Readers’ choice: Melt Ice Creams, 954 W Rosedale St
Critic’s choice: Steel City Pops, 908 Currie St
Let’s think outside the ice cream box here. Steel City Pops does two main types of pops: fruity, which is like a frozen puree, and creamy, which is very much like ice cream. Purists may not refer to it as “ice cream,” but there is no doubt Steel City puts out delicious and creative flavors. Sure, you can get strawberry and vanilla, but doesn’t cucumber-lime sound like an excellent choice on a blistering hot day? Plus, Steel City uses only locally sourced organic ingredients.
Critic’s choice: The Fresh Market, 1751 River Run, Ste 101
Love Central Market but hate feeling like you’re shopping at a theme park? Fresh Market doesn’t have quite the selection CM boasts, but what it lacks in options (and the options are still pretty great), it makes up for in price. With weekly and daily specials on everything from lobster tail and salmon fillets to pork tenderloin and chicken thighs, you’re sure to find what you need. Best of all, there’s actually space to move around with a shopping cart, you won’t be waiting until next Tuesday for your number to be called, and checkout lines are usually minimal.
Readers’ choice: Spiral Dinner
Critic’s choice: Samson’s Market Bistro, 4398 Camp Bowie Blvd
Meatless dining has come a long way in Cowtown, but true variety and culinary adventure remain elusive goals for vegetarians and those who love them. Ethiopian cuisine fits the bill, thankfully, and Samson’s Market Bistro is a great introduction to the flavors and ingredients of the Horn of Africa. Collard greens with cardamom, beet root with ginger, lentils with berbere, and other brightly colored treats are splashed across the injera flatbread canvas of Samson’s vegetarian sampler. The combination of fresh flavors is enough to hold the attention of even the staunchest carnivore, plus you get to eat it with your hands.
Bread (at a Restaurant)
Critic’s choice: Café Modern, the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, 3200 Darnell St
Café Modern may have the most beautiful dining room in town, but the staff doesn’t coast on the café’s A-list location or cut corners on quality. Even its bread basket is a work of art: A variety of hot wheat rolls and sticks of perfect cornbread is outdone only by the rosemary Asiago cheese biscuits that practically melt in your mouth.
Place to Buy
Critic’s choice: International Food Land, 1729 S Cooper St, Arl
Specializing in imported delicacies from the Mediterranean and the Near East, this family-owned grocery has been a taste of home for many UTA students and a window to the wider world for many more Arlingtonians more than 30 years. For intrepid cooks, each aisle is an adventure: Feta cheese from Bulgaria, olives from Greece, and honey from Lebanon snuggle up against fragrant bags of bulk spices from India and the Levant. The scent of baklava, pita, and falafel hangs in the air, but you get more than authentic atmosphere at IFL — the bargain prices put mainstream foodie stores to shame.
Readers’ choice: Terra Mediterranean, 2973 Crockett St
Critic’s choice: Chadra Mezza and Grill, 1622 Park Place Av
Whatever you’re hungry for, the chances are good that Chadra’s $10 lunch buffet can satisfy you. The Lebanese-based menu roams freely about the shores of the Mediterranean, lingering on the Greek islands before docking at the Italian coast for some heavy-duty carb loading. Many well-planned diets have been smashed to smithereens by the Near Southside eatery’s warm garlic knots and hand-tossed pizzas. Whether it’s dolmas or gyros, shawarma or falafel, meatballs or muhammara, Chadra delivers unparalleled variety and uncompromising quality at a price that can’t be beat.
Readers’ choice: Hysen’s Nizza Pizza
Critic’s choice: Hysen’s Nizza Pizza
You could spend weeks scouring New York City’s five boroughs and not find a piece of pie that holds up to a straight-up cheese slice from Hysen Lushaj’s Nizza Pizza in the Cultural District. The myth that New York water is the secret to great Big Apple pizza doesn’t get much traction around here. Nizza Pizza has its own formula for success — quality ingredients you can taste and enough heat to get the job done right. And fugetabout the price: You’d be halfway across Long Island before you found two huge one-topping slices and a fountain drink for only $6.95.
