One thing I’ve noticed in covering Fort Worth’s restaurant scene for more than a decade now: It’s very much like a tug of war.
There are those who simply want Fort Worth to be the way it’s always been, a town built on, by, and for beef lovers. That’s why we have so many burger and barbecue joints.
And then there are those who try, audaciously and admirably, to move us forward, to get away from the obvious, to up our culinary ante.
But it’s that constant battle that has made the last two years of Fort Worth dining so interesting. On one hand, you have culinary daredevils like Beast & Company, The Pantry, and La Onda pushing our palates forward — La Onda, in fact, was recently recognized by Bon Appetit as one of the U.S.’s best new restaurants.
On the other hand, who can think of a better time to be a barbecue/burger lover in Fort Worth? Our town has become THE destination for ‘cue in Texas. No. 1 in the state, according to Texas Monthly, is our very own Goldee’s Barbecue (which was featured in our last Best New Restaurant story, two years ago). Some might argue it’s Panther City BBQ or Dayne’s or Smoke-A-Holics, and that’s good. We have a lot of great places to argue about.
And burgers – man, oh, man, are there a bunch of new burger spots that have opened or soon will. Our city’s thirst for a good burger remains seemingly unquenchable.
Whatever side you’re on, whichever camp you fall into, our city’s dining scene had something new for you, whether it was a burger shack or an adventurous five-star restaurant. With that, we take a deep dive into the best new restaurants that have opened in Fort Worth over the past two years.
Beast & Company
Few new restaurants illustrate the art of moving forward as well as this upbeat spot in the Near Southside. There’s not another restaurant like Beast & Co. anywhere in Fort Worth, and that’s the point. Opened by owner Dustin Lee and executive chef Michael Arlt, it’s modeled after forward-thinking restaurants such as Giant in Chicago and other unique restaurants Lee once admired on business trips. Lee and Arlt took the old Mama Mia’s spot and transformed it into something almost otherworldly — a place where North African marinated olives can live side by side with Thai lobster bisque and chicken liver pate, and no one bats an eye. The lively menu reflects a jubilant atmosphere, in which service is fun yet polished and the vibe is casual yet classy. Go on a Friday night and you’ll need a megaphone to talk to your dining companions, the place is so noisy. Sit at the bar through the week for a quieter but no less stellar experience. A major leap forward for Fort Worth’s dining scene.
Order this: Only the strong can order the house bread and not make it disappear within minutes, the sea salt butter is so perfect. The Texas red snapper is unlike any other, with its undercurrent of Indonesian flavors.
Info: 1010 W. Magnolia Ave., thebeastandco.com
Four years ago, local chef Marcus Paslay opened Piattello Italian Kitchen, an Italian restaurant that hardly acted like an Italian restaurant. No silly Sinatra music, no Godfather atmosphere, and there was barely a drop of red sauce to be found. Piattello unintentionally set the stage for other modern Italian restaurants to follow, including Tre Mogli, the latest venture by known chef Stefon Rishel and his Trident Restaurant Group. Rishel’s name may be attached to the restaurant, but the kitchen belongs to executive chef Alex Drury, whose family recipes make up the menu. Gotta get a pasta, which range from a fantastic Bolognese made with a mix of pork, beef, and veal, to a pomodoro with stewed tomatoes and basil, to a superb cacio e pepe bucatini, all made by hand. There are heavier entrees, too, plus excellent desserts. Beautifully painted in subdued colors and populated with tableclothed and candlelit tables, Tre Mogli’s a little more grown up than some of Trident’s other concepts, so dress nice and talk softly; this isn’t Wishbone & Flynt.
Order this: The scratch-made Bolognese is hard to beat. Get it with a side of crispy marble potatoes, made with duck confit.
Info: 401 South Main St., tremogli.com
Maria’s Mexican Kitchen & Towne Grill
Felipe Armenta, who over the past decade has opened some of the city’s most popular restaurants, including Pacific Table, The Tavern, and Press Café, was especially busy in ‘21-’22 with these two concepts — the stylish Maria’s Mexican Kitchen, near TCU in the old Hoffbrau building, and Towne Grill, a gem hidden among far north Fort Worth’s bastion of chains. Similar in both menu and vibe, the latter offers upscale bar food and globe-trotting entrees in a classy, low-key setting. Maria’s is where his heart is, though: The restaurant is a lovely tribute to his mother — it’s her name and her recipes, although Armenta added plenty of his own touches. The food is stellar, from the scratch-made tortillas to the enchiladas stuffed with blue crab and butter-poached shrimp, to the parradilla, an assortment of meats and sides built for two, and the atmos is a blast, especially on the bar side, where a bullhorn is necessary to have a convo, so many people are having convos. The actual dining room, whose centerpiece is a beautiful painting of Armenta’s mom, has a midcentury look to it, with pine-colored humpback booths and pineapple-shaped lighting. Either room you wind up in, you’re going to have fun — and you’re going to eat well. Keep it up, Felipe.
