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Photo by Carlos Bonilla

Appetizers

Critic’s Choice: Lili’s Bistro, 1310 W Magnolia Av, 817-877-0700

They call them “Small Plates” here, but no matter the nomenclature, the starters at Lili’s Bistro are fun, creative, and oh-so tasty. Carnivores, try the escargot (snails and portabellas sautéed in heavy garlic butter, topped with shaved parmesan and served with focaccia bread) or the bacon-wrapped quail (boneless, bacon-wrapped, and jalapeño-stuffed breasts grilled in Lili’s BBQ sauce and seasoning and served with Lili’s smoky slaw). Vegetarians can indulge in the apricot-jalapeño Brie (warm, creamy cheese topped with an apricot-coconut glaze, pecans, and smoky jalapeño relish and served with focaccia bread) or the spanakopita roulade (spinach, feta, onion, and dill, wrapped in a puff pastry, then quick-fried and served with tzatziki and tabbouleh).

 

To the question, “How much meat can a person eat on one sandwich before having an orgasm?,” Top 5 barbecue joint Heim offers the anti-humble BBQ Snob: a whole link of jalapeno-cheddar sausage and a half-pound of chopped brisket, topped with Heim’s famous bacon burnt ends and served on a jalapeño-cheddar bun.
Courtesy Facebook via @hirotoshi_mugen

Barbecue (Top 5)

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Readers’ Choice: Heim BBQ, 1109 W Magnolia Av, 817-882-6970

Critic’s Choices: The offerings at Brix Barbecue (215 S Main St, 219-363-6210) are as vast as they are delicious. Whether you prefer your juicy burgers with extra Dank sauce or your brisket extra marbled, the smoky treats at this food truck (and upcoming permanent location at 215 S Main St) are not to be missed. … Dayne’s Craft Barbecue (9840 Camp Bowie West, 817-913-0986) will have its first brick-and-mortar location in the coming months. The unwashed on the West Side, where the Dayne’s crew is temporarily set up, are already learning about some of town’s best burgers (handcrafted from excess brisket trimmings), melt-in-your-mouth bacon brisket, and handcrafted sausages. … The ’cue at Goldee’s Barbecue (4645 Dick Price Rd, 817-480-4131) is as good as gold. Here, folks indulge in fork-tender brisket, traditional offerings, and unique sides and options like cheese grits and Laotian sausage (served with sticky rice and a pungent jeow som dipping sauce). … By this point, Emma and Travis Heim are pretty much Texas barbecue royalty. The original location of Heim BBQ (1109 W Magnolia Av, 817-882-6970) remains a top go-to spot for anyone craving tasty smoked meats and choice sides. Other menu options verge on Zen kōans. With a whole link of jalapeño-cheddar sausage and a half-pound of chopped brisket, all that topped with Heim’s famous bacon burnt ends and served on a jalapeño-cheddar bun, the BBQ Snob sandwich will have you questioning when too much mouthwatering meat is enough. (“Never” is the right answer.) … As Fort Worth bids adieu to Derek Allan’s Texas Barbecue, locals have some good news to look forward to. Arlington purveyor of Mexicue-styled meats, Hurtado Barbecue (205 E Front St, Arl, 682-323-5141) will fill the vacated Derek Allan’s location at 1116 8th Av later this year. Hurtado’s succulent brisket tacos, served with a piquant salsa verde, are legendary.

 

Breakfast

Readers’ Choice: (tie) Ol’ South Pancake House, 1509 S University Dr, 817-336-0311 • Paris Coffee Shop, 704 W Magnolia Av, 817-945-1702

Critic’s Choice: Seven Mile Café, 6300 N Fwy, 817-778-0911

It’s everything you ever loved about breakfast, times seven. Want pancakes? Choose from 15 options, including gluten-friendly, several vegan varieties, and birthday cake. Want Benedicts? There are seven here, including a crab cake Benny and two vegan choices. French toast? Half a dozen options, including three vegan versions. There are also breakfast scrambles, migas, a breakfast sammie, a variety of egg dishes, breakfast bowls, and smoothies if you don’t usually eat at 7am but want a little something.

 

Brunch (Top 5)

Readers’ Choice: Drag-with-Me Brunch at The Sleeping Panther, 1000 Houston St, 817-946-2293, MyOhMyTheShow.com, (formerly held at Red Goose Saloon, 306 N Houston St, 817-332-4745)

