I was reading the Dallas Observer blog the other day and saw this story on 30 essential Texas restaurants to visit before you die. The list was voted on by a collection of restaurant writers, including Fort Worth Star Telegram staffer Bud Kennedy and frequent contributor Teresa Gubbins. Only two places from Fort Worth made the list: Cattlemen’s Steakhouse and the terrible Joe T. Garcia’s. Apparently the voters don’t think our restaurants are “bucket list” good.

The voters were asked to “choose the 30 Texas restaurants that they believed every Texan should eat at once before they die and that any visitor to the state should have on his or her hit list.”

With that in mind, I thought I’d do a short local list of 10 essential Fort Worth restaurants to visit when you get around to it. (I don’t like to invoke death. It makes the whole exercise seem more like a race against time rather than a list of good restaurants you should try). I’m not suggesting that the voters got it wrong (yes I am), just that there are more than two places in this city that belong on a “Best in Texas” list.


Please note: These are not necessarily my favorite places, just the ones I think everyone should experience at least once. No one else got a vote.

Aguilera’s Café (2005 N. Grove St.): Set in the living room of Santos Aguilera, the Northside eatery serves a rotating daily special, and the best tamales you’ve ever had.

Angelo’s Great Texas Bar-B-Que (2533 White Settlement Rd.): Since 1958, Angelo’s, with that giant mangy bear at the entrance, has been slinging high-quality ‘cue to throngs of regulars. There’s nothing better than a cold beer, a huge hunk of well-seasoned brisket, and a thousand eyes from the severed animal heads on the wall staring back at you as you dine at Angelo’s.

Bailey’s BBQ (826 Taylor St.): You should visit if for no other reason than it’s a tiny red-brick shack in the middle of downtown, surrounded by skyscrapers, that has stood in open defiance of the development all around it. It’s been there since the ‘30s. The barbecue is darn good, too, even if it is served in a brown paper bag.

Ernesto’s Taqueria (4050 Hemphill St.): The best thing in the world at 3 a.m. after a few drinks is tacos de everything at Ernesto’s. I almost hesitated to list it, for fear that hipsters will catch on and ruin it.

Fred’s Texas Café (915 Currie St.): Duh. Is there anything more Fort Worth than Fred’s? It’s king of the cold-ass beer, and big-ass burger, and all kinds of other hyphenated menu items with curse words.

Kincaid’s Hamburgers (4901 Camp Bowie Blvd.): See above, minus all the curse words. It’s been keeping Fort Worthains beefy since 1945. The beef is all natural, and everything is fresh.

Reata (310 Houston St.): It’s the originator of the haut Western cuisine that is so often copied by practically every new restaurant in this city. Its downtown location also houses a cool rooftop bar, with a stunning view of downtown.

Salsa Fuego (3520 Alta Mere Dr.): There’s no other place quite like Salsa Fuego, where the Tex-Mex menu items naturally mingle with tuna tartare and duck confit tacos. It occupies a building that was once a fast food joint, which lends it even more charm.

Sapristi! Bistro and Wine Bar (2418 Forest Park Blvd.): Sapristi is the quintessential neighborhood bistro. It’s cool, relaxed, upscale but not stuffy, and the wine list is killer and inexpensive. Besides, what’s the other restaurant in this town that serves mussels four ways?

The Original Mexican Eats Café (4713 Cap Bowie Blvd.): It’s another restaurant that’s been here forever (since 1926), but that salsa is second to none. The Original is a Tex-Mex legend, even if the décor has been updated and the lights are turned up so bright they burn gingers.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on what restaurant got snubbed, or which doesn’t belong on this list.


  1. MILANOS on 7th Street (right across from Chicowskys Center)

    It is the best Italian I have ever had and has wonderful atmosphere… If “The Original” made the list Milanos certainly should have.

    • The Original is mostly on the list because it’s been around for so long, and so many Fort Worthians swear by it. That being said, I could bathe in that salsa and still eat it.

  2. What about Pho Nam, Charlie’s Hamburgers, Big Joe’s Italian (which may be in Haltom City), Sardines and Bangkok Cuisine?

    None of your redneck, ‘chicken-fried’ exotic animal carcass dreck for me.

      • I appreciate you mentioning that. Small businesses stay open due to regular patronage not praise. Compliments don’t keep our doors open.

    • I agree with you on Charley’s. I forget that one sometimes. Sardine’s has been gone for more than a year, or it surely would have made the list.

      I just realized I didn’t include any Asian restaurants on the list. I think the ones that are essential Fort Worth are Sam Won Garden and Japanese Palace — though my favorite is Little Lilly’s at the moment.

      • A group of us went to Sardine’s once, to say we tried it, before it closed and it was AWFUL. The place was half full, but we had to haggle with the hostess to seat us without a reservation. The service was bad and the food was worse–limp cold pasta and not very good sauce. We could not figure out the iconic reputation. The place was empty when we left. May be they just gave up…

  3. Ellerbe’s Fine Foods should be on the list…along with Sapristi! It is the perfect date night place. Amazing food, great wine, excellent service.

