Critic’s choice: Dayne’s Craft Barbecue, 2735 W 5th St, 682-472-0181
Dayne Weaver is a pitmaster’s pitmaster. His standards are unwavering – from his use of prime cuts to post oak and pecan wood embers burning softly in an offset smoker. His process is time-consuming and detail-oriented, and the result is as beautiful as it is delicious. If you want to taste craft barbecue passion on a plate, check out Dayne and his crew every Saturday at Lola’s Trailer Park. They open at noon and serve until the meat is gone. Get there early because they sell out every week.
Readers’ choice: Four Sisters — A Taste of Vietnam, 1001 S Main St, Ste 151, 682-385-9353
Critic’s choice: Hatsuyuki Handroll Bar, 907 Foch St, 817-720-5330
The handroll craze may have taken years to arrive in Cowtown, but its first ambassador is near flawless. There’s an austere serenity to Hatsuyuki. The décor is minimal, and the entirety of the seating, as the name suggests, is a horseshoe-shaped bar that fills the room. The atmosphere is pleasant but feels more like a space for craftsmen than a restaurant designed to dazzle the eye – the food takes on that role ably. Go elsewhere for what you already know and like. Come here to eat more adventurously.
Readers’ choice: Ol’ South Pancake House, 1509 S University Dr, 817-336-0311
Critic’s choice: Oni Ramen, 2801 W 7th St, 817-882-6554
On Friday and Saturday nights, skip the caravan of drunks clogging fast-food drive-thrus and head to Oni instead. Open ’til 3am on the weekends, West 7th’s resident ramen demon serves up bowls of spicy noods, pork, and chicken soup, all of which are welcome alternatives to the ol’ orange-and-white-striped bag in the passenger seat. A trip to Oni after last call is a fun social event –– a delicious, fiery-flavored purgatory between a lively night out and the heavenly chillaxation of the after-party.
Readers’ choice: Mama’s Pizza, multiple locations
Critic’s choice: Fort Brewery & Pizza, 1001 W Magnolia Av, 817-923-8000
It’s not the biggest, but for the price – $7 for a personal size and $13 for a “full” – the cheese pizza here is hard to beat. Featuring tangy homemade sauce and topped with shredded and sliced mozzarella, the pie is light yet bold and is still definitely something you can really sink your teeth into.
Critic’s choice: Snappy Salads, 1664 S University Dr, FW, 817-618-7627
The creativity that goes into these salads is impressive. Even if your preference is basic iceberg and blue cheese, you will be tempted to eat outside the box here. The small chain’s enthusiastic approach means variations with artichoke hearts, almonds, dried cherries, yellowfin tuna, wasabi cream, and any number of other healthy and hearty ingredients. We also love how Snappy Salads uses tables and counters made from salvaged wood and recycled materials and was among the early companies to eschew plastic in favor of more expensive but biodegradable paper straws.
Readers’ choice: Terra Mediterranean, 2937 Crockett St, 817-744-7485
Critic’s choice: Qana Cafe, 7860 Chapin Rd, 817-862-9728
Lebanese cuisine has been influenced by both the country’s Levantine neighbors and its occupiers: first the Turks, then the French – the Nutella crepe on Qana’s menu may or may not be absolutely traditional. While much of the cuisine is by default vegetarian, Qana’s owners make a special effort to provide vegan options, usually in the form of daily soups and entrees. Meat lovers should be undeterred, as there’s hummus with ground beef, kafta, and favorites like shawarma and lahmeh baajeen, a Lebanese traditional meat pie wrapped in phyllo dough.
Critic’s choice: Meyer & Sage, 2621 Whitmore St, 817-386-5009
Chef/proprietor Callie Salls is famous for her legendary love of cheese and charcuterie. Her background in art (she earned her minor in art from TCU) blends beautifully with her culinary passion, stoked by her stint as a student at the Culinary Institute of Fort Worth. Her charcuterie offerings are balanced in a gorgeous, oddly zen way. Salls uses texture, color, size, and shape to mingle the sweet, salty, and savory flavors that make up her “grazing boards.” She and her fellow chefs at Meyer & Sage don’t hoard their secrets either – keep an eye out for her episodic classes on social media about how to create the perfect board.
Readers’ choice: Gus’s Fried Chicken, 1067 W Magnolia Av, 817-927-4693
Critic’s choice: Taste-N-See Chicken and Waffles, 2880 W Berry St, 682-841-1870
Forget Popeye’s and Chick-Fil-A and head over to Taste-N-See and grab yourself some homecooked fried chicken or, even better, fried chicken wings and waffles. This bright jazz-themed joint on Berry is busy, so you might have to wait for a table now and then, but it’s busy because the food is flat-out delicious. It won’t solve all of your problems, but it will make you forget them for an hour or two.
Readers’ choice: Four Sisters — A Taste of Vietnam, 1001 S Main St, Ste 151, 682-385-9353
Critic’s choice: Four Sisters — A Taste of Vietnam
Chef Tuan Pham credits his early culinary training to his mother. As a kid, family life revolved around the kitchen, where Pham’s mother taught him the ins and outs of traditional Vietnamese cuisine. Since opening several months ago, the newish South Main-area eatery has garnered praise from fans and food critics alike. The cozy space’s decor is carefully and thoughtfully laid out, just like the entrees. The menu is a survey of quintessential Vietnamese street food, Pham family recipes, and elegant fine-dining creations like the wok-fried Dungeness crab. There’s no place quite like Four Sisters to let your palate bathe in the rich flavor of Southeast Asian cuisine.
Readers’ choice: Buttons Restaurant, 4701 W Fwy, 817-735-4900
Critic’s choice: Drew’s Place, 5701 Curzon Av, 817-735-4408
Drew’s focuses on the things it does best – world-class fried chicken and catfish. The three- or five-piece mixed fried chicken plate incldes light and dark meat with salty, crunchy, secret-recipe batter pillowcased around every bite. For your two sides, we recommend the classic combo of collard greens and candied yams. We have eaten in a lot of places around the world, and Drew’s offers a plate of food that is solidly Top 5. Be sure to check out the oxtails for Friday lunch, too.
Critic’s choice: FunkyTown Donuts, 132 E 4th St, 817-862-7337
There is actually some competition in this category now. A little more creativity from Kneady Doughnuts would have broken the Fort Worth shop’s three-year win streak (especially given the cheaper price point that the Race Street venue offers). However, FunkyTown’s wild ingredient list (chicory! hibiscus! Thai iced tea!) earns it the gong for another year. This has nothing to do with them naming a doughnut after us, even though it was totally delicious.
Readers’ choice: Tributary Cafe, 2813 Race St, 817-744-8255
Critic’s choice: Tributary Cafe
Last year’s readers’ choice best restaurant winner, Tributary Café tickles our fancy in the more specific Cajun area thanks to its blend of an easy-going yet polished atmosphere as the backdrop to a kitchen committed to serving the freshest market-to-table seafood. And, of course, they aren’t slouches when it comes to the classic Bayou fare of everything from cozy red beans and rice and homey fried green tomatoes to more involved yet still comfort-food pleasurable renditions of etouffees or remoulades.
