David and Ann Shaw were part of the Fort Worth food scene before there was a Fort Worth food scene, or at least a scene like the one we have today.
For more than 20 years, David Shaw had a series of west Fort Worth and TCU-area hangouts. The Shaws also ran Scampi’s, an Italian joint that was on Magnolia Avenue a decade before the street became a restaurant row. In late 2010, they closed Scampi’s and reopened as Shaw’s Burgers and Shakes. A couple of name changes later, the place is now known as Shaw’s Patio Bar & Grill, but retains its unpretentious vibe.
What brought us back this time, though, was the burgers — specifically the “21 Burgers” menu, reflecting a recent expansion in burger offerings that already included something called “The SHAWsage” (Angus burger topped with spicy andouille sausage). A turkey burger and a meatless portobello burger are among the 21 varieties.
The menu boasts that the red-meat burgers are made with lean Angus beef, and the consensus at our table of three was that maybe the patties were a little too lean. All were cooked to a perfect medium as requested, and the meat was tasty if a little too lightly seasoned, but it tended to get a little lost among the toppings, especially on the fancier burgers.
Granted, when you order something called the 3-Alarm ($10.59) — a burger encased in melted Monterey Jack cheese, topped with charred habanero, serrano and jalapeño peppers and dressed with chipotle mayonnaise — you’re just asking the patty (and your palate) to join a battle it might not be able to win. Surprisingly, though, this may be the burger where the patty performed best, flavor somehow coming through amid all that heat. The heat, though, was hit or miss — there were places on the burger where the peppers were absent (and the mayo seemed to be missing completely), and others where they ganged up and made us reach for the iced tea and nearby ranch dressing. Overall it was a winner, but with a little more balance, it could be a champ.
The toasted bun held up well on the 3-Alarm, but lapsed into sogginess on the Billy Goat ($9.99), a goat cheese/sauteed mushroom burger that came constructed in a nice, beefy tower. Once again, taken as a whole, it was a very good burger, more than generous with the mushrooms. But the patty could have used more seasoning. The Cowtown ($10.99) — Cheddar cheese, barbecue sauce, bacon and onion strings — found a better balance, but maybe that’s because we asked for the onion strings on the side rather than having them crowd the burger. There were a lot of onion strings left over after we used a delicate hand with them.
Speaking of onion-style food, there was nothing delicate about the onion rings (an extra $1.99 as a burger side), which were wrapped in a beautiful, sturdy, crunchy and thick coating. Maybe not the most healthful option, but who eats onion rings for health? Even more impressive was the fried green beans appetizer ($8.99); again, we’re not talking tempura light-handedness here, but an enveloping coating with a peppery bite. This place knows how to fry stuff.
The dessert item that intrigued us most (other than the adult shakes we couldn’t drink during a workday lunch) was the Greek walnut cake, and we were well-rewarded for our curiosity. A fairly plain-looking block of cake even after it was dusted with powdered sugar, it proved to be melt-in-your-mouth moist with a stronger hit of almond than walnut, giving it a sweet, amaretto-ish flavor. That cake sent us back to work happy.
Shaw’s has plate meals as well, including chicken-fried steak (a Shaw trademark) and a pork chop platter that, at $14.99, is the most expensive thing on the food menu. The restaurant has kept up with the times, with a popular Sunday brunch on brunch-happy Magnolia, and a recent expansion of its craft-beer menu. The Shaws have been at this long enough to know how to adapt to their surroundings, yet retain that comfort-food feeling they’ve become so good at over the years.