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When I was growing up, my grandparents owned a gas station in rural Arkansas. Not just any gas station, but a gas station with a lunch counter where people in the local area would congregate any time of the day. I’m pretty sure this makes me an authority on gas station food (no, not really). And what Chef Point Cafe in Wautauga, Texas, about 15 miles north of Fort Worth, serves is definitely not your typical gas station food.
In the past, Lance and I have eaten at gas station restaurants in Iceland and Atlanta, but they were all different, so I wasn’t sure what to expect from Chef Point Cafe. When my mom, sister, and I showed up early on a Saturday night, the parking lot of the Conoco gas station was already filled with cars. We knew the restaurant didn’t take reservations, so we were hoping to beat the rush.
Inside, we were greeted with a space that is very clearly part gas station, part restaurant. According to the owners, they weren’t able to get a loan for a restaurant, but they could get one for a gas station, so this is what they came up with.
Like any other gas station, the front has magazines and coolers full of sodas. But next to the candy bars and snacks is a chalkboard featuring the day’s specials, including items like sea bass and rack of lamb. The expansive dining room and bar extend to the left and all the way back.
We were fortunate not to have to wait—even though they have a “call ahead” service that you can use 30 minutes before you arrive, at peak times it can take an hour or more to get a table in this unique place. We were taken past the bar to the back dining room, a concrete space with large windows that feels like a converted garage. There, we were presented with a menu that made it clear that the gas station aspects of the place had stopped and the gourmet had begun.
We ordered a variety of items – crab cakes (which our server raved about), chicken marsala, chicken pesto pasta, and the sea bass special from the chalkboard, along with a lovely bottle of Chianti Classico. The meal was topped off with a bread pudding in cognac sauce that was been featured by the likes of The Food Network’s Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives and the New York Times.
The portions are large and the food was good, not great. Our crab cakes were flavorful, but they were swimming in so much sauce that it almost looked like soup. The chicken marsala was tender and moist but was also overwhelmed by the marsala sauce, which isn’t something I thought would be possible since I love marsala and mushrooms. I should note that this was a holiday weekend, so it’s possible some of the usual staff wasn’t in place.
It’s clear that a lot of thought and effort has gone into the menu and the food at Chef Point Cafe, so despite the minor culinary missteps, we would probably give it another shot if we’re in the area again. Plus, we enjoyed the novelty and ingenuity of the restaurant-meets-gas station concept. Best of all, it gave us an opportunity to reminisce about our family’s old gas station without a hot dog rotisserie or lunch counter in sight.