Order this: At Maria’s, the lemon garlic rib-eye fajita platter is a true showstopper; you’ll be thinking about it for days on end, like a good first date. At Towne Grill, try the grilled meatloaf or the salmon salad, made with perfectly cooked miso-glazed salmon.
Info: Maria’s Mexican Kitchen, 1712 S. University Drive, mariasmexicankitchen.com; Towne Grill, 9365 Rain Lily Trail, townegrilltx.com
The end result of a longtime friendship between general manager Adrian Burciaga, the former general manager of Café Modern, and award-winning chef Juan Ramón Cárdenas, Don Artemio challenges our notions of Mexican food. This is a good thing. You can call it “upscale Mexican food” if you’d like, but it’s more accurate to say the recipes — in both taste and presentation — are a reflection of the northeast Mexico region of Saltillo, where the original Don Artemio resides. In other words, this isn’t your basic fajitas and enchiladas Mexican restaurant. Rather, you’ll find the Chile Hojaldrado, a poblano chile stuffed with cream cheese and pecan; seared sea bass swimming in an Oaxacan mole sauce; beef tongue tacos, whose meat is braised overnight and sauteed in salsa verde and served on housemade corn tortillas; and mussels cooked in a chipotle sauce. All are served fine dining style, in a beautifully designed, slightly industrial, slightly chic, warm room bustling with activity and clinking wine glasses. Matching the food is the impeccable service, doting and knowledgeable. You may never eat at Joe T. Garcia’s again.
Order this: Each and every meal should start with the excellent nopalitos tacos, in which you build your own, using crispy shards of cactus cooked and served with bits of bacon, and freshly made corn tortillas.
Info: 3268 W. Seventh St., donartemio.us
Da Crab Trap
The last two years have seen an influx of seafood boil spots in and around the Fort Worth area, but none are like this charming mom-and-pop restaurant found in a strip mall in far south Fort Worth. The Shields family hail from the coastal region of Georgia, and their food reflects their home — it’s not gimmicky, as is sometimes the case with seafood boils. There’s a clear focus on the seasoning that gives their food its unmistakable pop; it’s what makes their food, their food, they say. The restaurant’s signature dish is the Low Country-inspired seafood boil, made with shrimp and/or crab legs or clusters; each comes with red potatoes, boiled eggs, corn on the cob, and sausage, all bathed in your choice of a mild to spicy sauce. Other items include a super indulgent mac and cheese, stuffed with lobster and crab meat, and pineapple bowls, a pineapple sliced in two, then hollowed out and filled back up with your choice of steak, sausage, or seafood. On Saturday nights, the plainspoken dining room lights up with a DJ, dancing, and light show. Like I said, there’s nothing else quite like it.
Order this: The pineapple bowls, somewhat of a rarity in Fort Worth, are idea for sharing. Get it stuffed with sausage, bite-size portions whose skins have been expertly seared and blackened.
Info: 3401 Alta Mesa Blvd., dacrabtrap.com
With its opulent dining room and top-shelf steak and seafood dishes, Fitzgerald has brought fine dining back to the west side. Housed in the space long occupied by Blu Crab, Fitzgerald, opened last winter by Fort Worth chef Ben Merritt, is all class, with white tablecloths, attentive service and very, very good food, from the raw oysters to the half-dozen steaks to the impressive number of fresh fish dishes. In a way, Fitzgerald is a throwback to a time when meals lasted hours, not minutes; when people talked all night; ordered bottles, not glasses, of wine; ran into friends; and had a whiskey before dinner and coffee after. It’s often well-heeled-to-well-heeled crowded, loud, and a lot of fun. “People still want high-quality steaks, fresh fish, good wine, and a lively atmosphere,” says Merritt, who worked with business partner Chris Lynch to open the restaurant. “Fort Worth doesn’t have a lot of those restaurants. I definitely think we’re filling a void.” This is the third restaurant Merritt has opened — his other two spots, Ben’s Triple B’s on the east side and Fixture on Magnolia Avenue, closed due to pandemic-related issues. Hopefully, third time’s the charm.
Order this: The seafood tower appetizer, which gives you a little bit of everything: pickled and poached shrimp, seared ahi tuna, crawfish salad, plus fresh oysters; the crawfish mac and cheese, made with crawfish tails doused in Cajun seasonings; a big hunk of hummingbird cake.
Info: 6115 Camp Bowie Blvd., eatatfitz.com
For years, the only vegan restaurant in town was Spiral Diner — and some may say in a city born and bred on meat, Spiral Diner’s success is nothing short of a miracle. But ever since Spiral Diner opened, tides have been turning, and now there’s a greater appreciation — and bigger audience — for food not steeped in animal products. Pizza Verde is helping lead that charge. What started out as a pop-up turned into a full-blown restaurant last year when three pals — owners Jennifer and Landon Cabarubio and head chef Marcos Quintanar — turned the old Rocco’s Wood Fired Pizza into an all-vegan pizza joint. These aren’t pizzas just made with veggies — most pizza restaurants serve veggie pies in one form or another. These are pies in which every ingredient, from the toppings to the crust to the cheese, is plant-based. The three have put a lot of work into their recipes, making sure, for instance, you won’t be able to tell the difference between their almond-based mozzarella and the mozzarella that’ll kill you — there are also soy-free, gluten-free, and nut-free topping and crust options. Eat here and you may just live a little longer.