    • I thought about it, but I tried to only include places that have been around for at least 10 years. That might have just been my misreading of the phrase “essential Fort Worth.” If I was to include newer places, this list would look dramatically different, and it would most certainly include Ellerbe’s.

    • I guess I need to give that place another shot. I’ve been a few times, and it was pretty underwhelming to me. The salsa was good, but the rest seems like pretty standard Tex-Mex/Mex-Mex fare. I’ll go again.

    • I’ve heard that. To be honest, I haven’t been there in a while. I was just trying to give them credit for being innovative (20 years ago). Maybe I over-thought that one.

    • Agreed on La Familiar. Still good as ever. My go to for Tex Mex.

      Last time I was at The Original I said I would never be back and haven’t. Something has gone terribly wrong over there. And this is coming from a HUGH Original fan. I even once stated that” this is what Tex-Mex was meant to be at it’s roots” So disappointing. : (.

  4. Not in Ft Worth, but Mixed-Up Burgers is a diamond in the rough !!! Completely different and one of a kind. They’re in Grand Prairie. Look’em up !!!

  5. Not in Ft Worth, but Mixed-Up Burgers is a diamond in the rough !!! Completely different and one of a kind. They’re in Grand Prairie.

  6. No love for Old Neighborhood Grill?!? Or any other breakfast spots… For me, ONG is the most comfortable and comforting spot in the city. And Peter might be the kindest person on the planet.

  7. No love for Old Neighborhood Grill?!? Or any other breakfast spots… For me, ONG is the most comfortable and comforting spot in the city.

  8. Los Vaqueros! This restaurant has been in business for 30 years. I know because my grandparents started it and my family continues to operate three locations in Tarrant County today. Their margaritas are perfect. The menu is large enough that anyone kind find something to enjoy. The chicken enchiladas with sour cream sauce cannot be beat. I’m up for a tasting challenge if you don’t believe me. Viva Los V!

    • You’re right, that was kind of a snub. I enjoy Los Vaqueros a lot. I’m pretty sure I wrote about in the past year. I’m not sure which of the restaurants I’d take out of the top 10, though.

  9. I agree with you on Ernesto’s Taqueria, stay away hipsters and Ernesto’s Restaurant on Mccart. Speaking of hipsters Fred’s is not a hole-in-the wall greasy spoon anymore with an eclectic crowd. Its now hipsterville and way over priced. Last but not lest is Kincaid’s Hamburgers, its not as good as it used to be and they have all sorts of competition now. Just my opinion.

  10. Rodeo Goat @ 2836 Bledsoe. I had the Ravi Shankar, and not on a dare. The most awesome burger ever. The downside, I have to drive from Granbury, Tx to eat there, but that is a small price to pay.

  11. Agree with you on Fred’s not being the same…same is said for Chimys. Two of my USED to be favorite places but now that 7th street area is the place to be, so is chimys and Fred’s! 🙁

    • We stopped going to Fred’s several years ago after they started charging a cover to eat on the patio. We had supported them through two mysterious fires, but no longer. The manager on duty said, “It’s only $8!” True enough, but there is also a small matter of principal.

        • Fred’s lost what made it cool a long long time ago. Chandler is interested in being a “legend” and making money. He never understood what made that place so hip, was that it was so funky. Now it’s just boring and overpriced.

  12. Star Cafe in the Stockyards is a definite snub. Very Fort Worth, and it has surely been around long enough to qualify. As much as I love Salsa Fuego, I think I’d take it off the list. Too new for your criteria, isn’t it? Maybe drop Sapristi, too. Mussels and wine don’t strike me as particularly “Fort Worth.”

    • Good points. Sapristi is very Fort Worth in the sense that it’s shockingly laid back. it’s like a fine dining restaurant on oxycontin.

      As for Salsa Fuego, I knew it was a little bit of a stretch. But I put it on the list because of how its menu blends Tex-Mex and fine dining items so seamlessly. That to me is what “Fort Worth” is all about. Or maybe I’m over-thinking it.

      • Joe T Garcias??? That place goes hand in hand with Fort Worth. Lonesome Dove? I also believe JJs oyster bar? Railhead BBQ?

  13. I don’t know how you can complain about their list choices. The first mistake is caring about what is written on a mediocre “Dallas blog”. Your list is better, but have you tried Villa Dianna Italian Restaurant in Burleson? The food is amazing and well worth the drive!, which is closer than Dallas

  14. Paris Cafe for the breakfast, pies, cinnamon rolls, etc. Thai Tina’s downtown. We still love JoeT’s, Playa Maya and Cattleman’s. We are sad that Bistro Louise with her spectacular brunches is no longer with us. We’ve been to St. Emilion and Sapristis a few times last year and found both crowded, stuffy and overpriced with uncomfortable chairs (actually a broken chair at St. Emilion’s-with no where else to sit because of chronic over-booking).