Critic’s Choices: The mimosa brunch at Blue Mesa (612 Carroll St, 817-332-6372) is the grandmother of all brunches. Traditional breakfast options, like made-to-order omelets, biscuits and gravy, and waffles two ways (berries or chicken and syrup) play along with the restaurant’s favorites like the sweet corn cake, adobe pie, enchiladas, and a taco station. Mimosas and dessert are also included. … Dear lordt, the flaky, piping-hot biscuits at Fixe Southern House (5282 Marathon Av, 682-707-3965), slathered in butter and Texas honey. They call ’em starters, but brunch is perfect with a biscuit and a mimosa. Or you can have the biscuits in sandwich form with meat, cheese, or fried chicken. Shrimp and grits, chicken-fried ribeye, and other lunch items round out Fixe’s generous menu. … Little Red Wasp Kitchen + Bar (808 Main St, 817-877-3111) offers a simple menu — there are sweet and savory breakfast options aplenty or salads and burgers if you want something more lunch-like. Corned beef hash, green eggs and ham, and chilaquiles made with local Mrs. Renfro’s salsa are some of the standouts, as are the brunch cocktails. … At Shaw’s Patio Bar and Grill (1051 W Magnolia, 817-926-2116), the menu is spartan but covers all the bases. The Portabella Benedict is a fun take on the brunch classic, with meaty mushroom caps subbing in for the English muffins. Mimosas are $3, and a sturdy Bloody Mary is only $5 — possibly the best brunch value in town. … For four years, the pay-what-you’re-able-to nonprofit restaurant The Taste Project (1200 S Main St, 817-759-9045) has served Fort Worth’s food-insecure folks and dazzled foodies with fresh, tasty, healthy treats. The addition of Saturday and Sunday brunch offers an opportunity for those who can spend a little more for a meal out to help give back. Current menu options include an eggplant pasta, shakshuka, burgers, and more traditional breakfast fare.

 

According to our esteemed critics, Dayne’s Craft Barbecue serves up one of the best burgers in town, plus some mighty fine ’cue.
Courtesy Facebook

Burger (Top 5)

Readers’ Choice: Rodeo Goat, 2836 Bledsoe St, 817-877-4628

Critic’s Choices: It’s won just about every other award there is, including this one (maybe multiple times), so what’s one more this year. The L.U.S.T Burger at The Bearded Lady (300 S Main St, 817-349-9832) is a half-pound beef patty stuffed with feta and roasted poblanos and topped with gouda, caramelized onion, and avocado, all served on a toasted brioche bun. … Instead of plain ol’ ground beef on its own, the OG Burger at Dayne’s Craft Barbecue (9840 Camp Bowie West, 817-913-0986) features repurposed brisket trimmings, creating a kind of heartiness in every bite that’s part-barbecue-joint, part-traditional-burger. Melted yellow and white cheeses and a tangy red sauce covering the two massive patties will leave you saying, “God Dayne, that’s a great burger!” … The elder statesman of Fort Worth’s burger scene, Fred’s Texas Cafe (7101 Camp Bowie West, 817-332-0083; 2730 Western Center Blvd, 817-232-0111) still got a lot o’ mo’! Our go-to is the Serrano Burger (with grilled serranos and onions, Oaxaca cheese, pickles, lettuce, tomato, and lime mayo), though we could be talked into trying the newish Badlands BBQ Burger (Outlaw Chef’s Badlands BBQ sauce, shredded cheddar cheese, crispy bacon, pickles, onion, and mustard). … Psst! Hey, kid. Wanna know a secret? Pouring Glory (1001 Bryan Av, 682-707-5441) is still churning out delicious pub grub, especially burgers, most especially the Spicy Double Bacon Cheeseburger (two patties topped with pepper jack, crisp hickory bacon, roasted jalapeños, pickle chips, and habanero ranch on a brioche bun). … When it comes to wild and wacky — and delicious — burgers, no one beats Rodeo Goat. Our faves are the Chaca Oaxaca (beef and chorizo patty, pico, queso fresco, Tabasco mayo, fried egg on top, avocado spread) and a newish one, the Hatch Me If You Can (roasted Hatch green chiles, Hatch chile queso, white cheddar, tortilla strips, pan-fried onions, avocado ranch), but we really want to try the Sugar Burger (grilled peaches (!), candied bacon, caramelized onions, jalapeño jam, arugula). Never had a stone fruit on your burger before? Welcome to Rodeo Goat.

 

Burrito

Readers’ Choice: San Diego Tacos, 7116 Blvd 26, Richland Hills, 817-284-1399

Critic’s Choice: Chuy’s (2401 W 7th St, 817-332-2489; 9700 N Fwy Service Rd W, 817-741-6090)

They say they’re as “big as yo head,” and while they’re certainly right, Chuy’s burritos are also darn tasty. Our favorite is the fajita beef version, and other options include fajita chicken, roasted chicken, seasoned ground beef, or bean and cheese. All Chuy’s burritos come with Mexican rice, and here’s a little pro tip for you: Order the jalapeño ranch dipping sauce. It’s good on everything but especially gooey, chewy, steak-filled Chuy’s burritos.

 

Cajun Food

Readers’ Choice: Boo Ray’s of New Orleans, 5728 Boat Club Rd, 817-236-6149

Critic’s Choice: Tributary Cafe, 2813 Race St, 817-832-0823

While the shrimp gumbo and crawfish etouffee are slap-yo-mama delish, Tributary Cafe’s most outstanding dishes have to be the Shrimp Victoria (mushrooms, crème fraiche, Cayenne) and the blackened pork chop with Creole mustard cream. This Race Street staple also does a mean, gut-busting po’ boy. Shrimp, fish, oysters, and crawfish are your options, and if you’re having a hard time deciding, ask the waitstaff for their recommendation. They’re always happy to help.