Order this: Our faves are the potato leek pie, made with an olive oil and garlic base, diced potato, leeks, rosemary and lemon aioli drizzle, and a kimchi pizza, made with a hot oil and garlic base, kimchi, spinach, sesame seeds, and gochujang, a Korean red chili paste.
Info: 5716 Locke Ave., facebook.com/pizzaverdetx
You don’t need us to recommend this Latin-inspired seafood spot on the city’s east side. New York-based Bon Appétit magazine did that for us when they recently named local couple Victor and Misty Villarreal’s charmingly small eatery one of the best restaurants in the country. The couple won the kudos based on a menu made up of a unique mix of seasonal oysters and mussels on the half shell; rotating ceviche; seafood charcuterie boards (amusingly called “sharkuterie”); raw seafood towers with oysters, shrimp, and mussels; and an item you don’t normally see on menus, anywhere: dry-aged fish. Here, what you drink is just as important as what you eat. Misty’s cocktail menu focuses on artisanal mezcals and pisco (a Peruvian brandy), as well as house sangria made with Verdejo wine, a coconut-ginger margarita, and rotating agua frescas, in both boozy and booze-free varieties. Located in a historic bungalow, La Onda is small and romantic, with just a handful of tables. Reservations aren’t just recommended; in most cases, they’re necessary.
Order this: Any of the seafood dishes go great with the smoked potatoes, crispy potato cubes topped with caviar, crema, and a soft-boiled egg.
Info: 2905 Race St., facebook.com/LaOndaftw
Burgers N Beyond
Probably not in our lifetimes, but maybe one day, eons from now, Fort Worth’s obsession with burgers will begin to cool. Until then, hit up Burgers N Beyond, the best new burger joint in town. When we say “joint,” we mean “joint,” like, A) don’t expect anything fancy and B) the parking lot’s a little sketchy. When you get out of your car, walk fast. Once inside this strip mall space, located across the street from John Peter Smith hospital, next door to the Mr. T Food Store, you’ll be comforted by the sights and smells of owners Ali Taher and Miada Khalaf’s charbroiled burgers. These are the burgers many of us grew up on — thin patties piled high with crunchy veggies, a perfect flick-of-the-wrist of salt and pepper, American cheese oozing out from all ends. All of a sudden, we’re 12 again at a family cookout, without a care or a bill or a heartbreak in sight. A secret, Thousand Island-like sauce gives the burgers a tangy kick. Elsewhere on the menu, there are salads and a chicken sandwich and a Philly cheesesteak, plus excellent crinkle-cut fries, nicely salted, piping hot.
Order this: The Big BNB Burger — two angus patties, two slices of American cheese, grilled onions and fresh lettuce and tomatoes, plus, if you want, the restaurant’s special sauce. Yes, you want.
Info: 1704 Galveston Ave., burgersnbeyondtexas.com
Delucca Gaucho Pizza & Wine
This upscale pizza and wine bar takes the all-you-can-eat concept up a notch. You don’t stand in line to hover over a buffet filled with warmed-over slices. Rather, servers here bring the food to you, slice by slice, right out of the oven. Choose your slices from traditional pies like sausage and cheese to unusual pizzas, such as the must-get chicken tikka masala. In addition to the pizza, prices include a shooter of lobster bisque, a nice salad, and dessert pizzas, whose toppings feature fruits and Nutella. Developed by husband-wife owners Vanderleia Mallmann and Evandro Caregnato, Delucca was undoubtedly inspired by restaurants such as Texas de Brazil, where the couple met (there are also locations in Southlake and Dallas). The unusual concept makes for a lively atmosphere: It’s fun to anticipate what type of pizza your server will bring next and even more fun to watch people light up when they try something new. Warning: You are going to be SO full.
Order this: The aforementioned chicken tikka masala pie is an absolute must; you may never go back to plain ol’ chicken tikka masala.
Info: 3010 South Hulen St., delucca.com
As we’ve noted elsewhere in this story, modern Italian cuisine has made a comeback in Fort Worth, with restaurants such as Piattello Italian Kitchen and Tre Mogli. Located on the ground floor of downtown’s Kimpton Harper Hotel, in what used to be the XTO Energy building, il Modo is another modern Italian restaurant that goes light on the red sauce but heavy where it matters, such as with the pastas, which are made in house — sometimes as you watch, thanks to an all-glass pasta-making room. You can eat at all hours, including breakfast, but a dinner visit is a must. Then, you can try the squash-filled agnolotti; personal pizzas topped with ingredients such as wild mushrooms and asparagus; and excellent sides and desserts. Since a change in chefs, the restaurant isn’t as adventurous as it was when it opened, but the flavors and old-world atmosphere more than compensate.
Order this: Rabbit pappardelle, a stew-like dish made with thin, ribbony pasta; it’s rich, hearty and absolutely delicious.
Info: 714 Main St., ilmodorestaurant.com