In just a couple years, late-night grub choices in the Fort have gone from pancakes and salmonella to a booming scene rich with variety and present at virtually every corner.
In the West 7th Street corridor, Taco Heads (2700 W 7th St) still rules the roost, slinging gourmet tacos until 2am Wed-Sat. Not far below on the taco ladder is The Wild Rooster Bar (3294 Camp Bowie Blvd), serving its full menu until 2am Fri-Sat and keeping the to-go window open ’til 3am. Trough Burger Wagon is still the best walk-up burger option in town, flippin’ and grillin’ until 2am Thu-Sat.
The Near Southside is still your best bet for late-night brilliance. Newcomers Holy Frijoles! Food Truck (1408 W Magnolia Av), parked behind The Usual cocktail lounge, keeps dishing out upscale, authentic Mexican on non-plastic plates until the bar closes at 2am. No late-night list would be complete without TCU-area standbys Salsa Limón (2916 W Berry St), open until 2am every night, and Fuzzy’s Tacos (2917 W Berry St), cooking until 3am on weekends.
Nightcrawlers’ cradle in Fort Worth is still Hemphill Avenue. Though the street is overrun with taco trucks, the holy trinity of taquerias there are still the ones without wheels. Every weeknight, El Mil (3910 Hemphill St) stays open until 3:30am (and 4am on weekends). Ernesto’s (4050 Hemphill St) and Juanito’s Taqueria (4150 Hemphill St) stay open past 3am on weekends.
Taco: The duck confit tacos at Salsa Fuego (3520 Alta Mere Dr, FW) are to the taco what the Curiosity rover is to space exploration: They’ve redefined the game. The superior mole sauce launches the slow-roasted duck meat into celestial territory.
Enchilada: Though it’s been there forever, the Original Mexican Eats Café (4713 Camp Bowie Blvd, FW) is still the standard-bearer for enchilada excellence. They may be simple Mexican comfort food, but for generations of Westsiders, the enchiladas smothered in carne sauce have set the baseline for how Tex-Mex should taste.
Ceviche: Though it may be upscale, the ceviche selection at Revolver Taco Lounge (2822 W 7th St, FW) is worth breaking the bank for. Go for the delicious and subtly spiced red snapper version, with huge chunks of fresh fish.
Chiles rellenos: Winner and still champion: Benito’s (1450 W Magnolia Av, FW). Served in a tasty broth and stuffed with gooey cheese and meat, the giant fried treats are a Fort Worth tradition worth keeping.
Breakfast burrito: The healing power of the chorizo, egg, and potato burrito at Fernandez Café (4220 Vickery Blvd, FW) is undeniable. When mixed with fresh, house-made extra-spicy salsa, it becomes the stuff of legend.
Drink: You can’t go wrong with an agua fresca at Esperanza’s Mexican Bakery and Café (2122 N Main St, FW). Be sure to ask for the cantaloupe flavor.
Bread: This one’s actually a twofer: The fresh pita bread served with the hummus at King Tut Restaurant (1512 Magnolia Av, FW) is easily the best in town.
Appetizer: Ever think Indian food should come in a wrap or bowl, like a Chipotle burrito? India Café (6700 Denton Hwy, Ste A, Watauga) has you covered. The café’s masala wraps and bowls are combinations of seasoned vegetables and rice, with meat optional.
Soup: Pho 95 (5302 E Belknap St, Haltom City) grew from two brothers’ dream of creating a Vietnamese fast-food empire in North Texas. With three locations between Arlington and Haltom City, they’ve at least succeeded in consistently serving up the area’s best pho at an affordable price.
Rolls: Hot and fresh from the oven, the decadent cinnamon rolls at Ginger Brown’s Old Tyme Restaurant (6312 Lake Worth Blvd, FW) are a comfort food escape all by themselves.
Pork Chops: Damian’s Cajun Soul Café (185 S Watson Rd, Arl) makes a tender, breaded, delicately seasoned fried chop that’s a homecooking rarity –– it doesn’t need a sauce to carry it over.
Chicken-Fried Steak: The tender and generously sized CFS in delectable cream gravy is a longtime favorite of the weekend crowds at Old Neighborhood Grill (1633 Park Place Av, FW).
Sandwich: The Grown-Up Grilled Cheese Sandwich at McKinley’s Fine Bakery & Café (1616 S University Dr, FW) is a quiet marvel of cheesy greatness: melted cheddar and provolone with thick-sliced tomatoes on hearty pumpernickel bread.
Side: It’s worth calling ahead to Montgomery Street Café (2000 Montgomery St, FW) to find out when they’re dishing up their scrumptious butter beans and salt-rich ham chunks.
Dessert: Carshon’s Deli (3133 Cleburne Rd, FW), the Fort’s 84-year-old kosher establishment, serves a killer cappuccino ice cream pie –– cold, tart, sweet, and decadently rich.
All-Star Chain Dishes
Appetizer: Nothing fascinates Texan stomachs quite like nachos, and the ones at Qdoba Mexican Grill are covered in a three-cheese queso and your choice of toppings. Try the hellishly spicy habanero salsa. Yowza.
