern hospitality, ONG is the type of neighborhood restaurant you want within walking distance.

Location: 1633 Park Place Ave.
For Info: 817.923.2282
Prices: $ - $$
Hours: Mon.-Fri. 7 a.m.-9 p.m., Sat. 8 a.m.-9 p.m.
What We Liked: A meal is always better in a welcoming, warm atmosphere. That’s why we love the staff at ONG. Customers are cheerfully greeted when they walk in and get a friendly “thank you for coming” when they leave.
What We Didn’t: In the South, you often judge a place by the quality of the biscuits, and we’re sad to say that the biscuits were just okay. Also, if you want a glass of juice, be sure to order a large. The small isn’t much larger than a shot glass.
Our Recommendations: Stop by ONG for breakfast and try the omelet with Texas chili or a plate of Texas-style migas.