Cafés built inside office buildings can be hidden gems in their own right – they don’t catch the eye of anyone strolling downtown or passing by on the freeway. Instead, they’re nestled inside towering buildings for employees and executives to run to for a freshly cooked meal on the days they aren’t busy with lunch meetings. Eventually, after a few lunch-break visits, regulars get a feel for their favorites, know the people behind the counter by name, and can drop by to order “the usual.”
And just like any restaurant, these office places have stories too, along with that one meal customers keep asking for. Here are just a few of the office building cafés around Fort Worth and the dishes they take pride in the most.
Ouzi (Baked Chicken)
Blue Tower Café, Mallick Tower
101 Summit Ave., Ste. 110
Having grown up in Syria, Blue Tower Café chef and owner Feras Alzaitoun brings a Mediterranean twist to a menu otherwise predominated by burgers and sandwiches. His take on Ouzi, a baked chicken dish from his home country, is seasoned with chili powder, cinnamon, garlic, salt and pepper, maintaining a light crispiness on the outside and juiciness on the inside almost reminiscent of American fried chicken. It’s served with two sides – buttery rice mixed with peas and topped with almonds and walnuts, and a cucumber and tomato salad dressed with olive oil, lemon, garlic and dried mint.
Alzaitoun came to the U.S. in 2000, having little experience in the food industry other than helping out at his family’s restaurant back home. Living on his own, he learned to cook for himself and soon discovered that cooking was how he wanted to make a living someday. He got that opportunity in 2013 when he bought the Blue Tower Café. Alzaitoun kept the menu mostly the same but added dishes like the Gyro, Chicken Kabob and Hummus Wrap.
Customers won’t find Ouzi on the regular menu, as it’s one of the café’s weekly rotating specials, listed simply as “baked chicken.” Another popular special is kafta, a Mediterranean meatloaf.
Southwest Chicken Wrap
Fresh From the Oven
6000 Western Place, Ste. 60
Fresh From the Oven owner Sisy Sid grew up in the food business, working at her mother’s restaurant in Thailand. Sid came to the U.S. in 1980 and eventually, despite having no formal cooking education, got a job making simple items like burgers and burritos at a Burleson convenience store. Tired from working long hours, Sid was ready for a change and took over the Fresh From the Oven café inside one of the Western Place buildings in 2012. The job gave her the chance to be more creative with her meals, adding recipes like the Southwest Chicken Wrap to the menu.
The dish began as a special until building tenants requested that it be permanent. Today, it’s still listed under the “specials” menu, scribbled at the top of the chalkboard and never erased. The chicken breast is marinated in cumin, cilantro, lime, salt, pepper and a little sugar overnight. When ordered, the chicken is grilled and wrapped in a tortilla with housemade chipotle sauce, pepper jack cheese, avocado, lettuce and tomato.
And while Sid says the wrap remains one of the most popular items on the menu, perhaps the true stars of the plate are the housemade potato chips and french fries, flavored with seasoned salt that has a mild kick. Chef Germaine Williams, or “Chef G” as he’s called, says customers sometimes come by just to order the fries.
Sid hasn’t lost touch with her Thai roots, however, regularly offering items like pad thai, green curry and spring rolls as weekly specials.
Chicken Tequila Pasta
Alonti Catering Kitchen
801 Cherry St.
No, it doesn’t actually have tequila in it. But the Chicken Tequila Pasta served at Alonti has long been a favorite among tenants in the Burnett Plaza building, catering sales manager Devany Florence says. Though made with roasted red pepper cream sauce and jalapeños, the kick of spice is relatively mild, blending with the flavors of herb-roasted chicken and bell peppers. It’s served with a side of garlic bread or salad.
Houston-based Alonti is primarily a catering company but has three cafés in the Dallas-Fort Worth area (two in Dallas and one in Fort Worth). The Fort Worth location has practically become an establishment in Burnett Plaza, having been in the building for about 20 years, Florence says. While tenants like GM Financial, Huckabee and Basic Energy Services are regulars, Florence says one of Alonti's biggest downtown customers is Oncor, often in need of catering for various company events.