Readers’ choice: Spiral Diner, 13144 W Magnolia Av, 817-332-8834
Critic’s choice: Spiral Diner
Is it any surprise that Spiral won in this category? It shouldn’t be. The Near Southside pioneers are definitely the most notable restaurant in Fort Worth to offer exclusively vegan dishes. The spiral burger arrives in a hearty serving and will please even the most closed-minded carnivores. The mac ’n’ cheese is a killer side, too, so fill up your plate next time you’re on Magnolia.
Readers’ choice: Salsa Limon, multiple locations
Critic’s Top 5: If you’re the sort of Philistine who prefers chic-looking tacos polluted with gimmicky ingredients, the list you’re looking for is buried somewhere on Yelp!. This one is for people who like authentic tacos. Almost every #realtaco aficionado agrees that Tacos la Banqueta (2621 Hemphill St, 923-8846) belongs on the podium among the best in the 817. The Southside standout keeps it simple with fresh ingredients seasoned to perfection and some of the best green salsa this side of the Rio Grande. Mariachi’s Dine-in (301 S Sylvania Av, 682-760-9606) may be set in the unusual locale of a convenience store, but you’ll feel right at home once you gorge on Angel Fuentes’ menu of chef-driven takes on taqueria-style fare, including plenty of vegan options. Speaking of convenience stores, El Patron Tacos y Tortas (1050 N University Dr, 817-624-3744) slings the best trompo in this city out of a Shell station. If you’re craving something a little more upscale but still affordable, Paco’s Mexican Cuisine (1508 W Magnolia Av, 817-759-9110) serves a red snapper taco that will make you question your entire relationships with past versions. The menu at perennial Best winner Taco Heads (1812 Montgomery St, 817-615-9899) toes the line between authentic, grandmother-approved Mexican fare and upscale comfort. It’s a go-to place for taco purists and Yelpers alike.
Critic’s choice: Birrieria los Chivas de Oro, 4221 Hemphill St, 817-927-2400
The Zacatecas-style Mexican eatery serves uncommonly fresh fare, and the kitchen boasts a true flare for presentation. Our favorites include the shrimp ceviche cooked in both lime and orange juices and maybe the best caldo de pollo in town. Visit this authentic popular Southside spot for the food, stay for the hilarious murals depicting oversized golden goat testicles.
Readers’ choice: Grimaldi’s Pizzeria, 5276 Monahans Av, Ste J-200, 817-377-0642
Critic’s choice: Black Cat Pizza, 401 Bryan Av, Ste 109, 817-489-5150
There’s pizza, and then there’s what Chef Jaime Fernandez does with dough, sauce, and ingredients. Those who have been following Fernandez from his pop-up days have come to expect uncompromising quality and oft-surprising ingredients. Thankfully, his ethos hasn’t changed a bit since anchoring inside a South Main-area brick-and-mortar. His bubbly, crackly crust and downright luxurious sauce form the base of an experience that transcends pizza and crosses over into experimental fine-dining – without the upper-crust price tag.
Readers’ choice: Maharaja, 6308 Hulen Bend Blvd, 817-263-7156
Critic’s choice: Namaste, 923 E Seminary Dr, 817-349-9350
Don’t let the repurposed shell of an old Sonic keep you from savoring the revelatory flavors at this Eastside hole-in-the-wall wonder. Namaste may be light on atmosphere, but its menu is heavy with spicy, piquant Indian and Nepalese cuisine. You’ll find the usual Indian staples like biryani and tikka masala, plus items like mutton sekuwa for more adventurous diners, with each dish’s subtle seasonings presenting themselves in a cavalcade of sensory engagement. Every bite is a delectable game of “which spice are you tasting now?”
Critic’s choice: Heart Attack, Wabi Sabi Sushi, 2740 Western Center Blvd, Ste 516, 682-312-5577
Slightly mean name notwithstanding, this appetizer is spicy enough to make your nose water but not so hot you’re in pain. It’s a serving of four deep-fried jalapenos stuffed with cream cheese, spicy tuna, and crabmeat and drizzled with spicy mayo, wasabi, and eel sauce. And at only $7.50 per serving, it’s quite a deal.
Readers’ choice: Gloria’s Latin Cuisine, multiple locations
Critic’s choice: Amy’s Restaurant, 1537 N Main St, 817-841-2896
Red salsa comes in as many varieties as there are stars in the sky, although the red-hot hydrogen and helium components that makes up a star would be more appetizing than some of the watery, red bile that is served in small bowls with chips at many area restaurants. Amy’s red shines like the North (Main) Star because it is thick and chunky and loaded with fresh onions, jalapeños, tomatoes, garlic, and cilantro, all waiting to be scooped onto a chip and shoveled into your stomach.
Readers’ choice: That Cake Place, 5177C River Oaks Blvd, River Oaks, 682-200-6344
Critic’s choice: Unrefined Bakery, 3250 Hulen St, Ste 130, 972-467-2494
A vegan, a paleo CrossFitter, and a hungry teenager walked into Unrefined Bakery – and they all enjoyed dessert. It’s not easy to find a delicious dessert with no artificial colors and preservatives and free of the most common allergens like nuts and dairy, especially when those desserts don’t taste like they’re free of gluten and most common allergens. Even if you’re not vegan or gluten-sensitive, you’ll find cupcakes, lemon bars, and whoopee pies that taste amazing (minus the BHA or BHT, common preservatives that extend the shelf life of baked goods). The brownie-battered Derby pie (gluten and nut-free) will fool even the most cynical dessert lover. And the decorated cookies taste as beautiful as they look.
Field of One
Critic’s choice: Food Hall at Crockett Row, 3000 Crockett St, 817-885-7331
It was pretty much all anyone could talk about last spring – Fort Worth finally landed its own food hall. Nicer than a gathering of food trucks, the grown-up food court offers Hawai’ian (the stellar Aina Poke Bowl), sweet and savory waffles from Press Waffle Co., a lobstah roll worthy of the Atlantic Nor’east courtesy of The Dock, sturdy ’cue fronted by former TCU linebacker David Hawthorne, and adorable desserts from Val’s Cheesecakes and Gigi’s Cupcakes. Pizza, shawarma, now burgers, and dumplings round out the offerings. The Food Hall offers a variety of entertainment options, too, including a full bar, live music, and a Geeks Who Drink trivia night on Tuesdays.
(Eateries currently in residence at the Food Hall are Abe Froman’s of Fort Worth, Aina Poke Co., Butler’s Cabinet, EB2, Gigi’s Cupcakes, The Dock, Hooker’s Grill, Monkey King Noodle, Not Just Q, Press Waffle Co., and Shwarma Bar.)
