Roy Pope Grocery, a Fort Worth landmark, has officially reopened after about a 13-month-long hiatus during the pandemic. The store, which first opened its doors in 1943, underwent extensive renovations after four locals, including chef Lou Lambert, partnered up last year and took on the challenge of continuing the store’s historic role in the community.
“The idea was to keep the legacy alive, keep Roy Pope going, but making it more relevant, putting a breath of fresh air into it,” says Roy Pope Grocery owner-operator Chris Reale. “The big thing was the remodel.”
The remodel was massive: The new owners took the store down to all four walls and completely gutted the interior, Reale says. The grocery portion of the store was made a bit smaller, and a wines-by-the-glass bar was put in, as well as a coffee bar. Reale also says his team expanded the Roy Pope kitchen to about five times what it was.
The reasoning behind this kitchen expansion is the strong culinary background shared by Reale and Lambert, his longtime mentor and business partner, who has run multiple restaurants in Austin and a couple in Fort Worth over the years.
“As culinary minded people, it was really important that we put a lot of emphasis on the baking program,” Reale says.
The new Roy Pope reflects the culinary minds behind the operation in the new menus and bakery items. The store offers fresh pastries every morning and breakfast tacos at the coffee bar.
Reale says the lunch menu, which starts at 11 a.m., includes hot Italian sandwiches, cold sandwiches and salads. There is also a hot deli lunch filled with roasted chicken, steak, pork chops, and sides like mashed potatoes, grilled asparagus, and more. The new cold deli is open for customers looking to purchase items such as a chilled grilled salmon available by the pound.
“The pressure was on,” Reale says about figuring out a balance between the new and the old Roy Pope. “This has been a staple for so long. Everyone in the neighborhood, of course, had opinions, and they definitely let me know those opinions during construction and before we were open. You know, change for anyone can be scary.”
As a Fort Worth native and Texas Christian University alum, Reale says he listened carefully to the community’s opinions and kept the store’s legacy in mind during the revamping process. He intends to keep some of the classic Roy Pope specials available to guests.
“Roy Pope was known for the King Ranch casserole and meatloaf and fried chicken, and certain days [we] have certain specials,” Reale says. “Right now I’m just jotting down all the feedback that I can possibly get from all the guests that are coming in and trying to give them what they want.”
The store also has a new coffee and wine bar, which has a unique menus of its own. The coffee menu is simple and classic, consisting of espressos, Americanos, cortados and lattes. The Roy Pope Full Speed is a spin-off of a Vietnamese iced coffee, and Reale says it’s already a big seller.
The coffee menu also includes the Roy Pope Westover blend and the Roy Pope Camp Bowie dark roast, both of which are named after the local community where the store is located.
The new wine menu is also a huge change for Roy Pope. Since its recent reopening, the store’s wine bar and patio has already become a popular spot for locals. Mikey Riojas, who has sommelier and cicerone certifications, is the store’s beverage department director and manager of the wine and coffee bar.
There are more than 150 wines and more than 70 beers available, including 2015 Egelhoff Cabernet Sauvignon “Blue Label,” 2018 Barbour Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon, and 2013 Masi Serego Alighieri Vaio Armaron. The new Roy Pope also has German and Belgian beers, as well as local craft beers from Fort Worth’s Wild Acre Brewing Company.
“I’ve had requests for certain products, and I’ve been able to hunt for them and find out who makes the product and, first and foremost, who distributes it,” Riojas says about adding new drink items.
Roy Pope Grocery just launched a wine club with in-store tastings. According to a recent press release, the wine club program will include “a month-by-month offering of wines themed by region, starting with wines from Portugal.” Members can enjoy wine events on the patio twice per month with wine-friendly snacks, among other perks.
Reale says he hopes to make Roy Pope Grocery a hub for events that engage with the community, and he looks forward to continuing to change and meet the needs of the Fort Worth community.
“My vision is to continue to develop with the neighborhood,” Reale says. “So, as we grow, the neighborhood grows with us.”