Fort Worth’s Legendary Roy Pope Grocery Comes Back to Life — Your Exclusive, First Sneak Preview Inside the Reimagined Staple
S.Browsing Roy Pope Grocery for the first time since the iconic Fort Worth spot closed in April 2020 is like coming home. It will be for many when the popular grocery and gourmet store in the neighborhood reopens at 2300 Merrick Street in early May after a year of renovation and redesign. Expect a variety of upgrades and a brighter, more stylish, and updated appearance.
“People want it to be the business they remember, only more relevant to the way they live now,” new owner Lou Lambert told PaperCity Fort Worth. “We can’t compete with the wide variety of larger markets, but we can offer the convenience and service of a real neighborhood store. We try to listen carefully to our loyal customers and still close a gap in the market.
“We wanted to offer the neighborhood a place where they can gather.”
The new coffee bar will fill that bill every morning. The Wine-by-the-Glass program will expand this space in the afternoon and provide ample seating to relax and enjoy a meal or snack.
Roy Pope’s legacy dates back to 1943 and generations of locals have relied on his service and selections. That’s why longtime owners Bob and Renee Larance, who said goodbye at the start of the coronavirus pandemic and locked the doors to Roy Pope’s grocery store for good, left a hole in the hearts of many Fort Worth people who grew up with it.
The timing of this closure was not related to COVID-19. According to Bob Larance, it was in the works long before the world closed.
Chef Lou Lambert and Chef Bria Downey are ready for Roy Pope to reopen. (Photo by Courtney Dabney).
The word of Roy Pope Grocery’s rescue and return to fame with a new team of owners gave many a sigh of relief. A Fort Worth team put their heart and soul into the makeover. These include Lambert, the well-known chef and restaurateur of the Dutch hamburgers, including the owner and operator Chris Reale, the real estate agent Rodger Chieffalo and the developer Mark Harris.
In another bold blow, the team quickly tapped Bria Downey to take over the culinary lead. She had just become a freelance agent after leaving Clay Pigeon where she was head chef. Downey has the goods. She is a member of a very rare club of Fort Worth chefs to earn James Beard Foundation recognition. Downey was the 2020 semi-finalist for Rising Star Chef of the Year.
If you didn’t know Downey is a cook from her food-related tattoos, you might guess from the leather sheath she wears on her right hip. There she keeps her handmade chef’s knife with the mother-of-pearl handle close at hand.
The take-away drinks case and the new coffee and wine bar are taking shape. (Photo by Courtney Dabney).
The new Roy Pope
This is not your grandfather’s Roy Pope grocery. This reinterpreted rebirth brings a full coffee and wine bar. And a covered (dog-friendly) terrace for al fresco dining. Downey tells PaperCity Fort Worth that there will be an assortment of homemade pastries (she’s also a trained pastry chef), as well as breakfast tacos and cookie sandwiches.
“We have three house coffees from Frame Coffee Co., the Westover, a breakfast mix, the New Orleans with a bit of chicory, and a dark Italian for our espresso drinks,” explains Downey.
The dining area and the coffee bar are painted in forest green varnish, covered with a thick marble counter and equipped with a shiny new Unic Stella espresso machine. The rest of the room has retained much of the wire mesh shelves from the former Roy Pope Grocery. Only now is it in mint green wooden enclosures with additional custom display shelves.
Roy Pope’s empty shelves will soon be filled with gourmet goodies. (Photo by Courtney Dabney).
Now emblazoned on T-shirts and baseball caps, the fresh new Roy Pope logo is a familiar emblem – a forest green RP wrapped in round oak leaves. It’s a nod to the River Crest neighborhood and the former River Crest Country Club logo. New lighting, paint, and a thorough cleaning make this revitalized neighborhood grocery store look fresh and modern.
There’s a self-serve crate of drinks, as well as take-away, a special sausage crate with pre-cut and packaged meat, cheese, and trays, and even a soft-serve pudding machine paired with homemade toppings, including a brandy cherry sauce.
But no worry. Downey keeps many of the most nostalgic recipes that long-time customers can enjoy. There will be staples like King Ranch Chicken, Mac & Cheese, Beef Stroganoff, Meatloaf, Mayo and Mustard-based Potato Salads, and even the classic Ambrosia Fruit Salad that I’ve remembered well since I was a kid.
The meat market is right where it should be, and the nostalgic meat case is still there. (Photo by Courtney Dabney).
The right wall of the shop is very familiar to you. You can still find the original Roy Pope Grocery butcher and meat boxes there, as well as some other original boxes of hot and cold food.
“We added some typical salads, soups and hot sandwiches like our Italian on homemade focaccia. In the cold case, grilled chicken and salmon will be ready, and our famous chicken and egg salads will always be on hand, ”says Downey. “If you like the brisket I’ll give you the recipe and show you the exact condiments I used so you can make it yourself at home.”
Speaking of brisket, the neighborhood is sure to get a special treat thanks to the combined grilling skills of Lambert, Reale, and Downey and their newest toy – a bespoke smoker / grill from Millscale in Lockhart, Texas, the BBQ mecca of Texas. Expect special steak and barbecue evenings in the near future.
When wine was added to the old Roy Pope Grocery it was a tight selection near the checkout counter. Now the selection of wines and beers takes up about a quarter of the total space of the store. It’s to the rear. Certified Sommelier Mikey Riojas says the business will start with a selection of 150+ wines and 70+ beers, and the collection (which could include 1600+ labels) will expand from there.
Ready meals and nostalgic recipes will be available soon. (Photo by Courtney Dabney).
The most important aspect of Roy Pope Grocery won’t change is their dedication to customer service.
“Most of our employees come from upscale restaurants,” says Lambert. “Excellent customer service is already anchored in them. We will continue to provide the convenience of our house accounts to regular buyers and our in-house delivery service will return soon. “
According to Lambert, Roy Pope’s augmented, rarer concierge service will set him apart from the crowd at traditional grocery stores.
“We can combine full meals or wine trays, complement the flower arrangements in our in-house flower department, and even arrange for a personal cook or staff for events and gatherings,” he notes. Located near the affluent neighborhoods of Westover, River Crest and Crestwood, the concierge aspect of Roy Pope Grocery has always been its hallmark.
The same development and management team recently took on the revitalization of another Fort Worth institution, Paris Coffee Shop. Long-time Parisian coffee owner / operator Mike Smith handed over the keys and recipes on April 19th. Once Roy Pope is officially revealed and operational, this foodie team will turn their attention to the next project. No changes will be made to the Paris Coffee Shop until later this summer.
Roy Pope Grocery is back. And everything seems a little better in Fort Worth.