Critic’s choice: Snooze A.M. Eatery, 2150 W 7th St, 682-350-9970
Feel a bit hipper as you belly up to the bar at this brunch place on West 7th with a bewildering variety of mimosas, Bloody Marys, and even craft beer cocktails. There’s also all manner of brunch dishes to pair with your drink order, whether you’re keeping it light with an egg-white frittata or gorging yourself on an overstuffed Reuben. This Denver chain brings a taste of the Mile High City to our metropolis.
Critic’s choice: Wabi House, 1229 8th Av, 817-720-3099
Along with having one of the area’s most alluring aeries in all of Fort Worth’s Near Southside, Wabi House also delivers on one of the Japanese cuisine’s most heart-warming dishes. The foundational broth of the “shoyu” or house ramen takes about four hours to bring to amber life, and it proves ample support to a head-spinning number of supporting ingredients, including bamboo, enoki mushrooms, crunchy scallions, and sesame seeds – not to mention pork belly strips. Not to be outdone, Wabi House also offers a “tsukemen” or pork-broth-based ramen – this one taking eight hours’ worth of sweat-inducing preparation. Every part of the pig participates in this ramen featuring such dunkable food groups as wavy ramen noodles, marinated “ajitama” egg, scallions, chili threads, and always-welcome apple-wood- smoked bacon. This ramen must be slurped noisily to be fully enjoyed.
Readers’ choice: That Cake Place, 5177C River Oaks Blvd, River Oaks, 682-200-6344
Critic’s choice: Bread Haus, 700 W Dallas Rd, Grapevine, 817-488-5223
Set foot into this rustic German bakery in historic Grapevine, and you’ll want to eat its selection of artisan breads on the drive home. We recommend having the scones with butter and blackberry jam. The selection varies by day, though, so if there’s something specific you’re looking for, call before heading out.
Readers’ choice: Del Frisco’s Grille, 154 E 3rd St, 817-887-9900
Critic’s Top 5:
For a city known as Cowtown, there are a lot of places serving mediocre steaks vying for your hard-earned dollars. We’ve got your tender, well-marbled back. B&B Butchers & Restaurant (5212 Marathon Av, 817-737-5212) is an old-fashioned kind of place. The kitchen uses only prime beef, and every piece is dry-aged and hand-cut. For us urban dwellers, Bistro 1031 (109 S Front St, Aledo, 817-926-1031) is worth the drive out to toney Aledo for hands-down the best filet mignon in the 817. Capital Grille (800 Main St, 817-348-9200) may be a giant chain, but we’d be doing our readers a disservice not to include its velvety-perfect tenderloin on this list. Clay Pigeon Food & Drink (2731 White Settlement Rd, 817-882-8065) isn’t known as a steakhouse, but maybe it should be. Chef Bria Downey’s small but incredible selection of prime beef, including the bone-in 36-ounce porterhouse, is superb. If variety is your bag, Grace (777 Main St, 817-877-3388) offers it in spades. Select from several superior cuts, countless toppings, sauces, and sides for an unparalleled all-around steak experience.
Critic’s choice: Mariachi’s Dine-in, 301 S Sylvania Av, 682-760-9606
Set in an off-the-beaten-path convenience store, Mariachi’s ramshackle setting belies the truly great, authentic fare served therein. There is a careful, well-trained hand at work in the kitchen. Everything is fresh-tasting, cooked to order, and made with a chef’s flair. Besides, how many convenience-store taco joints also boast an extensive vegan menu? We’ll wait. That’s right. Just this Eastside gem.
Readers’ choice: Cannon Chinese Kitchen, 304 Cannon St, 817-238-3726
Critic’s choice: Cannon Chinese Kitchen
This adorably chic Near Southside favorite toes the line between upscale quality and casual approachability. In other words, you can enjoy the outstanding menu of shared plates without having to sell a kidney to make your mortgage payment afterward. The bill of fare is always evolving as the kitchen pushes boundaries while still offering authentic Chinese classics.
Readers’ choice: Terra Mediterranean, 2937 Crockett St, 817-744-7485
Critic’s choice: Nish! Mediterranean Grill, 4913 Ohio Garden Rd, River Oaks, 817-615-9292
To really experience the pure joy of Nish!, you should check out its extravagantly delicious dinner menu. If you just want to sample the kitchen’s fare, the new-ish River Oaks-based lunch buffet offers a fresh-tasting, scratchmade, carefully prepared array of all its Mediterranean classics – and all at a reasonable price. The food is so great, you won’t mind traversing the perpetual construction all around the place.
Critic’s choice: Four Sisters — A Taste of Vietnam, 1001 S Main St, 682-385-9353
The shared section of Four Sisters’ menu offers nine different plates to nosh on while you and your dinner compadres wait on your mains, and each of them will leave a favorable flavor memory in your brain. But if you’re ordering only one, make it the lemongrass tofu. Lightly fried with lemongrass and garlic and nestled amid a bed of shallots and purple cabbage, these are the most exquisite bites of tofu you’ll eat in this city, and the dish’s presentation is as beautiful as it tastes.
Readers’ choice: The Clearfork Farmers Market, 4801 Edwards Ranch Rd, 817-999-9791
Critic’s choice: Cowtown Farmers Market, 3821 Southwest Blvd, FW, 817-821-3124
If Charlie were a middle-aged man with high cholesterol and diabetes, his chocolate factory would look like Cowtown Farmers Market. The stacks of colorful produce at this Saturday morning-only market look like artworks for the spirit, and the farmers who grew them add their colorful personalities to the mix as well. The mantra here is “always fresh, always local.” We might add, “Always better for us than frozen pizza.”
Readers’ choice: Spice, 411 W Magnolia Av, 817-984-1800
Critic’s choice: Thai Select, 4630 SW Loop 820, 817-731-0455
An unassuming restaurant in a strip shopping center just south of the Hulen Mall craziness, Thai Select is the slightly plainer older sister of West Magnolia Avenue’s Spice and a couple of other Thai restaurants all owned by the same family. The casual atmosphere belies the competence of the kitchen staff, who continuously execute classic renditions of Thai favorites. Well-priced lunch specials will keep you on time and on track during the day, and the generously portioned dinner menu provides the perfect late-night snack.
Readers’ choice: Juan Rodriguez, Magdelena’s, 502 Grand Av, 817-740-8085
Critic’s choice: Juan Rodriguez
Juan Rodriguez steadily climbed his way up through kitchens over the last 15 years, from becoming the youngest chef in Reata’s pantheon to owning his own catering/supper club venue. In his spare time, Rodriguez created the menu at a hot new taco joint. But it was his performance on the Food Network’s Chopped that should have tipped you off. In addition to repping his hometown proudly (hey, we are FW-D), the techniques Rodriguez displayed while making culinary magic out of galangal, marsh snail vinegar, croissants, and a Swedish princess cake were miles ahead of his competitors. He was tagged as the guy to beat, and even though he didn’t win the episode (thanks in part to that baker chick’s dislike of dairy), Rodriguez won hearts with his style and humility. He also has a sense of humor: Last month, he recreated the Chopped menu at his supper club, with a few twists.