 

Charcuterie Board

Critic’s Choice: La Onda, 2905 Race St, 817-607-8605

OK, it’s probably cheating to give this award to La Onda’s fish-dominated, cutesily named Sharkcuterie board. Then again, have you had this? The house-made gravlax, caviar, and fish have been selected every bit as meticulously as any other restaurant’s offering of salumi and cheese. We love this restaurant because no detail is too small to escape the kitchen’s notice, and this seafood board is a prime example of that.

 

La Onda’s food is spectacular in both presentation and execution thanks to Chef Victor Villarreal, winner of this year’s (and last year’s) critic’s choice for best chef.
Courtesy Facebook

Chef

Readers’ Choice: Jon Bonnell, Bonnell’s Fine Texas Cuisine, Waters

Critic’s Choice: Victor Villarreal, La Onda, 2905 Race St, 817-607-8605

From stints in the kitchen at Grace and Clay Pigeon to his own late Abe Froman’s of Fort Worth in the now-defunct Food Hall at Crockett Row, Villareal has been improving his craft for the last decade. There’s a difference between running a kitchen and owning a restaurant, which Villarreal seems to have taken to heart. The chef now owns one of the most acclaimed seafood restaurants in town along with wife Misty Villarreal, who runs the bar. Last year’s critic’s choice for best chef, Villarreal enjoys his collaborations: He’s partnered with Funky Picnic for the beer-and-sea-fest La Playa Beer dinner, where the ceviche appetizer was paired with Jesus Take the Peel, a citrus pilsner, and he’s also worked with Thirty Eight & Vine for a wine dinner that matched his Latin-inspired seafood dishes with a variety of summer wines. And he uses his power of cooking for good: Villarreal has created dinner fundraisers to benefit Meals on Wheels and The Taste Project.

 

Chicken-Fried Steak

Readers’ Choice: Tom’s Burgers & Grill, 1530 N Cooper St, Arl, 817-459-9000

Critic’s Choice: Cat City Grill, 1208 W Magnolia Av, 817-916-5333

Isn’t it awesome when that slab of breaded steak is just hanging off the plate? It’s even better when it’s at Cat City, whose CFS is as tasty as it is humongous. For supper, the Near Southside institution serves the Southern staple with classic cream gravy while for lunch, the portion is smaller and comes with Texas toast and waffle fries. Pro tip: add eggs to your gravyfied cutlet at lunch with a mimosa, and the rest of your day will rock.

 

Chinese Food

Readers’ Choice: Szechuan, 5712 Locke Av, 817-738-7300

Critic’s Choice: First Chinese BBQ, 5310 E Belknap, 817-834-1888

From the fowl hanging for sale near the cash register to the five-page menu that offers traditional, non-Westernized favorites from Canton, Northern China, and Szechuan — including adventurous dishes like duck feet and pig tongue — First Chinese BBQ is your answer to the question “Where can I find real Chinese food in Fort Worth?” Its quaint mom-and-pop environs are as charming as its flavors are big, and for pescatarians and other seafood lovers, dishes like the spicy kung pao dried squid and Four Treasures (scallops, shrimp, beef, chicken) will hit the spot.

 

Coffeeshop

Readers’ Choice: Buon Giorno Coffee, 500 W 7th St, Ste 140, 817-378-4505

Critic’s Choice: Vaquero Coffee Co., 109 Houston St, 682-730-1335

On the north end of downtown is a cozy coffee shop that offers steaming hot cups of the best java in town. Large glass windows bathe the hip interior in light while providing an unobstructed view of passersby and bustling life along Houston Street. Sure, you can order a plain cup of coffee, but locals know what the real treats are. The horchata latte comes with a thick crown of cinnamon-kissed whipped cream. The Sid Richardson is a robust mesquite-smoked espresso shot that’ll shoot you into space if you’re not buckled in. So sit back on a well-worn leather couch, pull up a book or laptop, and indulge your senses in caffeinated splendor.

 

Deli

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

None of the delis in the 817 serve savory sour dill pickles in a bowl on the table, like they did at Junior’s Deli in Manhattan, but if you can put that fact aside, Weinberger’s eats are pretty close to the real thing. The longtime Grapevine spot offers multiple riffs on the Reuben, including Gayle’s Super Ruben with corned beef, pastrami, turkey pastrami, and all the cheese and dressing. Thanks to the eclectic menu, you can grab some New Orleans-style Debris before visiting Chicago via the dogs and sausage. You can even take a trip to Havana via Key West with some of the Cuban options — we’re not sure if the Mark Cuban Sandwich, with its hot ham, roast pork, and provolone, is a dig at the Dallas Mavericks owner or high praise. Either way, it’s delish.

 

Family-Style Meal

Critic’s Choice: Tre Mogli Cucina Italiana, 401 S Main St, 817-615-9844

Upscale Italian has never looked better than at this South Main Village hotspot, but what makes Tre Mogli even better — even more Italian — is its emphasis on family-style dining. Of all the mouthwatering dishes on the menu, carnivores should head directly to the Bistecca Fiorentina. Served with broccolini, marble potatoes, and Calabrian chili, it’s a 36-oz prime porterhouse prepared Florentine-style, which is among some of the best preparations in the world. Splitting the $225 price tag four ways should leave extra room in the wallet for a few glasses of limoncello.