Readers’ choice: Carshon’s Delicatessen, 3133 Cleburne Rd
Critic’s choice: Carshon’s Delicatessen
Fort Worth isn’t exactly swimming in authentic Kosher-style delis, but don’t think for a minute that Carshon’s is the favorite by default. Generations of loyal devotees have been reared on the place’s split-pea soup and Reuben sandwiches. For a town growing as quickly as Fort Worth, a love of Carshon’s remains one of the sure-fire claims to legitimacy for anyone seeking permanent-resident status here.
Readers’ choice: Maharaja Indian Restaurant, 6308 Hulen Bend Blvd
Critic’s choice: Bombay Grill, 4625 Donnelly Av
Sometimes you’ll sit down at an Indian restaurant and leave wondering how long ago your food was prepared and what it had been up to since. Not at Bombay Grill. The naan is served crackling hot, and the navratan korma, gemlike vegetables in a savory cream sauce, arrives in a cloud of steam. Whether you come for the lunch buffet or the a la carte dinner service, you will enjoy freshness in every bite.
Readers’ choice: Pho Hung, 6399 Camp Bowie Blvd
Critic’s choice: Pho Little Saigon, 1712 Mall Cir
Tucked behind Ridgmar Mall, Pho Little Saigon is a jewel of a Vietnamese restaurant frequented by the Lockheed/NAS crowd as well as a cult following of civilians hungry for avocado spring rolls and seafood hot-pots. Crisp, clean, and bright, Little Saigon is a family-run venture that packs a heavy punch of flavor. The kitchen’s classic pho soups, flat noodles, and rice dishes can be customized to fit any appetite — low-carb and vegetarian options are available on most dishes, and garnishes of basil, lime, and jalapeños are piled high and fresh.
Readers’ choice: Thailicious, 4601 W Fwy
Critic’s choice: Spice, 411 W Magnolia Av
Flavorful and fragrant, Spice’s house curries and noodles are prepared fresh and seasoned to order. Note for you heatseekers: “Five” really does mean five. And you will leave soaked in sweat. The calm, quiet elegance of the dining room allows for a deep appreciation of the alternately bold and subtle dishes.
Critic’s choice: Tacos La Banqueta, 2621 Hemphill St
The fried pastor quesadilla, filled with white cheese and shredded lettuce, is half-moon-shaped manna. It’s the perfect combination of crispy, greasy, cheesy, and spicy –– thanks especially to the tiny café’s superior green salsa.
Readers’ choice: Fixture Kitchen & Social Lounge, 401 W Magnolia Av
Critic’s choice: Kin Kin Urban Thai
It was a bittersweet year for Chef Eddy Thretipthuangsin, who shuttered Bite City Grill a few months after opening Kin Kin Urban Thai. But the chef’s second Fort Worth venture has a lot going for it. Few places offer as complete an experience as the West 7th gem. The James Beard Award-winning chef’s menu brings an innovative flare to Thai comfort food. Every detail of the place is top-notch, from the outstanding cocktail menu to the elegant but comfortable décor. Hopefully, Fort Worth diners will be enjoying Kin Kin for many years to come.
Readers’ choice: Jon Bonnell, Bonnell’s Fine Texas Cuisine, 4259 Bryant Irvin Rd; Waters Bonnell’s Coastal Cuisine
Critic’s choice: Sandra Avila, Le Cep
Avila’s elegant, creative rotating menu of small plates is as ambitious as it is delicious. There’s nothing trendy or folksy about Le Cep, and the kitchen makes no apologies for serving decidedly upscale modern European fare in a town that many thought wasn’t quite ready for it. Avila deserves credit for daring to bring cosmopolitan cuisine to our chicken-fried culinary landscape.
Tex-Mex under $10
Readers’ choice: Salsa Limon, 929 University Dr
Critic’s choice: Los Asaderos, 1535 N Main St
Longtime fans of El Asadero might have worried about a decline in quality a few years ago when the Northside Tex-Mex staple’s ownership changed, and its name became plural. But those fears proved to be completely unfounded. Los Asaderos’ heaping plates of enchiladas verdes, puerco asado, tacos, y mas won’t break your bank, and you’ll go home happy and full.