Critic’s choice: Paris Coffee Shop, 704 W Magnolia Av, 817-335-2041
You want comfort food in a place where you’ll just melt into the surroundings? Head over to the Paris Coffee Shop. The longstanding Fort Worth destination doesn’t try to out-fancy you. It just delivers good food with the right amount of grease to kill that hangover. Pancakes, waffles, biscuits and gravy, steaks, eggs, sausage, omelets, pork chops, corned beef hash, and homemade pies are the staples – and this joint can sling ’em all with the best of them. The lunch menu adds chicken-fried steaks, enchiladas, chili, red-eye gravy, and a whole lot more. The dining room is packed from open to close, and the wait line for a booth or table is the only drag. Don’t sweat it. Paris is worth the time.
Readers’ choice: Babe’s Chicken, multiple locations
Critic’s choice: Lucile’s Stateside Bistro, 4700 Camp Bowie Blvd, 817-738-4761
Lucile’s chicken-fried steak could easily feed two or three, depending on how you cut the hand-battered delicacy. The classic Southern dish is about the size of a deflated football. Each certified Angus beef cube steak is pounded, battered, seasoned, and deep-fried to a crispy golden cutlet. Part of what makes Lucile’s breaded beefsteak so uncannily good is the breading that greedily clings to the juicy meat until the very last bite. The steak is topped with a generous ladling of white gravy. Mashed potatoes, fries, or sweet potato fries (our favorite), a side salad, and a dinner roll finish out this belt-busting entree.
Critic’s choice: Spaghetti alla Chitarra Neri at Piattello Italian Kitchen, 5924 Convair Dr, Ste 412, 817-349-0484
Executive chef/owner Marcus Paslay is decidedly nontraditional when it comes to pasta. The culinary team behind the Waterside restaurant takes Old World care when hand-crafting golden strands of dough. One standout Piattello creation is the Spaghetti alla Chitarra Neri. The Mediterranean-inspired main course presents a quintet of ingredients — Spanish octopus, Calabrian chile peppers, fresh tomatoes, basil, and breadcrumbs — served atop a bed of freshly prepared pasta.
Readers’ choice: Hoya Korean Kitchen, 355 W 3rd St, 817-378-4045
Critic’s choice: Sam Won Garden, 5201 McCart Av, 817-926-1515
Looking every inch a strip-mall nightmare from without, Sam Won delights within. A clean and classic-looking Asian interior sets you up for the feast to come. The bulgogi – either plain or spicy – is a beef-fest sure to satisfy every Texan’s craving. The bibimbap offers myriad options to mix and match protein and veggies atop perfectly plump carbs. Every meal is served with a picnic of Korean sides that tingle the sweet, savory, sour, and spicy parts of your palate.
Readers’ choice: Gloria’s Latin Cuisine, 2600 W 7th St, 817-332-8800
Critic’s choice: One Love Lounge, 2315 S Cooper St, Arlington. 682-323-4950
Granted, this place is a bar, so it isn’t the quietest, and the seating accommodations are rather sparse. Still, who cares when the food at this Jamaican place is this good? The Afro-Indian cuisine here includes curries with meat stewed until it melts in your mouth, not to mention a dense, heavy, spicy Caribbean rum cake that actually needs the liquor. If you’re lucky, you can get some sorrel to wash it all down.
Readers’ choice: Flying Fish, 2913 Montgomery St, 817-989-2277
Critic’s choice: Eddie V’s Prime Seafood, 3100 W 7th St, 817-336-8000
Pacific Table and Waters are fantastic, but it’s a shame that we’ve overlooked Eddie V’s for so long. There’s just so much to love. Start with the oyster bar. Served on ice and accompanied by mignonette sauces are your choice of Blue Points from Connecticut, Standish Shores from Massachusetts, or the oysters referred to as Summer Love from Prince Edward Island, all for $18 per half-dozen. Move on to the apps – the Maine lobster tacos in freshly made house tortillas with grilled sweet corn pico are mouthwateringly scrumptious, and the lobster bisque is right up there with Lucille’s. From the Chilean sea bass and the Norwegian salmon to the swordfish and center-cut filet mignon with a king crab leg indulgence, all of Eddie V’s entrees are done well and with finesse. Don’t let the mini-chain status fool you. Eddie V’s is well worth its weight in seafood excellence.
Readers’ choice: (tie) Blue Sushi, 3131 W 7th St, 817-332-2583; Sushi Axiom, multiple locations
Critic’s choice: Hatsuyuki Handroll Bar, 907 Foch St, 817-720-5330
Hatsuyuki Handroll Bar wins over our taste buds with its willful avoidance of the predictable – don’t bother searching for the tired Dragon roll. Instead, what has even the most jaded critics chirping is the open kitchen’s delight in taking proteins (like bluefin and yellowtail tuna, brightly tinted salmon sashimi, and bay scallops) and delivering them in healthy servings. Some come enveloped in comforting sushi rice and then wrapped in seaweed. Also impressive is its avoidance of over-saucing. We like that all defers to the freshest of fish. And Hatsuyuki earns plenty of kudos for eliminating that biggest cliché of all –– the table.
Critic’s choice: Pak-A-Pocket, 5512 Bellaire Dr, Ste D, 817-735-4363
If you’re looking for Greek and Mediterranean food without paying a fortune, check out Pak-A-Pocket in Country Day Plaza. Pita sandwiches and gyros are among the most popular items here, along with savory pies and baked potatoes. The best part: Everything on the menu is less than $7.
Critic’s choice: Paris 7th, 3324 W 7th St, 817-489-5300
The haughtier sister restaurant of Westside staple Saint-Emilion, Paris 7th delivers an experience unlike any other eatery in this city. The menu reads like the greatest hits album of an elegant bistro on the Champs-Élysées. Choose from French standards ranging from caviar, pate, and cheese courses to traditionally prepared duck, lamb, and seafood. End your evening with crème brûlée, marquise au chocolat, or any one of the chef’s extraordinary confections. The prices are high, but this place is still cheaper than an airline ticket to France.
Readers’ choice: Salsa Limon
Critic’s choice: Diosa Vegana Taqueria
We’re not awarding Diosa the best food truck just because of the novelty of its vegan taco menu. The nascent mobile eatery nabs this prize because it’s badass. You can roll your eyes all you want at the thought of an all-vegan taco truck, but we challenge you to try the food before you judge. You won’t miss or even notice the lack of meat or dairy –– you’ll just be glad you opened your mind and mouth for an amazing, fresh-tasting, and creative meal.
