Come Hungry, Leave Impressed

Chef Bradford Spradley and Vickery Cafe have redefined what’s possible for breakfast and lunch.

A Fort Worth mainstay, the Vickery Cafe has earned a devoted following thanks to its cozy atmosphere, authentic vibe and carefully prepared comfort food. Located at 4120 W. Vickery Boulevard, the cafe has passed through several owners over the years. Through it all, a loyal clientele has grown out of those who come hungry and leave satisfied from the simple comforts of a down-home Texas diner.

Established over 30 years ago as Burdav’s, the beloved restaurant that eventually became Vickery Cafe got a new lease on life through the ownership of Chef Curtis James. In the four years since Chef Curtis became the owner, the reinvented menu has elevated greasy spoon staples through careful preparation and fresh ingredients. Food critics and the public took notice: no longer was Vickery Cafe a novelty that cashed in solely on its down-home charm.  The new cafe still offered ample portions of modern-retro style, but with a serving of exceptional food to boot.

Just a couple months ago, Vickery Cafe took its next step forward, as Curtis offered Chef Bradford Spradley, the local favorite and mastermind behind Bradfoods To Go, full control of the restaurant as chef and general manager. In the time since Bradford assumed the chef’s mantle, Vickery Cafe has established itself as one of the most inventive and groundbreaking lunch-spots in DFW.

“Curtis offered me the opportunity of a lifetime with Vickery Cafe,” says Bradford. “It’s an immensely popular restaurant, and we’re pushing forward, tightening up the food, getting a more artistic and gourmet approach. We’re excited right now, and doing great things.”

The ‘great things’ began with the reinvention of Vickery Cafe’s menu. Chef Bradford has engaged himself with the creation of multiple daily specials, all of which draw upon his vast experience and culinary expertise. One recent example, chicken and waffles, exemplifies how Bradford can spin a masterwork out of a staple dish.

“We put candied bacon inside a Texas Belgian waffle, made a fresh berry syrup, then topped it with country-fried chicken tenders and a lemon-thyme hollandaise sauce. Then we took some red onions with vinegar, caramelized them and put them on top as a garnish.”

To say that the public has responded would be an understatement. Weekdays see Vickery Cafe packed with patrons. As for the weekends? Chef Bradford is considering measures to help accommodate the lines.

“On Sundays we’ll have a line from 9AM to 1:30,” says Bradford. “We’re going to have to build benches and start coffee service to accommodate everyone. We had great customers prior to taking it over, and more and more people have responded to our new stuff.”

For anyone familiar with Bradford’s trajectory, this should come as no surprise. A stalwart of the Fort Worth fine dining scene, Bradford developed his chops at Ridglea Country Club. Ridglea chefs kicked off the Fort Worth food renaissance throughout the middle part of the 20th century, and Bradford finds himself now as the inheritor of this proud tradition.

“What we’re trying to do here at Vickery Cafe is bring the country club to a restaurant,” says Bradford. “That’s always been my dream, and we’re getting stronger every day.”

Part of getting stronger means developing his staff, and Bradford has worked to ensure that everyone at Vickery Cafe meets the highest levels of excellence. From the kitchen and waitstaff to the overall customer service, Vickery Cafe has upended preconceptions about the diner experience.

Though the menu is a work in progress — Chef Bradford queries regulars to see which daily specials will make the cut — any visit will present a diner with a world of gourmet options. Bradford’s light and crisp chicken fried steak is New York strip, cut and tenderized by hand and guaranteed to claim the top spot in anyone’s comfort food hierarchy. For breakfast, a representative dish would be the Santa Fe omelet, which utilizes shredded brisket, pico de gallo, pepper jack cheese and fresh avocado to ensure that diners won’t leave hungry. If you try a dish you like, make sure to let Bradford know.

“Our set menu will change as we nail everything down,” says Bradford. “Right now we’re throwing different stuff out there to see what sticks, and whatever sells the strongest will get put on a monthly rotation.”

A classically-styled diner whose chef is stretching his wings to discover the full expression of his gourmet range: that’s the new Vickery Cafe, and it sounds delicious indeed.