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Who posseses the mental bandwidth and organizational skills to take and send out Christmas cards with family pictures every year? What I don’t get is the summary that people write on the backs of the cards: “Little Ellen is 6-years-old now. She seems to like horses and watches the same movie every day. Mike was promoted to senior middle-level manager, and he kills birds on the weekends.” 

At least I have the self-awareness to understand that no one wants to read my boring old card about eating/drinking my feelings, so I thought I’d do one on behalf of Fort Worth dining – sans picture, of course. Here’s my version: 

Merry Christmas! This is your annual reminder that I like you enough to include you on the short-list of people for whom I was willing to pay postage. 

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A lot has changed over the last year in our restaurant scene. We’re still overrun by Dallas chains clogging up our landscape like Zebra mussels, and that haunted spot in Montgomery Plaza claimed two more victims. Besides that, this year’s news was actually welcome for a change. 

My favorite area to eat in these days is the South Main Street neighborhood. Not too long ago, that mile or so just south of downtown was the easiest place in the Fort to get mugged or find some … company for the night. Now it’s officially hopping with places to eat, drink, see bands, and overpay for public relations. 

Black Cat Pizza (401 Bryan Av, Ste 109, 817-489-5150) consistently cranks out some of the most conceptually brilliant and far-out pies I’ve eaten anywhere. Chef Jaime Fernandez uses every bit of his fine-dining background to wow his guests until 1am on weekends. Four Sisters –– A Taste of Vietnam (1001 S Main St, Ste 151, 682-385-9353) brought the pho fad to the area. Maybe the ’hood’s most unique opening was The Table –– Market & Culinary Studio (120 St. Louis Av, 682-703-1092), the brainchild of pop-up queens Dixya Bhattarai and Hao Tran, super-chef Dena Peterson Shaskan, and fresh bread impresario Trent Shaskan. In its tiny environs, you can buy gourmet to-go food, essential kitchenwares and the best bread in the world, and you can take cooking classes.  

It’s safe to say that 2019 is the year Fort Worth officially became a craft barbecue destination. The whole city seemed to embrace pricey-but-amazing brisket seemingly overnight. A ton of places opened, moved, or expanded, including 407 BBQ, Brix Barbecue, Campo Smokehouse (formerly Flores BBQ), Dayne’s Craft Barbecue, Derek Allan’s Texas Barbecue, Goldee’s Barbecue, Heim Barbecue & Catering, Hurtado Barbecue, Panther City BBQ, Patriotic Pig, Roosters, and White Beards. 

I can’t really explain this phenomenon, but people here and everywhere went batty over chicken sandwiches. A couple of people at Popeye’s were stabbed for their so-so version. Locally, a few new places opened, the best of which were indie joints Cookshack (500 University Dr, 817-367-9151) and Rule the Roost (6635 Westworth Blvd, 817-349-0325). No one has been assaulted at either, as far as I know. 

Legendary Chef Walter Kauffman created a school for front-of-the-house workers set in the Tarrant Area Food Bank; our very first Food Hall opened to wide acclaim; and some of the best food in the county can still be found at gas stations, like El Patron Tacos y Tortas (1050 N University Dr, 817-624-3744) and Hoang’s Noodle House (8405 Harwood Dr, St 200, NRH, 682, 560-9529). 

I guess you could say this last year was great for locally owned restaurants, and I hope that trend continues into 2020. I also hope that haunted space in the Monkey Wards complex becomes a bank or a taxidermy shop. People should stop serving food there. 

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