Readers’ choice: Joe T. Garcia’s, 2201 N Commerce St, 817-626-4356
Critic’s choice: Enchiladas Olé, 901 N Sylvania Av, 817-984-1360
Chef Mary Perez keeps getting better. For years, her charming strip-mall eatery has been a hotspot for Eastside diners whose palates demand something more than taqueria fare. Her enchiladas are legendary, and now she’s added a delicious burger to the menu, a cool-looking bar, and more. For all the chef-y acumen on offer, Perez keeps her prices affordable for most budgets. Try the place once, and you’ll never look at enchiladas the same way again.
Readers’ choice: Fred’s Texas Cafe, multiple locations
Readers’ choice: Rodeo Goat, 2836 Bledsoe St, 817-877-4628
Critic’s Top 5: Everyone knows somebody who looks at the wild array of towering toppings on the menu of a contempo burger bistro and complains about how they can’t just get a regular ol’ hamberder with meat, cheese, and ketchup. That is baloney, because Kincaid’s (4901 Camp Bowie Blvd, 817-732-2881) offers the gold standard of a basic ol’ burger, though your malcontented acquaintance should branch out and add some bacon, mustard, and mayo. For everyone else who is happy to buck tradition, the bevy of bountifully built, cleverly slathered mainstays at Rodeo Goat (2836 Bledsoe St, 817-877-4628) – made on six different patty choices – and weekly inventions offer something new for every visit. The same can be said for Twisted Root (310 E Abram St, Arl, 817-201-9669), which wows your imagination with gourmet ingredients and the option for exotic meats. Then there’s M&O Station Grill (200 Carroll St, 817-882-8020), where the spice and gooey goodness of both the Toluca and the Supreme Tijuana vie for your taste buds’ attention. Finally, the Truffle Burger at B&B Butchers (5212 Marathon Av, 817-737-5212) is a decadent dive into upmarket comfort-food bliss.
Critic’s choice: Gemelle, 4400 White Settlement Rd, 817-732-9535
Gemelle’s cuisine is currently polarizing critics – if all else fails, the pizza is a great bet – but its backyard is flat-out stunning. The restaurant is nestled amid the lush, low hills that roll away from the Trinity River at the intersection of Isbell and White Settlement roads, and that vibe is accentuated once you walk out back, where a fenced-in courtyard offers a paradise of herb gardens, quirky stretches of Astroturf, bocce ball courts, and cafe seating, all of which is easy on the eyes and makes for a memorable scene.
Critic’s choice: Bad Azz Burrito, 1200 S Blue Mound Rd, Ste 170, Saginaw, 817-847-5511
Chipotle who? With all due respect to the legendary burrito chain, Bad Azz is all that and more, with super-fresh-tasting meats and accoutrements. Big, filling, and tasty, the burrito here is simply badass.
Readers’ choice: Mexican Inn, multiple locations
Critic’s choice: Dos Molina’s Mexican Restaurant, 404 NW 25th St, FW, 817-626-9394
Several of our newsroom staffers eat at this restaurant regularly and refer to it as “The Trough” because of its ample portions. Even the weekday lunch special is huge despite being less than $7. The guacamole tostadas are a favorite, along with the fajitas. The service is always fast and friendly.
Readers’ choice: Chick-Fil-A, multiple locations
Critic’s choice: Wendy’s, multiple locations
Our enthusiasm for this fast-food chain waned earlier this year after it removed the healthy-ish grilled chicken wrap as an option on its “Four for $4” lunch special. But like any good U.S. Marine will attest, life requires improvisation, adaptation, and an ability to overcome. Now we order the crispy chicken sandwich with the Four for $4 meal and a grilled chicken wrap separately, which boosts the bill to more than $6 and requires an extra couple of miles on the treadmill to burn off the extra calories but makes lunch taste better than ever.
Critic’s choice: The GF menu at Fixture Kitchen & Social Lounge, 401 W Magnolia Av, 817-708-2663
It’s cheating a little to claim all the selections on a menu, but the extensive GF choices at Fixture will keep your celiac and gluten-sensitive friends happy from brunch ’til dusk. Off the brunch menu, the roasted duck hash with veggies, sweet potatoes, and fried eggs on top boasts all the flavor of a great brunch, with none of the wheat products. Shrimp and grits work for lunch or dinner, but you could also choose the Santa Maria steak with wild mushroom mashed potatoes. The brie and cranberry nachos on the appetizer menu are a surprisingly weird delight.
Readers’ choice: Dog Haus Biergarten, 4000 Bagpiper Way, Ste 110, Arl, 682-276-6686
Critic’s choice: Dog Haus Biergarten
This category is not a crowded field, because unless you’re at a Rangers game, hot dogs are kind of an afterthought on most menus. But the list of hormone- and antibiotic-free all-beef dogs on the Dog Haus menu is dizzying. Go for broke with the Chili the Kid – a chili dog with crispy onion strings and a chipotle aioli. You can also sub a plant-based Beyond Brat for any of the hot dog options.
Readers’ choice: Great Outdoors Sub Shop, 3204 Camp Bowie Blvd, 817-877-4400
Critic’s choice: Carshon’s Deli, 3133 Cleburne Rd, 817-923-1907
You don’t get to be the oldest deli in Fort Worth and stay in business for 91 years unless you can bring it. And Carshon’s, which opened its doors in 1928, brings it with style, whether it’s breakfast or lunch. Mixed plates, bagels, eggs – they’re all excellent. The stars of the show are the sandwiches, served on rolls or homemade rye or egg bread. The overstuffed kosher-style corned beef, pastrami, chopped liver, smoked turkey, and even the tongue are simply outstanding. The Reuben — classic corned beef or pastrami with sauerkraut and Swiss on rye — and the Rebecca — pastrami, cream cheese, and roast turkey with Russian dressing — are both, in the words of New York deli lovers, “to die for.” Hell, even the pickles are fab. Overheard at a recent pitstop there: “I’ve been coming here for 50 years and haven’t had a bad meal yet.”
Critic’s choice: Rogers Roundhouse, 1616 Rogers Rd, 817-367-9348
If there’s one thing Fort Worth isn’t short on, it’s top-notch urban patio options. Newcomer Rogers Roundhouse has proven to be the go-to patio for those three days a year when the North Texas thermometer settles somewhere between blistering hot and freezing cold. Rogers offers three distinct al fresco areas, each with different seating options. There’s even a dog-friendly area shaded by umbrellas. The grub falls in the upscale bar food category with noshes that include wagyu burgers, Tex-Mex tacos, and Curly’s Frozen Custard. Yes, the owners of that adorable frozen custard stalwart also co-own Fort Worth’s “hottest” patio.
Readers’ choice: Snooze, 2150 W 7th St, Ste 108, 682-350-9970
Critic’s choice: Vickery Cafe, 4120 W Vickery Blvd, 817-731-9933
Vickery is a long-standing fixture on the Funkytown breakfast scene. This past year, the kitchen revamped its menu, and the result is a strong game made great. Go for the biscuits and gravy, stay for the Tasso ham and ever-changing weekend specials –– one sweet, one savory. When it appears, the buttermilk pork chops with cheddar grits, andouille gravy, and two fried eggs special are the stuff of food dreams.