Salad: As make-it-yourself salads go, it’s hard to do better than the selection at Sweet Tomatoes on West 7th Street, where you can carpet-bomb your salad with all the mushrooms, olives, and feta cheese your heart desires.
Entrée: Can’t get much “fresher” than Jersey Mike’s Subs, where the sandwich makers liberally apply olive oils, vinaigrettes, and dressings. It’s a tasty sub for the right price.
Sides: Don’t buy the hype from all of that “hate chicken” stuff –– Chick-fil-A’s waffle fries will continue to love you back, even if you’re gay. Well, probably.
Dessert: It’s not quite a churro (and who thinks Taco Bell sells Mexican food, anyway?), but the cinnamon twists here, essentially corny concoctions fried and topped with cinnamon and sugar, will definitely fulfill the need for a late-night indulgence.
Readers’ choice: Fred’s Texas Café, 915 Currie St, FW
Critic’s Top Five:
• Chubby’s Burger Shack (7914 Camp Bowie Blvd W, FW) is your spot when you just want to stuff your face. But this quaint little eatery in a sad part of town is about more than just serving size. The beef is flavorful, with a nice peppery bite, and the preparation is perfect –– the cheese is always melted just right.
• Dutch’s Hamburgers (3009 S University Dr, FW) uses sweet buns that will either win you or turn you off. Count us in the former category. The sweetness proves a delicious counterpoint to the savory, perfectly seasoned, and juicy beef.
• Flips Patio Grill (6613 Fossil Bluff Dr, FW) trades in size for sizzle. The beef has a steak-like quality and melts in your mouth.
• Fred’s Texas Café (915 Currie St, FW) is pricey, true, but the good ol’ fashioned Fredburger still represents the standard by which all other no-nonsense burgers in town are measured. The beef is always juicy –– and copious –– and the toppings and buns are fresh.
• Mixed Up Burgers (510 Av K, Grand Prairie) is one of the first places in town to serve up burgers with garnishes cooked into the ground beef. After all, toppings on top of your patty are so 2010. At this joint (formerly known as Patty Shack Burgers), the ingredients are fresh and expertly prepared. Select a pre-designed burger or create your own from a long list of “mix-ins,” including all kinds of cheeses, spices, sauces, and everything from bacon to pineapple.
Readers’ choice: Del Frisco’s Double Eagle Steakhouse, 812 Main St, FW
Critic’s Top Five:
• The cowboy steak at Chef Point (5901 Watauga Rd, Watauga) is 22 ounces of hot-knife-through-butter-tender meat, drenched in a buttery sauce. It’s every bit as decadent as an enormous steak should be.
• It might be a corporate chain, but there’s no denying that the sliced filet mignon at the Capital Grill Restaurant (800 Main St, FW) reaches an unparalleled level of sophistication. The accompanying cipolline onions and wild mushrooms give the dish an earthy, bold flavor base, and the fig sauce takes it over the top. But the star of the show is the steak itself, so tender it feels more like you’re cutting into a pound cake.
• The all-natural beef filet at Grace (777 Main St, FW) is perfectly cooked, with a juicy red mantle and warm red core that’s almost too pretty to eat. Almost.
• You’ve got to love a place that isn’t afraid to be a little old-school, and the chateaubriand at Ray’s Prime Steak and Seafood (3206 Winthrop Av, FW) is decidedly that. It’s tender and juicy, and the béarnaise sauce is tangy perfection –– and makes you feel like you’re in a scene from Mad Men.
• For fans of marbling, the 18-ounce bone-in rib-eye at Cattlemen’s Steakhouse (2458 N Main St, FW) belongs in a museum. The Stockyards eatery may look like a cowboy theme park, but its steak selection and quality are no joke.
Critic’s Top Five:
• It’s kind of appropriate that newcomer Holy Frijoles! is stationed behind craft cocktail purveyor The Usual — the food is authentic Mexican street food elevated to epicurean heights. It’s a rare taqueria that can match The Usual’s lofty setting, but Holy Frijoles! accomplishes that and more.
• Though its rolling empire has expanded, Salsa Limón’s relentless devotion to fresh ingredients and simple technique hasn’t changed. It doesn’t get much better than the El Capitan taco served at 2916 W Berry St, FW.
• In many ways, all of the great new taquerias in Fort Worth owe a debt to Ernesto’s Taqueria. The taco mecca was serving this style of fresh, authentic fare before it was cool, and it’s still one of the best.
• The jewel of the North Side, Eva Taqueria (3401 N Main St, FW) is as authentic as it gets. It’s a great bang-for-your-buck place, the service is quick, it’s open relatively late on weekends, and it boasts some of the best barbacoa in town.
• Though it’s more on the gourmet side, Chile Pepper Grill (1100 N Main St, FW) serves the best and most authentic tasting huarache in … anywhere. Sure, some of the sauces are “drizzled,” and the presentation is definitely a focus, but at heart, Chile Pepper is an honest-to-goodness authentic taqueria — and a darned good one.