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The Collegian

The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

Diners give standing Ovation for area soulful restaurant

Keith Hicks, executive chef, sprinkles powdered sugar on a chicken and waffles plate, an Ovation house specialty.  Photo by Martina Treviño/The Collegian
Keith Hicks, executive chef, sprinkles powdered sugar on a chicken and waffles plate, an Ovation house specialty. Photo by Martina Treviño/The Collegian

By Susan Tallant/editor-in-chief

Keith Hicks, executive chef, sprinkles powdered sugar on a chicken and waffles plate, an Ovation house specialty.  Photo by Martina Treviño/The Collegian
Keith Hicks, executive chef, sprinkles powdered sugar on a chicken and waffles plate, an Ovation house specialty. Photo by Martina Treviño/The Collegian

In the past when I got a hankering for breaded, fried pork chops smothered with massive amounts of gravy, I would journey to one of Fort Worth’s cozy little soul food eateries to satisfy my cravings, then waddle home for a nap.

My perception of soul food, which was already good, changed when I entered Ovation, a restaurant on Fort Worth’s west side serving culinary delights by executive chef Keith Hicks.

Hicks, former executive chef at Gunsmoke Grill and Saloon, learned to cook while serving in the Army. His food, however, tastes as though years of professional culinary training were involved, giving a new spin to traditional soul food.

Ovation’s cuisine is plated in a classy fashion, like soul food grown up. The dim and cozy atmosphere, with soft jazz playing, offers a relaxing environment to unwind and enjoy an upscale soul meal.

The menu includes Opening Acts for appetizers, Headliners for entrées and Encores for desserts. Dinner options offer appetizers such as fried green tomatoes topped with fried egg, grilled ham and a béarnaise sauce with red-eyed gravy ($6).

I tried the eatery during a lunch date with my husband. The mid-day starters include chipotle chicken quesadillas with roasted red peppers, caramelized onions and tomatillo cream sauce ($8).

Although I would never waste time eating just a salad at a soul food café with so many hearty options available, the salad choices on the menu did indeed tempt me, especially the Chip Chop Salad ($7). Romaine lettuce topped with blue cheese crumbles, red onion, apple-wood smoked bacon and jalapeño ranch dressing sounds like salad heaven.

Instead, I opted for the house specialty: chicken and waffles ($10). I almost didn’t want dessert after consuming the perfectly seasoned fried-chicken (topped with a heap of fried sweet potato threads), spicy collard greens and blueberry-laced waffles.

My husband tried the fried catfish with hushpuppies ($9) but switched the side of collard greens for cabbage and traded the candied sweet potato coulis for fried potatoes and onions.

The flavors at Ovation are slightly different than typical soul food seasonings. Instead of ham to flavor the greens, turkey is used. The sides also had more of a peppery, tangy taste like a Louisiana style dish.

Speaking of bayou, Keith’s gumbo ($14) is offered on the dinner menu and combines shrimp, crab, crawfish, alligator, chicken and okra served over rice (sounds good for cold days, which are plentiful lately). A bowl of seafood gumbo at lunch is offered for $8; a cup is $4.

I mentioned that I almost couldn’t eat dessert after finishing the waffles. But I certainly didn’t want to disappoint readers, so I took one for the team and ordered a big bowl of warm peach cobbler topped with vanilla ice cream ($6).

Three words describe that lip-smacking treat: gooey, good and gratifying. I guess waddling out of soul food restaurants is a requirement, no matter which spices are used.

Ovation is a unique experience that gives soul food a fresh, new reputation and is certainly worth the trip. Entertainment is provided nightly with live recording sessions on stage.

Local musicians of various genres are showcased nightly including Buddy Whittington, N’awlins Gumbo Kings and Cowtown Jazz Orchestra.

Log on to www.ovation restaurant.com for price menus and an entertainment schedule.

Reservations are recommended; call 817-732-8900.

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