Critic’s choice: Ibarra’s Torilleria, 1109 NW 25th St, 817-625-6391
Yes, we gave Ibarra the same award last year. It deserved it then and rightly retains its crown. While everything is good at Ibarra, the velvet tripe in guajillo-rich broth is a standout. We cannot promise it will cure your hangover, but deliciousness is guaranteed.
Readers’ choice: Heim Barbecue, 1109 W Magnolia Av, 817-882-6970
Critic’s choice: Campo Smokehouse, food truck, 4801 Edwards Ranch Rd
It’s been a long, strange trip for Campo Smokehouse, which as recently as a month ago was known as Flores Barbecue. The Whitney, Texas, export may have changed hands, but it hasn’t sacrificed quality. From its food truck trailer bordering the low-ebb Trinity at Clearfork’s Trailhead, Flo-, er, Campo likes to apply a bit of a Hispanic spin on such classic Texas barbecue staples as brisket, especially when stuffed into a mammoth tortilla and doused with a luscious crema and dotted with tangy Cotija cheese. Jalapeño-cheddar sausage and gild-skinned turkey breast are treated like ’cue royalty, as are the classic sides of borracho beans and a vinegar-snappy green and red cabbage coleslaw.
Critic’s choice: Paco’s Mexican Cuisine, 1508 W Magnolia Av, 817-759-9110
The queso fundido at this chic, casual authentic Mexican eatery arrives crowned with flickering flames that caramelize the top-notch queso like it’s a savory, gooey crème brulee. Add chorizo or crab to this crave-worthy treat, and you might just levitate.
Readers’ choice: Carshon’s Deli, 3133 Cleburne Rd, 817-923-1907
Critic’s choice: Weinberger’s Deli, 601 S Main St, Grapevine, 817-416-5577
Want delicious, amply portioned, authentic Chicago-style deli fare? Here’s your freshly sliced soulmate. Weinberger’s offers about 408,052 sandwich options, so if you can’t find something on this menu to love, you probably didn’t want a sandwich in the first place. Make sure to try the Italian Beef on your next visit, and get ready to begin a life-long love affair.
Readers’ choice: Magdalena’s, 502 Grand Av, 817-740-8085
Critic’s choice: Mockingbird Food Co., 2845 Exchange Blvd, Ste 100, Southlake, 817-310-1000
Chef Dena Peterson is a local treasure. The former head honcho of Cafe Modern purveys a creative brand of high-IQ cuisine that focuses on fresh, quality ingredients prepared with an artist’s touch. Also, Mockingbird Food Co.’s sister company, Icon Breads, makes the best bread in town. Mockingbird is a one-stop shop for just about anything you need from a caterer, and she does it better than anyone else.
Critic’s choice: Qana Cafe & Hookah, 7860 Chapin Rd, 817-862-9728
If there was any justice in the world, the polite, attentive owners of Qana would be diving into their Scrooge McDuck money bin every night after a long day of making some of the city’s best grub. Alas, this is Fort Worth. Diners in this town would rather line up and wait for mediocre food from out-of-town chains, so mom-and-pop standouts like this hidden gem of Middle-Eastern perfection are often overlooked. Those who are in the know would probably prefer that we keep this place a secret. To them, we say, sorry. The people must know.
Critic’s choice: J&J Oyster Bar, 612 University Dr, 817-335-2756
The kitchen doesn’t serve it often, but if the weather is cool and you get there before they sell out, you’ll enjoy the finest bowl of Texas red this city has to offer. Fred’s Texas ex-pat Angel Mota is manning the kitchen these days at the venerable seafood eatery, and he’s brought his chili recipe with him. Fork-tender beef tips swim in a thick cumin-and-chile-powder-rich liquid that is more sauce than broth, covered by a baked crown of molten yellow and white cheeses, topped with sizable wheels of sliced jalapeños and accompanied by Fritos –– the culinary equivalent of a fluffy, warm blanket.
Place to Buy Ethnic Food
Critic’s choice: Papawady Asian Market, 5000 Western Center Blvd, 817-924-0860
Ever looked up a recipe of Asian origin, perused the ingredients, and thought, “Well, where the hell will I find that thing?” Before you book a flight to Phnom Penh, check out Papawady. With its wide selection of noodles, herbs, and exotic vegetables, this mom-and-pop grocer probably has what you need, and if you don’t spot it immediately, the friendly staff will be happy to help you look.
Kids’ Dining Venue
Readers’ choice: Chuck E. Cheese, multiple locations
Critic’s choice: Joe’s Crab Shack, 3040 Western Center Blvd, 682-286-1000
Pretty much every other city in Texas has at least a handful of spots with play areas for the young’uns. Fort Worth? Not so much, which is why this Joe’s Crab Shack is great. There’s a playground, with slides and monkey bars, and it sits within helicopter-parenting distance of the comfy patio, decked out in picnic benches and, overhead, oscillating fans. The service is excellent, too, and the food’s way decent. The mac ’n’ cheese with peel-and-eat shrimp are particular faves.
Mac ’n’ Cheese
Critic’s choice: Flips Patio Grill, 6613 Fossil Bluff Dr, Ste 6580, 817-847-4424
The little fella in our house swears by it, and he’s something of a mac ’n’ cheese connoisseur. Creamy, rich, and filling, Flips’ version of the old childhood standby is also a pure flavorbomb.
Readers’ choice: Dixie House, multiple locations
Critic’s choice: River Oaks Cafe, 4837 River Oaks Blvd, River Oaks, 817-625-7337
You will come for the great kitchen-sink omelets, bacon-egg sandwiches, and scratchmade pancakes that have been attracting locals for years. You might be tempted to return a few hours later for lunch, where the fried catfish and grilled pork chops are as delicious as they are reasonably priced.
Readers’ choice: El Metate, 1705 NE 28th St, 817-624-9403
Critic’s choice: Taco Diner, multiple locations
Sure, it’s a chain restaurant, but when you’re visiting Taco Diner’s downtown location or (heaven forbid) one of the five locations in Dallas, you’ll find a consistently creamy, delicious salsa verde. It’s not spicy enough to strip the paint off your table. The stuff is more tangy than blistering, with a lovely smooth edge courtesy of the avocados. Although it’s frowned upon, this salsa is good enough to make its own meal with a side of corn tortillas.
Readers’ choice: Scott Berkman, Waters — Bonnell’s Coastal Cuisine, 301 S Main St, 817-984-1110
Critic’s choice: Simone Thomas, B&B Butchers, 5212 Marathon Av, 817-737-5212
It’s a challenge working at an upscale white–tablecloth joint, especially in the demanding, toney environs of Clearfork. But Simone Thomas manages a seemingly effortless combo of buttoned-up grace and down-home sass wrapped up in a friendly smile. B&B Butchers is a special occasion place, and Thomas will, if called upon, provide not only a piece of amazing birthday cheesecake but will hold a wine glass over the candle so that it will not be extinguished by the restaurant’s high-powered AC before joining in singing “Happy Birthday” at your table.