 

Food Truck

Readers’ Choice: Big Kat Burgers, 200 Bryan Av, 903-363-5723

Critic’s Choice: Kelly’s Onion Burgers, Instagram @KellysOnionsBurgers

Oklahoma natives Andrew and Joe Kelly have made a Sooner State classic part of Fort Worth’s foodie vernacular. The concept is as straightforward as it is damn delicious: grill white onions until they reach optimal caramelized levels, then crush the veggies into a juicy beef patty. The results are texturally complex and dripping with meaty goodness. The minimalist menu won’t leave you gawking for long — there’s just original, double, and cheeseburger options. No matter your choice, all paths lead to a delicious experience. Follow this popular food truck on Instagram for their next pop-up event.

 

Fried Chicken

Readers’ Choice: Gus’s World Famous Fried Chicken, 1067 W Magnolia Av, 817-927-4693

Critic’s Choice: Helen’s Hot Chicken, 2812 Horne St, 682-255-5405

If you think you know what good fried chicken is, or isn’t, go down to the comments section and get into a huge fight about it. The Nashville-style chicken at this new place is good enough to convert even hot-chicken haters, as it’s fried up perfectly without greasiness or spices rubbing off on your fingers. Be sure to hit Helen’s on Saturday or Sunday, when the best chicken and waffles are on the menu.

 

Hot Dog

Critic’s Choice: K-Town Hot Dogs, 4940 Overton Ridge, 817-386-5371

Leave it to the Koreans to expand our concept of what a hot dog can be. Rather than sausage in a bun with the same old condiments and toppings, K-Town gives us meat on a stick deep fried in a batter coating that can contain ramen, sugar, or cut-up French fries. The coating is fried up well enough to keep the dogs hot and crispy for the length of a car trip, so you can savor them in the comfort of your home.

 

Indian Food

Readers’ Choice: Maharaja, 6308 Hulen Bend Blvd, 817-263-7156

Critic’s Choice: Tandoor Indian Restaurant, 1200 N Fielder Rd, Ste 532, Arl, 817-261-6604

Arlington has a number of quality Indian restaurants, but the city’s oldest is still the best. Tandoor is tucked away in a nondescript strip mall in a residential area, so it can be easily missed for those unaware, but once you find it, their delicious take on traditional Indian cuisine will make you want to tattoo the directions on your chest. Still offering a daily all-you-can-eat lunch buffet, Tandoor can be a great introduction to Indian flavors for a novice or a gut-busting gorge-fest for those who already enjoy the full complement of spicy and savory dishes. The restaurant’s signature creamy palak paneer, buttery chicken tikka masala, delectable, flaky samosas, zingy tandoori chicken, and of course soft and fluffy tandoor-fired naan, as well as their always warm and friendly waitstaff, absolutely set the standard for Indian food in the 817.

 

Italian Food

Readers’ Choice: Tre Mogli Cucina Italiana, 401 S Main St, 817-615-9844

Critic’s Choice: il Modo, 714 Main St, Kimpton Harper Hotel, 817-415-0144

The grill masters at this place inside downtown’s Kimpton Harper Hotel make this newcomer Fort Worth’s Italian eatery of choice. Yes, the pasta entrées are perfectly fine, but the food that comes off the grill is superlative, whether it’s crusty bread, peaches, vegetables, steak, or the notoriously finicky octopus. Il Modo features a linen-tablecloth setting, but wooden picnic tables would be just as appropriate given the importance of the grill here.

 

Japanese Food

Readers’ Choice: Tokyo Cafe, 5121 Pershing Av, 817-737-8568

Critic’s Choice: Shinjuku Station, 711 W Magnolia Av, 817-923-2695

Though the competition for the critic’s choice in this category has gotten tougher thanks to Hatsuyuki Handroll Bar on Foch Street, Shinjuku Station is still the best spot for authentic Japanese cuisine. The nigiri and sashimi are as beautiful and mouthwatering as ever, and lunch options such as build-your-own bento boxes and donburi (rice) bowls will inspire you to make reservations for dinner. If you’re a first-time customer, the churashi don bowl will give you an introduction to Shinjuku’s sashimi options, and you’ll want to try a small plate offering like hokkaido scallops and tuna tartare or kanpachi ceviche.

 

Mediterranean Food

Readers’ Choice: Nish! Mediterranean Grill, 4913 Ohio Garden Rd, 817-615-9292

Critic’s Choice: Prince Lebanese Grill, 502 W Randol Mill Rd, Arl, 817-469-1811

Another hidden gem in the otherwise chain restaurant-centric Arlington, Prince Lebanese Grill has been earning its reputation as a North Texas Med-food destination for decades. Proprietor Francis Kotby opened the Prince in 1989, and his commitment to fresh ingredients, big portions, and even bigger flavor has made diners’ bellies happy ever since. The spot is also a favorite of none other than the mayor of Flavortown, Guy Fieri. The famous bleach-haired foodie has featured Prince on two of his shows, Guy’s Big Bite and the ever-popular Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives, and his enthusiasm for Kotby’s menu is to be trusted. The lamb shawarma is tops and is best accompanied by Prince’s luscious baba ghanoush and aromatic grape-leaf dolmas.

