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First look: Burger joint Jon’s Grille is now open in Fort Worth

This casual restaurant near TCU has some interesting history.

Start with a single question at Jon’s Grille in Fort Worth: fatty or flatty?

This new restaurant across the street from Texas Christian University sells its burgers “fatty,” as a thicker, half-pound patty, or “flatty,” a thinner, Whataburger-style patty. I thought surely the thicker burgers, juicy and cooked medium rare, would win by popular vote. But so far, co-owner and chef Jon Bonnell says the flatty patty has been ordered more often.

Whichever way you go, it’s unusual that Jon’s offers two styles of burgers when most restaurants stick to one. Jon’s Grille goes one step further, tacking barbecue like brisket, burnt ends, sausage and turkey onto the menu.

A large mural of actor Sam Elliott is on the side of Jon’s Grille in Fort Worth. During the...
A large mural of actor Sam Elliott is on the side of Jon’s Grille in Fort Worth. During the week, the street is often swarmed with TCU students walking to and from class.(Elías Valverde II / Staff Photographer)

Bonnell, a Fort Worth chef and the restaurant’s namesake, co-owns Jon’s with his brother Ric Bonnell, a pediatric emergency doctor who operates a ranch with about 180 head of cattle. Ric Bonnell, his wife and their eight kids run the farm themselves, and Jon’s Grille’s burger meat comes exclusively from the family ranch.

So, really: Get a burger.

The chef has rounded out his burger bar menu with loaded fries called the Trainwreck (which are better than they sound!); fried pickles; elote fritters; and a menu of milkshakes, available with or without booze.

Build-your-own burgers have a nice blend of run-of-the-mill and cheffy options: black garlic aioli, hot pickles, house-made pimento cheese, fried egg and the like. You can get french fries on the burger — I liked it.

Both Bonnell brothers point out that any burger can be served atop a salad. Fine, but I say go for the real thing.

Other sandwiches include an Akaushi hot dog; a fried portobello veggie burger; and a smoked turkey club with sharp cheddar and avocado. “We raised the beef,” Ric Bonnell says, laughing, “and still my wife and daughters like the turkey club best.”

The Trainwreck — not just for drunk folks — is a plate of fries and tortilla chips loaded...
The Trainwreck — not just for drunk folks — is a plate of fries and tortilla chips loaded with queso, chopped brisket, jalapeños, scallions and cilantro.(Elías Valverde II / Staff Photographer)

The restaurant is named after the chef in the family, but it’s also an homage to a bar by the same name open near TCU in the ‘80s and ‘90s. The old Jon’s Grille, named for its owner, the late Jon Meyerson, was known for its cheese fries and flattop burgers.

The two Jons don’t have much of an affiliation — other than Jon Bonnell remembers eating burgers at the original. Even so, a picture of Meyerson hangs on the wall at the new place.

Brothers Dr. Ric Bonnell (left) and chef Jon Bonnell co-own Jon’s Grille in Fort Worth. The...
Brothers Dr. Ric Bonnell (left) and chef Jon Bonnell co-own Jon’s Grille in Fort Worth. The burger meat comes from cattle raised on Ric Bonnell's family ranch in Tolar, Texas.(Elías Valverde II / Staff Photographer)

If these walls could talk, they’d tell another historical story. The new Jon’s Grille on West Berry Street was once a Fort Worth staple called the HOP (House of Pizza) and later a live music venue named the Aardvark.

The address was “almost uninhabitable” when he signed the lease in February 2020, Jon Bonnell says. The Bonnells put the project on hold as the pandemic threatened restaurants across the country. Eventually, the kitchen, the restrooms and the walls were replaced — though because of increased construction costs, the building did not get the new rooftop patio the co-owners once planned. (Maybe someday, they say.)

“It was the most expensive hamburger place I could ever imagine,” Jon Bonnell says. That also explains why it didn’t open by the end of 2020, as the chef once projected.

The restaurant has the opportunity to lure in late-night college-age drinkers like the previous businesses used to, but the Bonnell brothers have designed it as an all-day burger bar.

“We want everyone from late-night frat guys to faculty and staff,” Jon Bonnell says. “We’ll go big for college football Saturday nights. But we also want families coming in after kids’ soccer games.”

The thing to get is the fatty with fries.

Jon’s Grille is at 2905 W. Berry St., Fort Worth. It opened Sept. 9, 2022.

For more food news, follow Sarah Blaskovich on Twitter at @sblaskovich.

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