Critic’s choice: Lucile’s Stateside Bistro, 4700 Camp Bowie Blvd, 817-738-4761
Jerry Seinfeld made the Soup Nazi’s soups famous nationally, but they were already famous in New York before the place appeared on his show. Fort Worth doesn’t have anything quite like that, but if you’re dying for a bowl of soup, you ought to head over to Lucile’s. The lobster bisque is a genuine classic: rich in lobster flavor and creamy and finished with a good sherry. It will warm you up from the inside out. The bisque, however, while a daily treat, is always coupled with soup de jour. One day it’s a French onion. Another, it’s a beef barley or a split pea and ham. Unlike a good number of restaurants where the soup seems to be an afterthought, at Lucile’s, every soup the kitchen produces tastes as if someone poured some effort into it, and the results are outstanding.
Critic’s choice: Angelo’s BBQ, 2533 White Settlement Rd, 817-768-5994
Take your pick of meat – sliced or chopped beef, pulled pork, barbecued pork loin, turkey, chicken, barbecue salami, smoked ham, smoked or jalapeno sausage – and load that up on your baked potato, which is always steaming hot and scrumptious. And for only $7.25, it’s a massive meal in itself. As one of the most venerated barbecue joints in not only Fort Worth but all of North Texas, Angelo’s proves that doing even the “little” things right is an art in itself.
Readers’ choice: Oni Ramen, 2801 W 7th St, 817-882-6554
Critic’s choice: Pho and Grill, 4954 Overton Ridge Blvd, 817-292-3311
While this easy-to-miss place focuses on Vietnamese bowls, it also offers selections from Korea and Thailand and some dishes with Chinese influences. The pho is as tasty as it is huge, packed with protein, veggies, and herbs. We recommend the eye of round steak for its stained-glass windows of tender beef. Across the continent, the Thai-style shrimp spring rolls are plump and fresh, while a trip due north rewards us with all manner of fried rice loveliness.
Critic’s choice: Fred’s Texas Café, Multiple Locations
Silver dollar-sized pickle deliciousness is rendered ambrosial by the light, crisp gossamer over-shirt of batter. Sound awesome? Dip each delight in the spicy ranch for a slight creamy kick for next-level food joy. These babies are consistently great.
Readers’ choice: Little Germany, 703 N Henderson St, 682-224-2601
Critic’s choice: Dog Haus Biergarten, 4000 Bagpiper Way, Arl, 682-276-6686
Ah, it’s so refreshing for once to give this award to an establishment that’s not a barbecue place. The chain, which landed in Arlington this past year, does its links in various European styles — kielbasa, bratwurst, Italian — and loads them with tasty accoutrements from the traditional mustard to the exotic kimchee. The place earns bonus points for carrying the Impossible Burger and an extensive craft beer list.
Readers’ choice: Nonna Tata, 1400 W Magnolia Av, 817-332-0250
Critic’s choice: Nonna Tata
Nonna Tata returns to its familiar critical top spot thanks to its undeniable consistency and quality. And despite non-conformist (a nuisance to some) policies of refusing credit cards and reservations, plus its rather cramped (some would say, intimate) interior seating, it’s the authentically prepared dishes that continue to draw patrons back. From the first bite of Owner/Chef Donatella Trotti’s deftly handled risotto del Nonno to the expertly seared tenderloin crowned by parmesan and finished off with a glug of truffle oil, this West Magnolia Avenue staple eschews faddish preparations. Instead, it scores with perfectly executed, handcrafted favorites that its old and new customers have come to rely on.
Critic’s choice: 7 Mile Cafe,110 W Vine St, Keller, 817-379-3186
The North Fort Worth hipsters love this restaurant because of its gluten-free and vegan breakfast menu options, but the grits are also a major win for 7 Mile Cafe.
Critic’s choice: Fiesta Market, 4200 S Fwy, 817-922-8888
For the money and quality, the best meat and seafood market in town is the Fiesta at Le Gran Plaza, just off Seminary Drive. The meat counter is packed with fajita meat, Spanish-style seasoned steaks, pork cuts, chicken, freshly made sausages and chorizo, and even in-house chicharron — pork cracklings. Add whole catfish, red snapper, flounder, and redfish, along with fresh salmon, squid, a selection of seafood mixes, and giant catfish heads for stews, and you can fill your fridge without breaking the bank.
Readers’ choice: Buffalo Bros., multiple locations
Critic’s choice: Buffalo Bros.
Buffalo Bros.’ wings have been delighting coeds, families, and those homesick for New York for almost a decade across from TCU. Buffalonians are persnickety about doing chicken wings “the right way,” which means using fresh chicken parts and frying them up in canola oil. You won’t find 39 flavors here, just plain, mild, medium, Cajun, barbecue, hot, and too hot for anyone but a drunken college kid – in traditional or boneless (which are two for a buck during weekday happy hours).
Readers’ choice: Snooze, 2150 W 7th St, Ste 108, 682-350-9970
Critic’s choice: Cafe Modern, 3200 Darnell St, 817-840-2157
Chef Denise Shavandy’s seasonally rotating menu has never looked better. Her kitchen uses sustainable, locally sourced (when possible) ingredients to create its unique brand of global cuisine. The wide-ranging menu includes everything from eggs Benedict and buttermilk waffles to poached salmon salad and a roasted beet burger. The only thing more attractive than the menu is the absolutely stunning setting in and around Tadao Ando’s iconic architecture.
Readers’ choice: Kent & Co. Wines, 1101 W Magnolia Av, 817-632-6070
Critic’s choice: Grace, 777 Main St, 817-877-3388
When it comes to wine lists, size does matter. Grace’s carefully curated catalog of vino contains something for everyone –– on any budget. You can tell a lot about a place based on the wines it offers, and here’s what we know about Grace: This place not only knows which wine will best complement your dinner, but the unpretentious upscale vibe communicates a big-tent approach to fine-dining. Everyone is welcome to raise a glass.
Readers’ choice: FrankenKitchen
Critic’s choice: Magdalena’s, 502 Grand Av, 817-740-8085
Chef Juan Rodriguez is having some kind of year. He appeared on the Food Network’s Chopped and opened a new modern taco joint, Austin City Taco Co., that also serves some mighty fine brisket. If you really want to sample the flavors of the former Reata chef’s soul, you need to jump on the mailing list of Magdelena’s and check out one of his supper club dinners/brunches. Offerings of paella, caldo, crudo, and everything in between will give you a taste of cutting-edge culinary trends, upscale comfort fare, and cuisine from every region of the world –– all executed perfectly in a relaxed, fun setting. Make your reservations quickly. These special events sell out fast.