 

Dry-aged New York Strip, ancho/pasilla-herbed black bean purée, and serrano aioli on a masa base comprise the sopes at Don Artemio, our critic’s choice for best new restaurant and one of our critic’s Top 5 picks for best Mexican food.
Courtesy Facebook

Mexican Food (Top 5)

Readers’ Choice: The Original Mexican Eats Cafe, 4713 Camp Bowie Blvd, 817-738-6226

Critic’s Choices: Belenty’s Love Mexican Vegan (3516 Bluebonnet Cir, 817-862-9008) is unusual. Mexican vegan, you say? Is it possible? With nopales and soy subbing in for most of the meat, it is. Enchiladas, quesadillas, tinga tacos, and portabella asada are just a few of the options on the intriguing menu. … At Don Artemio (3268 W 7th, 817-470-1439), chefs Adrián Burciaga and Juan Ramón Cárdenas had been tossing around the idea of a collaboration for the better part of a decade. Enter: COVID restaurant closures, and a year later, Don Artemio’s fancy version of Northeastern Mexican cuisine has been welcomed lovingly in a community that’s become interested in more than just tacos and tortas. … Esperanza’s Restaurant and Bakery (2122 N Main St, 817-626-5770) is more than just the offspring of Joe T. Garcia’s. The neighborhood cafe isn’t as fancy but has a better selection of dishes at a more wallet-friendly price. Best of all, while you’re waiting or after your meal, stop by the bakery, with shelves of drool-worthy pan dulce and treats. … At Juan’s Burrito Express (6901 McCart Av, 817-292-3048), early risers know the restaurant is a breakfast-and-more place where you can find breakfast burritos (regular or jumbo) and breakfast plates that include eggs and guisado or machacado con huevos along with the migas plate. The enchiladas and a variety of lunch specials are both pocketbook-friendly and delicious. … La Playa Maya –– the family-owned restaurant with locations on Fort Worth’s south, north, and west sides — has served up a variety of coastal Mexican favorites along with traditional meat and cheese dishes for three decades. You can trust it with your appetite. And your wallet.

 

New Restaurant

Readers’ Choice: The Beast & Company, 1010 W Magnolia Av, 817-945-1461

Critic’s Choice: Don Artemio, 3268 W 7th St, 817-470-1439

This Mexican import from Saltillo chose our city for its second location in the world, and we couldn’t be more honored. Don Artemio emphasizes elegance and refinement in its presentation of Mexican cuisine, from the delicately flavored goat tacos to the complexity of the chile hojaldrado that shows what a poor substitute many other Mexican places foist off on us. No offense to our town’s illustrious steakhouses, but when people think of an upscale Fort Worth restaurant, this is what should come to mind.

 

Pho

Readers’ Choice: Pho District, 2401 W 7th St, 817-862-9988

Critic’s Choice: Thuy Nguyen Café, 100 W Pioneer Pkwy, Ste 100B, Arl, 682-252-4101

While there is certainly no shortage of delicious Vietnamese grub in North Texas and particularly Haltom City, Arlington’s Thuy Nguyen Café is a step above. Adventurous eaters can run the gamut of delectables, from bun bo hue to banh xeo, but the pho here is not to missed. The secret is in the broth. It lacks the oil-slick layer of grease characteristic of many area phos. You can practically taste all the hours that went into it. Incredibly fresh fixins like Thai basil, mung bean sprouts, and jalapeños (are they growing it themselves?!) make for a choose-your-own-adventure experience. Come for the pho, stay for the karaoke.

 

Pizza (Top 5)

Readers’ Choice: Mama’s Pizza (multiple locations)

Critic’s Choices: While we were all frowny face when the old Chimera on Magnolia closed, we have to admit we are digging its new, non-Magnolia progression, Fort Brewery & Pizza (2737 Tillar St, 817-923-8000). From mostly the humble margherita and cheese, the menu has expanded exponentially to encompass several signature pies, including our go-to, the Zeppelin (sausage, spicy Calabrese sausage, roasted red peppers, marinara, shredded mozzarella, ranch, and a Heim BBQ sauce swirl). It goes great with Fort Brewery’s Riff Ram Blueberry Radler light American lager. … Solid, affordable Neapolitan pie comin’ atcha — that’s what Hysen’s Nizza Pizza (401 University Dr, 817-877-3900) does better than pretty much every other fast-casual pizzeria around. We’re talking no-frills New York-style pizza that you can fold down the middle and that will stain your fingertips (and maybe your palms and shirt) with grease — don’t ya just love it when you sprinkle some parmesan on your pipin’ hot slice, and the grated cheese just dissolves into all that greasy gooeyness? We do, and that’s why Nizza Pizza is one of the best restaurants of its kind in town. … When it comes to gourmet pies, it’s hard to beat Olivella’s Pizza and Wine (4910 Camp Bowie Blvd, 817-439-7676). Whether it’s our favorite, the humble Rustica (sausage, peppers, house-made mozzarella, sauce), or the fancy Black Truffle (truffle oil, speck, black pepper, house-made mozzarella) and the Soppressata & Sausage (soppressata, sausage, house-made mozzarella, sauce), Olivella’s proves pizza isn’t just peasant food. Plus, the crust is always pleasantly doughy and the perfect amount of charred on the bottom. … The Jerk (jerked chicken jalapeños, bell peppers, red onion, cilantro, red sauce, mozzarella) isn’t the only perfect gourmet excursion at Serious Pizza (2728 W 7th St, 682-348-2482). The West 7th newcomer does the basics beautifully, too, with delightfully chewy crusts and zesty sauces all around. … The post-Little-League-game vibes are strong at Zoli’s Pizza (3501 Hulen St, 817-402-0050), but the pies are anything but corporate, assembly-line widgets. With scrumptious crusts and slightly tangy sauces, Zoli’s pizzas reflect an understanding of the essentials, allowing the kitchen to get creative on top. Two of our faves are the CBR (roasted chicken, bacon, pickled jalapeños, ranch swirl on an everything-bagel crust) and the Dope Sopp’ (hot soppressata, tomato sauce, creamy ricotta, soppressata marmalade).