    • Agree with the above, there is no place like the Paris Cafe for breakfast or lunch! We like to at least have an opportunity for a glass of wine or cocktail which will not cost a fortune with our Asian food and Thai Tina’s is inexpensive and with great food before a concert at Bass Hall.
      St. Es is always crowded,way too expensive, and has poor air conditoning in the sweltering summer months. Sapristis is also a reasonable alternative to Bistro Louise (now closed) but they have a habit of ignoring you and giving less than stellar guidance about menu selctions. Also they have an interesting wine selection but it is not “inexpensive” by any means!

  15. First of all, I want to say how much I enjoy the Chow Baby column. I may not always agree with the critique, but so dearly enjoy the “voice” of the writing, I get tickled. Also, I have been led to try restaurants I previously would not of considered or even knew about.

    Had you considered Zeke’s Fish & Chips on Curzon? It’s been there for what seems forever. My fav is the Fish & Shrimp Special. A large piece of battered fried Icelandic Cod, three large pieces of friend shrimp, fries, and delectable hush puppies. When you break open that crispy piece of fish and the tender flaky fish inside steams. Then it begins to cool enough for you to eat. Yummmmm! That shrimp is delicious with a hint of sweetness and those hush puppies are to die for! Just an idea.

    Thank you again for your column! Dearly enjoyed!

    • Thanks, Tracy! I wish there was a “like” button on this site, because I like you. And you’re absolutely correct. Zeke’s is a total snub. I just don’t know which restaurant I’d take off the list to make room for it. Any ideas?

      • I love the list and I am right there with you on Joe T’s 🙁
        Sadly I think Salsa Fuego is no longer, there green chili mac-n-cheese was amazing. I prefer real Mexican food over Tex-Mex which is why I think Chuy’s which was off of main and moved to River Oaks Blvd. Is great Mexican food.

  16. Thai Tina’s is the best for Thai food. It is located in the Embassy Suites hotel near the Bass Hall. Not long ago I saw Billy Bob Thornton & company dining there one evening –in town for a film festival.

    • If we’re talking Thai food – Tie Thai on Houston Street is the best I’ve ever had.
      Their quality is unsurpassed and makes Thai Tina’s look like amateurs.
      I work across the street from Thai Tina’s and have given it many tries in the past few years. Unfortunately, the service has always been unacceptable and the quality is a hit or miss. I met the owner of Tie Thai and she runs a tight ship.
      I would encourage any Thai food lovers to give it a try but be sure to BYOB because they don’t sell alcohol.

  17. Salsa Fuego may be the most over-hyped restaurant in Fort Worth. Jack of all trades, master of none. I put it just a rung below Chef Pointe for hype over substance.

  18. Hmmm. It does kind of seem to me that some of the promoted spots: Fred’s ,Reata, Salsa Fuego are somewhat overrated. Angelo’s and Kincaids are stil perennial favorites, not expensive and much as they were in the past decades.

  19. Cattlemens: This was a nice restaurant, the waiter was good, the food was good, however at the end of the night there was a problem with the billing for someone in our party. After that was fixed they came to me and told me they over charged me, my bill was 52.65 at that point. They take my card, come back with a receipt for me to sign with no explanation of charges for 57.95. When I went to ask the manager “Wes,” he got an attitude with me and told me he was not going to give me an explanation. I had no problem with the charges, I just wanted to know why it was the way it was. He was very rude me to me, I have actually never been spoken to that way before. It seems to me that the charges just got mixed up at the table, I understand that mistakes happen, no big deal, but instead of him telling me that is what happened, I was given no reason as to why I was given two different receipts with two different amounts. I now look at my credit card and there is no charge for 52.65 but there are two charges for 57.95. I will not be going back here due to the way the manager treated me. And I am hoping that I can get that charges sorted out so that I only have to pay for my dinner once.

    • We’ve had a few problems at Cattlemen’s mostly related to being seated next to very loud big noisey parties, and being ignored by a waiter with too many tables, but when we complained to the management, they seemed to be eager to immediately correct the problem, and always very polite. Of all the FW Steak places, I think Cattlemen’s is still the best.

  20. Love your list! as an FYI, not all of the restaurants that were contributed as candidates made that 30 Essential list – and i know that includes a few you’ve listed here

    • Yes, I thought that too. Obscure places like Little Lilly’s Sushi Bar were featured in Bud’s FWST column this week, and he was sighted at Sapristi’s at New Years’. Bud has taken off from his Sunday column today. I guess he needed to take a Pepto Bismol break after all of this intense research!

    • Yes! GOGO GUMBO IS AWESOME! Great food made fresh. Outstanding deserts and excellent wait staff. Now we have Canteen next door open for lunch with the same owner and chef you are guaranteed a wonderful meal.

  21. MEXICAN INN!!! …..RISKIES BBQ!!!! 3 generations of my family have frequently enjoyed these ft worth treasures… not very fancy or unusual, but good quality food.

  22. Is it really sad that I’ve lived in Fort Worth my entire life and never eaten at any of these restaurants?! I’m a serious foodie, and we eat at restaurants on a daily basis. Guess I have some new stuff to try!