Readers’ choice: Avoca Coffee Roasters, multiple locations
Critic’s choice: Vaquero Coffee Co., 109 Houston St, 817-730-1335
Tucked into a corner of the old Joe Daiches Credit Jeweler building near the north end of downtown, Vaquero Coffee Co. offers tasty signature drinks like horchata and the mesquite-smoked Sid Richardson espresso, plus carefully poured versions of coffee shop classics. In addition to serving a fine cup of joe, Vaquero entices coffee lovers to sit down for a spell with sweet and savory kolaches (delivered from Pearl Snap) and a quaint, comfy atmosphere courtesy of its windowed-storefront-and-sidewalk cafe vibe.
Critic’s choice: Dwell Coffee and Biscuits, 3113 S University Dr, Ste 100, 817-720-6766
Choose from a range of espresso, matcha, and regular joe at this all-around great coffee and biscuits emporium. Located inside the gaudy gold glass building opposite Kroger, this highly ’Grammable interior features a spacious spot to chill or get some work done. The coffee is complemented by legit biscuits both savory and sweet.
Critic’s choice: Los Taco H’s, 2108 E Rosedale St, 817-420-6877
Everything is superb at this East Rosedale Street standout, but if you’re looking for some entry-level cuisine to gently guide you into the rest of the menu, start with the fresh-tasting, huge, delicious quesadillas. The pressed tortillas are loaded with lettuce, cheese, sour cream, and your choice of meat. We recommend the pastor, but, honestly, if you’re trolling the East Side for a quesadilla, you might not be ready for that meat. Start with the fresh, lean asada and go from there, gringo.
Critic’s choice: Heim Barbecue, multiple locations
Heim Barbecue’s crispy loaded potato skins begin with a smattering of creamy queso that’s topped with Heim’s famous prime brisket. That savory base is enlivned with freshly chopped pico, mild Cotija cheese, and finely chopped scallions. The skins are then crowned with a final pour of queso for good measure. These golden-fried bad boys are said to be life-changing — a heavenly mix of crispy and soft textures. Between these skins and bacon burnt ends, Heim is showing that side dishes are no mere sideshow.
Critic’s choice: Woodshed Smokehouse, 3201 Riverfront Dr, 817-877-4545
If pork ribs are your thing, Fort Worth can seem like hog heaven. Most barbecue joints know how to serve up a good porksicle, but Tim Love’s behemoth rib options always leave fans squealing. The pecan-smoked swine is patted down in a hearty rub and served with traditional Texas barbecue sauce. The results are smoky and juicy. Spring for these ginormous ribs, and you and a guest will have more than enough to, um, pig out on.
Readers’ choice: Melt Ice Creams, 1201 W Magnolia Av, 817-886-8365
Critic’s choice: Creamistry, 628 Harrold St, 817-782-9607
No ice cream shop puts on a better show than this emporium on West 7th, which makes your ice cream to order with a cloud of liquid nitrogen that always draws oohs and aahs from the kids. Customize your scoop with add-ons and sauces that can either be layered on top of the treat or swirled throughout.
Critic’s choice: Mama’s Pizza, 5800 Camp Bowie Blvd, 817-731-6262
To load up on sweet, sweet carbs for that half-marathon or CrossFit workout the next day (or just because #yolo), there’s no better spot than the lunch buffet at Mama’s. From 11am until 2pm Mon-Sat, pizzas of myriad varieties await your greedy piehole for only $9 per person ($10 with soda instead of water). There’s also a salad bar, but who cares about that. You’re here to get huuuge, and at Mama’s carbtastic all-you-can-eat affair, that’s as easy as pie.
Place to Pig Out
Critic’s choice: Texas de Brazil, 101 N Houston St, 817-882-9500
It’s fairly expensive, but if you like limitless meats and a deep salad bar, the best place to pig out in Fort Worth is Texas de Brazil. The churrascaria’s gauchos come to your table the minute you turn you card over — signaling you would like some more, please — bearing long skewers of roasted pork loin, filet mignon, lamb chops, barbecued pork ribs, and a dozen other succulent meats sliced at your request. The salad bar is generally filled with dozens of offerings, from steamed asparagus and grilled provolone to shrimp salad and smoked salmon. Skinny people come in hungry and walk out waddling.
Critic’s choice: Hoffbrau Steak & Grill House, 1712 S University Dr, 817-870-1952
Connoisseurs of beans around these parts turn into excited cheerleaders whenever a pinto is paraded in front of them but tend to be void of passion when it comes to the black-eyed pea. Makes sense. The black-eyed pea is bland in color, looks like a mummified ladybug, and is considered a subspecies of the lowly cowpea. However, the right spices, drippings, and additional ingredients can create magic. Few restaurants take more pride in preparing their black-eyed peas than Hoffbrau, which makes them spicy, juicy, and flavorful with onions and chiles.
Readers’ choice: Hot Damn, Tamales!, 713 W Magnolia Av, 817-523-1836
Critic’s choice: Ruben, the Tamale Guy, West Magnolia Avenue bars
If the bars of Magnolia are a part of your personal nightlife, you’ve probably heard Ruben’s cheerful call of “Tamale, tamale!” floating over your shoulder. Where does he come from? Where does he cook those delicious tamales? Who cares? When you need a bite to balance out the booze in your belly, Ruben often appears like some magical spirit of gastronomic beneficence, stepping out of the darkness to feed your late-night need for home-cooked, always-filling pork-, chicken-, or veggie-stuffed masa logs.
Readers’ choice: Tokyo Cafe, 5121 Pershing Av, 817-737-8568
Critic’s choice: Bonnell’s Fine Texas Cuisine, 4259 Bryant Irvin Rd, 817-738-5489
When Jon Bonnell says his food is delivered from the farm to the table, the local celebri-chef means business. He probably knows the rancher who raised the animal, where its feed came from, and the critter’s zodiac sign. Everything about this laid-back upscale eatery screams “Texas!” The walls are festooned with various taxidermied horned beasts, the service is professional and prompt but never stiff, and the menu reads like a glossary of all of the state’s premier ranches and distributors. If you want Texas on a plate, this is your place.
Critic’s choice: Saint-Emilion Restaurant, 3617 W 7th St, 817-737-2781
Pick your adjective: quaint, adorable, Euro country-chic, romantic, intimate, and laid-back. All of them apply to this venerable Westside culinary bastion. Walking through the Saint’s doors feels like you’ve been transported to the French countryside, where you’ll feel both comfortable and special. The food and service are amazing, too.
Critic’s choice: Tacos del Norte, 300 W Central Av, 682-708-1444
These guys will put an enchilada right on your burger. Papa’s Burger, a 3/4-pound beef patty topped with a gooey cheese enchilada, is the flagship non-Mexican option at this Northside taco retreat. There are plenty of other surprises on the menu – it’s certainly the only kitchen in that part of town to serve duck tacos – but the Papa’s Burger makes this place a destination for people who love a good nap after gorging on too much burger.