 

Queso

Readers’ Choice: Mesquite Pit, Granbury, Mineral Wells, Weatherford, MesquitePit.com, 817-596-7046

Critic’s Choice: Enchiladas Olé, 2418 Forest Park Blvd, 817-984-1360

This is totally up for debate, but the element of queso that really makes or breaks it is its consistency. A restaurant’s signature cheese dip might contain a symphony of zest, but if it’s too runny or too thick, all its flavors will get disregarded when the dip runs off the chip or breaks it. Enchiladas Olé melts their queso absolutely perfectly, and it has plenty of jalapeño to fire up your tastebuds.

 

Ramen

Readers’ Choice: Wabi House, 1229 8th Av, Ste 227, 817-720-3099

Critic’s Choice: Wabi House

Every sip of Wabi House’s ramen noodles is pure umami heaven. From the rich broth that washes over the palate in savory waves to the thick noodles that are firm yet supple, Wabi’s soups just might change your life. The classic tonkotsu, with its fork-tender pork belly, soft-boiled egg, and earthy woodear mushrooms, is a must-try for Wabi House noobs. Every variant is an experience that must be eaten and savored to be truly understood.

 

Critic’s choice for best restaurant, il Modo serves expertly rendered authentic Italian fare in a gorgeous contempo setting.
Courtesy Facebook

Restaurant

Readers’ Choice: Mesquite Pit, Granbury, Mineral Wells, Weatherford, MesquitePit.com, 817-596-7046

Critic’s Choice: il Modo, 714 Main St, Kimpton Harper Hotel, 817-415-0144

Il Modo masterfully serves authentic Italian cuisine in a refined, contemporary setting. The team here takes pride in the small details, and it shows. The pasta is prepared by hand and laid out behind a glass-walled room for all to see, and every ingredient shines in dishes that reflect the culinary legacy of the Italian Peninsula, like the linguine that is served semplicemente with fresh littleneck clams, white wine that adds a bit of acidity, and aromatic garlic.

 

Salsa

Readers’ Choice: Blended Family Foods, @BlendedFamilyFoods, 817-901-3144

Critic’s Choice: Hot Salsa, El Gabacho Tex-Mex Grill, 2408 W Abram St, Arl, 817-276-8160

This Arlington institution may be known for its taqueria-quality fare and gorgeous patio with fans, misters, and shade, but it’s the salsa that sets it apart. The mélange of red tomatoes and assorted spices makes what is normally a second thought at most other Tex-Mex places into a treat all its own.

 

Seafood

Readers’ Choice: (tie) La Onda, 2905 Race St, 817-607-8605 • Waters, 301 Main St, 817-984-1110

Critic’s Choice: La Onda

The menu is spartan but creative and changes frequently depending on supply. Yes, we’re landlocked here in the 817, unless you want to eat something you’ve fished out of the Trinity River, but with a combination of resourceful sourcing and creative treatment of the seafood (pickled, salted, preserved in oil, smoked), Chef Victor Villarreal manages the supply side with aplomb. The menu includes a daily ceviche choice and Shark-cuterie — a combo of house-made gravlax, caviar, smoked fish, and seasonal accompaniments. Rice bowls of ceviche or dry-aged sashimi, a seasonal selection of steamed clams, a shrimp torta, and a version of lox and shmear with whipped queso fresco and chili gravlax round out the menu.

 

Soul Food

Readers’ Choice: Drew’s Place, 5701 Curzon Av, 817-242-4454

Critic’s Choice: Young M’s Eatery, 3004 Cullen St, 682-310-6290

This relatively new eatery near Rockwood Park pays homage to the past while nodding to the present. This is all just a fancy way of saying Young M’s serves vegetarian options, which, as any soul-food enthusiast knows, almost seems to go against the very concept of “soul food.” Anyway, there’s lots to love here, whether vegetarian or meaty. While the Down South fried chicken plate is spectacular, leave room for the meat pie plate (house-made crusts filled with smoked brisket, seasoned beef, and/or spicy chicken). Order it with the baked mac ’n’ cheese and collard greens, and your taste buds will flip. The same recommendation applies for the vegetarians. Young M’s “meat” pies and coconut curry come with seitan sausage and “chicken” stuffed into house-made vegan crusts cooked to golden perfection.

