With 80-degree weather and a clear, sunny sky, it seems only appropriate to take my good friend’s head-turning, canary-yellow Jeep Wrangler—with its rugged 35-inch tires and lifted body—for a leisurely Sunday drive to the Vintage Grill & Car Museum, a restaurant in downtown Weatherford that doubles as an automobile exhibit. Choosing our means of transportation was like picking out the perfect outfit to match a special occasion, and we didn’t want to show up underdressed.
Vintage Grill & Car Museum is at 202 Fort Worth Hwy. (US 180) in Weatherford. Call 817/594-3750.
We cruise 30 miles west from our hometown of Fort Worth to the eatery, which opened in early 2015 thanks to Fort Worth oilman Tom Moncrief, an auto enthusiast who thought a diner would be a perfect place to showcase his classic-car collection. Located in a 1930s-era building that once housed a gas station and an Oldsmobile dealership, the Vintage Grill & Car Museum—“Vintage,” for short—sits just off Weatherford’s town square within viewing distance of the historic Parker County Courthouse. With fire-engine-red replicas of vintage Texaco gas pumps, double garage doors that open to an expansive street-side patio, and a covered drive-through lane once used for oil changes and fill-ups, the whitewashed restaurant is a classic-car lover’s dream for its nostalgic tribute to service stations of the past.
Inside, patrons can settle in for a meal or head straight to the adjacent car museum, where admission is free. Hungry and thirsty from our windy drive, we decide to eat first then explore the collection of vehicles—as most customers do, our hostess confirms.
The spacious main dining room, with its concrete floors and white, tin-pressed ceiling, provides views of Fort Worth Highway, a popular strip for motorcyclists out for Sunday drives. Butcher paper–covered tables, most of which are occupied by small families and couples young and old, dot the room, each set with a galvanized metal tray stocked with wrapped silverware, condiments, and a straw-filled mason jar. The walls are white and spartan, aside from a few industrial light fixtures and a large marquee that exclaims “VINTAGE.”
Behind the open window to the kitchen, cooks hustle to turn out Sunday brunch orders while waiters traipse back and forth from the connecting restaurant bar, trays of chilled mimosas and salt-rimmed Bloody Marys in hand. Classic rock tunes play via overhead speakers and the venue’s inviting, lighthearted vibe encourages diners to stay awhile, so we do. On Saturdays and Sundays, Vintage serves brunch until 3 p.m.; the menu offers breakfast items like omelets and quiche Lorraine, plus savory entrées such as burgers made to order, spicy penne pasta, and a variety of salads. Our platter of fried green tomatoes, thinly sliced and drizzled with a spicy aioli, arrives promptly as an appetizer, along with a bowl of chunky, gooey, beer-battered cheddar cheese curds, flecked with bits of salty bacon and piquant jalapeño. The flavorful precursors to our meal quickly satiate our rumbling stomachs before our shared entrée arrives.
It’s a close call between the pork stack and the Belgian waffle drizzled with chipotle maple syrup, topped with fried chicken, but we choose the former—a square of crumbly cornbread hidden under a hefty pile of shredded, sweet-and-smoky pulled pork slathered with cream gravy spiked with fiery Sriracha sauce. Crowned with a sunny-side up egg, the decadent ensemble could easily induce a nap, so strolling around the museum is a welcome breather after our meal.
Connected to the restaurant in a showroom with high ceilings and a gleaming floor, the museum showcases a dozen vehicles diagonally parked in two neat rows. Closest to the entrance is Moncrief’s pride and joy and the museum’s main attraction: one of President Lyndon B. Johnson’s cream-colored Lincoln Continental convertibles, this one dating to 1964. The museum’s overhead fluorescent lights reflect off the sleek ride’s shiny exterior, and framed newspaper clippings touting the car’s history sit on the floor, propped against the front bumper. Presented in its original condition, the vehicle boasts a 320-horsepower V8 engine and automatic transmission, per the informative sign situated by the hood.
“I’ve always been interested in cars,” Moncrief tells us. “Cars are works of art, and they show things about the history of their time.” We linger to read the background information on each of Moncrief’s prized possessions, including a black 1948 Studebaker sheriff’s patrol car, a 1930 Buick Oldsmobile, and our favorite: a 1979 six-wheel drive Jeep CJ-7 with rainbow-colored pinstripes. The model mimics the boxy military Jeeps of decades past before they were supplanted by the iconic Wrangler in 1986. Moncrief seems fond of Jeeps, as his collection also includes a World War II–era military Jeep and a Jeep Grand Wagoneer-Dodge Durango hybrid from 1988.
Moncrief has recently expanded the museum to a 13,000-square-foot property due west so he can showcase more of his collection. As we depart for home in our own chariot, we wonder aloud if perhaps my friend’s souped-up Jeep would one day be considered worthy to sit in someone’s classic-car showroom.