Late Night Dining
Critic’s choice: Salsa Limón
Waiting an hour in an after-hours Whataburger drive-through sounds fun and all, but for our money (and time), we’d rather queue up at Salsa Limón after last call. The locally owned chain (a third location has just opened across from TCU) continues to score with “unapologetically” Mexico City-style tacos (not to mention giant burritos) that are always on point, and the people you meet while you’re waiting are usually a fun, boozy bunch to boot.
Readers’ choice: Lisa’s Fried Chicken, 500 University Dr
Critic’s choice: Buttons Restaurant, 4701 W Fwy
Just thinking about Buttons’ juicy fried chicken and waffles plate is enough to make our stomachs growl like a truck full of grizzly bears. The hand-battered bird is perfectly crispy and as satisfying as it is indulgent, but when you eat it along with a bite of the homemade Belgian waffle, you might think you got a preview of heaven.
Critic’s choice: Drew’s Place Restaurant, 5701 Curzon Av
Simply put, you can’t beat Drew’s eats. The Como soul food joint is comfy and welcoming, and its devotion to serving up fare that tastes like a home-cooked meal is top-notch. Also top-notch: pretty much everything on the menu, from fried chicken and smothered pork chops to collard greens and candied yams. And as tempting as it is to fill up on Southern comforts, do yourself a favor and save room for the pecan pie.
Critic’s choice: Saint Emilion Restaurant, 3617 W 7th St
The celebrated eatery has been the gold standard for Fort Worth fine dining for three decades. The chefs apply classic techniques to top-notch ingredients to create old fashioned French cuisine with a modern twist. The quaint charm of the dining room sets a romantic mood for downright sexy food like duck l’orange and îles flottantes.
Readers’ choice: Railhead Smokehouse, 2900 Montgomery St
Critic’s choice: Billy’s Oak Acres BBQ
Billy’s is a little off the beaten path, but the prime beef brisket, Heritage Ranch pork, and spicy sausage make the place a destination. Pitmaster Billy Woodrich uses pecan wood to smoke his succulent meat low and slow. Diners show up in droves, and the place often sells out before the lunch hour is over.
Critic’s choice: Jem Rodriguez, Sera Dining & Wine, 2418 Forest Park Blvd
Technically, he’s a bartender, but the man in the hat is a ubiquitous presence in this charming neighborhood bistro. For next-level dining, sit in his bar area, order some appetizers and his housemade sangria, and enjoy a languid night of stuffing your face. End with a Gromlinson cocktail and count the days until you can return. All you have to worry about is fitting into your clothes the next day –– Rodriguez will take care of everything else.
Critic’s choice: Chuy’s, 2401 W 7th St, Ste 110
Now here’s a proper burrito, a true knife-and-fork affair. Slathered with some of Chuy’s write-home-about-it creamy jalapeño sauce, the oven-roasted chicken is 12 inches of juicy, gooey goodness.
Critic’s choice: Kin Kin Urban Thai
Loaded with finger root, young green peppercorn, bamboo shoots, Anaheim pepper, Thai eggplant and chile, and basil, Kin Kin’s chicken Gang Pa (“Robust Jungle Style”) is so hot yet tasty you’ll slap your mama with an oven mitt.
Critic’s choice: The Bearded Lady, 1229 7th Av
A burger with fries is so 1955. To really bust that belly –– definitely for a 5-mile run tomorrow, definitely tomorrow –– drop by The Bearded Lady and add a side of the mind-blowing homemade bacon mac ’n’ cheese to your Build Your Own Damn Burger. For the record: We prefer ours with cheddar, roasted poblano, caramelized onions, and pulled pork.
Tex-Mex (Over $10)
Readers’ choice: Mi Cocina, 509 Main St,
Critic’s choice: Salsa Fuego, 3500 Alta Mere Dr
It may not be fair to call Salsa Fuego just a Tex-Mex place, since the kitchen also cranks out outstanding Mex-Mex and fusion dishes. But the Weatherford Traffic Circle touchstone does serve all of the classics, with the added flare of Chef Carlos Rodriguez’ touch. The ingredients are fresh, everything is perfectly seasoned, and the duck tacos are creative and tasty.
Readers’ choice: Raysha Ingle, Silver Fox Steakhouse, 1651 S University Dr