 

Steaks (Top 5)

Readers’ Choice: Mesquite Pit, Granbury, Mineral Wells, Weatherford, MesquitePit.com, 817-596-7046

Critic’s Choices: Now that the U.S. economy seems to be humming along — other than the inflation gripping the globe, not just the U.S., we have added nearly 10 million new jobs and have a near record low 3.7% unemployment rate — it’s as good a time as any to splurge … on meat cooked to order. Steak, in particular. And while our picks here are not comprehensive and are not meant to be — they’re just one knowledgeable person’s favorites — they are a good place to start your 2022-23 campaign of treating yourself (and maybe a loved one) right. Wherever you go, be prepared to spend between $50 and $80 per order.

At B&B Butchers & Restaurant (5212 Marathon Av, 817-737-5212), the Steak à La Berg is a mouthwatering sirloin served over hash browns with sautéed mushrooms and Madeira sauce. … The elk tenderloin at Bonnell’s Fine Texas Cuisine (4259 Bryant Irvin Rd, 817-738-5489) comes with a tasty whole-grain mustard risotto plus fried poblano rings and a honey-malt glaze. … Every self-respecting best-steak list must include surf-and-turf, and the best around is at The Capital Grille (800 Main St, 817-348-9200), whose seared tenderloin arrives with butter-poached lobster tails — plural. … While the 32-oz (!) prime Tomahawk is going to set you back $130, the equally scrumptious 12-oz filet mignon is only $62 at Del Frisco’s Double Eagle Steak House (812 Main St, 817-877-3999). … The Wagyu picanha, a triangular cut with a melt-in-your-mouth sirloin texture and decadent, beefy flavor profile, doesn’t get any better than at Toro Toro (200 Main St, 817-975-9895), whose 10-oz version, like all steaks on the menu, comes with chimichurri, salsa matcha, and grilled shishito peppers but should also be accompanied by the potatoes three ways and grilled asparagus.

 

Street Tacos

Readers’ Choice: Salsa Limon (multiple locations)

Critic’s Choice: Tacos Ernesto, 3778 McCart Av, 817-922-8072

When the taco craving hits, don’t run for the border but head a mile south to the desolate, industrial stretch of McCart that Tacos Ernesto calls home. You’ll find all the classic proteins: carnitas, chorizo, al pastor, and even lengua, all on double-ply corn tortillas and topped with fresh white onion and cilantro, as is customary. There’s a modest dining room, but here’s a pro tip: Take your tacos to-go and head to People’s Republic bar across the street to enjoy your savory goodies with a cold adult beverage.

 

Sushi (Top 5)

Readers’ Choice: Blue Sushi Sake Grill, 3131 W 7th St, 817-332-2583

Critic’s Choices: Blue Sushi Sake Grill exudes L.A.-levels of swank. Nighttime is when the restaurant takes on an almost club-like feel as blue light bathes diners ordering up freshly shipped and artfully cut sushi. … Whether you prefer your raw fish in a towering edifice of rice and roe or as simple slices of sashimi, the masterful chefs at Edohana Sushi (2704 S Hulen St, 817-924-1144) can handcraft whatever you crave. The restaurant offers a wide range of dining options, including specialty rolls that you won’t find anywhere else. … The real draw at Hatsuyuki Handroll Bar (907 Foch St, 817-720-5330) is the menu of rolls that are as simple as they are delicious. Hatsuyuki’s largish traditional rolls are held together by thicker and crispier seaweed than you find elsewhere and filled with rice and seafood options like crab, bay scallops, yellowtail tuna, and more. … Near Southside institution Shinjuku Station (711 W Magnolia Av, 817-923-2695) has been one of the most consistently craveworthy izakaya-style restaurants in the 817. The cozy, shotgun-style layout makes for an intimate dining experience. … Since launching in 2007, Sushi Axiom (multiple locations) has become the standard, both for customer service and quality Japanese delicacies. Albacore, tuna, eel, and some exotic cuts of fish make for a transcendental experience when dining here.

 

Tamales

Readers’ Choice: Mama Lu’s Kitchen, @MamaLuSalsa, 817-255-0910

Critic’s Choice: Mama Lu’s Kitchen

The wonderful Mama Lu mixes fresh, locally sourced ingredients with traditional flavors and rich salsas to create, clearly, the best tamales in town. As the namesake tamale maker says on her social media pages, she and her team feel they’re on a journey to learn everything there is to know about quality food and encourage a sense of gratitude and thankfulness between cook and customer. Mama Lu’s is a pop-up operation, so call the number above or search her out online.

 

Tea Shop

Critic’s Choice: Tea2Go, 2600 W 7th St, 817-554-9150

Before there was a bubble tea shop on every corner and in every mall, this brass-tacks beverage store was dispensing brew for purists in Montgomery Plaza. The plethora of flavors and types of tea puts most specialty tea shops to shame (the Shortstack tea with dehydrated maple syrup is nectar-like and addictive), and the staff will gladly prepare a Hong Kong-style milk tea whose light sweetness will help you fight the Texas heat.

 

Tex-Mex Food 

Readers’ Choice: The Original Mexican Eats Cafe, 4713 Camp Bowie Blvd, 817-738-6226

Critic’s Choice: Los Vaqueros, 2629 N Main St, 817-624-1511

Since opening in 1996, this near-Stockyards institution has been serving all the traditional favorites in a comfy yet elegant atmosphere. Walking up the stairs and through the double doors into a bright, airy space resplendent with the aroma of sizzling fajitas will never get old. Here’s to another couple decades and more for Los Vaqueros.

 

Thai Food

Readers’ Choice: Spice, 411 W Magnolia Av, 817-984-1800

Critic’s Choice: Asian Nights Lao Thai Cuisine & Bar, 2905 N Beach St, 682-841-1116

With its huge menu of Lao and Thai favorites, Asian Nights offers complex tastes and friendly service, especially if you’re new to stuff like blood clam lettuce wraps or mok pa (steamed fish in banana leaves). But even if you prefer to stick with well-known dishes like Pad Thai or green curry, Asian Nights will wow your palate with exciting flavor. Don’t forget to try the lychee martini!

 

The scrumptious, salty-and-creamy kimchi pie is one of many reasons Pizza Verde is our critic’s choice for best vegan food.
Courtesy Facebook

Vegan Food

Readers’ Choice: Spiral Diner & Bakery, 1314 W Magnolia Av, 817-332-8834

Critic’s Choice: Pizza Verde, 5716 Locke Av, 817-349-9852

This humble little joint off Camp Bowie specializes in vegan pies and other animal-free goodies tasty enough to make a meat lover switch teams (at least for one evening). While Pizza Verde’s variations on the classics (pepperoni, cheese) are excellent, it’s the signature pies that are worth your time, spare change, and openness to new culinary experiences. Two of the most popular pizzas in town are Pizza Verde’s Potato Leek (leek, potato, mozzarella, rosemary, lemon aioli, oil, and garlic) and Kimchi (kimchi, gochujang beef, mozzarella, spinach, sesame seeds, hot oil, and garlic). We dare you to not eat the whole thing.

 

Vegetarian Food

Readers’ Choice: Zonk Burger, 2919 Race St, 817-349-8646

Critic’s Choice: Byblos, 1406 N Main St, 817-625-9667

Vegetarians, carnivores, vegans, and omnivores agree: Mediterranean food allows everyone at the table to be happy. And the options here are a feast for the eyes as well as the stomach. The lunch and dinner buffets are back, but if you’d rather eat at home, select the vegetarian falafel family meal, where you can eat your weight in falafel, Fattoush salad, rice, and pita bread. Eight of the 10 appetizers on Byblos’ menu are vegan or vegetarian with cheeses from yogurt, sheep’s milk, and cow’s milk, so you could create an essentially vegetarian mezze splurge for starters. Byblos also offers a trio of vegetarian entrees: the moussaka with baked, not fried, eggplant and slightly nutty whole chickpeas, the fatt-ii bil-laban (whole chickpeas, olive oil, and goat’s milk yogurt piled on a whole-grain pita), and moojjadra (lentils and brown rice served with a cabbage salad).

 

Vietnamese Food

Readers’ Choice: (tie) Four Sisters — A Taste of Vietnam, 1001 S Main St, Ste 151, 682-244-4546 • My Lan Vietnamese Kitchen, 5307 Colleyville Blvd, Ste 120, 817-398-4023

Critic’s Choice: Four Sisters — A Taste of Vietnam

Four Sisters serves up your favorite Vietnamese classics like crispy summer rolls, hearty beef pho, and a variety of savory, inventive dishes like crawfish fried rice and banh mi bao in a chic, modern setting. The lemongrass tofu and/or the beer-braised pork belly bao are two dishes that will easily hook you on the rest of the menu.

 

Waitstaff

Readers’ Choice: Mesquite Pit, Granbury, Mineral Wells, Weatherford, MesquitePit.com, 817-596-7046

Critic’s Choice: Lucile’s Stateside Bistro, 4700 Camp Bowie Blvd, 817-738-4761

Assuming we all know how good the food is at this Arlington Heights institution — “excellent” is an adequate modifier — newcomers should be aware of Lucile’s crack staff. From the veteran bartenders to the young ladies working the front and, most importantly, the waiters and servers, Lucile’s ship is tightly run. The churn-and-burn element endemic to most popular spots never detracts from the waitstaff’s friendliness, promptness, and attentiveness.

 

Wings

Readers’ Choice: Buffalo Bros, 3015 S University Dr, 817-386-9601

Critic’s Choice: Emmy’s Smokehouse, 2708 W 7th St, 817-334-0888

The only thing more amazing than the flavor of Emmy’s wings is how fast you’ll eat them. Whether you like regular or boneless, these flappers will ignite your tastebuds with a tangy, piquant selection of four different dry rubs and 10 different sauces that deliver the perfect amounts of heat and sweet. Can you handle the fire of the mango-habanero rub, or will you start out with the apple bourbon BBQ sauce? Your best bet is to just try them all. You won’t be disappointed.

 

To read about more winners, go to the Best Of On The Town, Sounds Of The City, Getting & SpendingPeople & PlacesArts & Culture, and Night & Day section articles on FWWeekly.com. To see the Best Of 2022 special edition in a flipbook, page-by-page format, click here.

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