Opening a restaurant in Fort Worth is no small feat. The full package has to be there — exceptional ambiance, impeccable food, and top-notch service. If you don’t have these three key components, you’re not going to make it in Fort Worth.
To honor new restaurants that have hit all the marks and continue to impress local diners, 16 of the best new restaurants in Fort Worth will go head to head in our Tastemaker tournament. The results are in your hands as you decide who will be crowned Best New Restaurant of 2016.
As part of the 2016 CultureMap Tastemaker Awards, vote for your favorites in the bracket-style elimination challenge now through May 18. Voting for the first bracket ends on May 9. But before you vote, meet all of the nominees:
This nifty option in the TCU area has two solid-gold assets: a patio with a fireplace and an upscale American menu by savvy chef David Hollister. Appetizers include fried green tomatoes and picked vegetables; salads come in unusual varieties like squash and potato on spinach or a Caesar with purple cauliflower and spicy dressing. In addition to sandwiches like a burger, patty melt, and BLT, Common Ground does entrees such as grilled shrimp with caramelized peaches and fresh fish with carrot puree and roasted beets.
Dagwoods Grinders and Growlers
Another from Hollister, Dagwoods Grinders and Growlers, a sandwich and growler shop near Ridgmar Mall, boasts "monster" sandwiches such as beef belly, balsamic-onion jam, and Gouda cheese on marbled rye, plus 24 beers on tap. It is also a valuable depot for people to fill their growlers with beer to-go.
The Dive is a chef-driven oyster bar, the third venture from Robbie and Yvonne Turman, owners of nearby Oscar's Pub and The Mule. To lead their kitchen, they scored quite a coup: Josh Rangel, a former sous chef at Waters, Jon Bonnell's seafood restaurant. Bloody Mary oysters, gumbo, clam chowder, and other seafood staples — all made from scratch — can be found here.
Chef Ben Merritt (Woodshed Smokehouse, Stephan Pyles) branches out in Fort Worth into a space that was the former 24 Plates (which closed despite positive reviews). Fixture serves comfort food with a twist. Signature items include chicken and waffles, Brie and cranberry nachos, duck tacos, and goat hash. There's some real creativity to be found in dishes such as "beet" fries and a fried bologna club served on a kolache bun from Fort Worth's Pearl Snap Kolache.
FW Market + Table
Market + Table is a supremely practical spot that, as its name implies, is half-market, half-restaurant. Market offers prepared items, while Table serves chef-prepared food in a relaxed, casual-dining atmosphere. The restaurant takes over the old Tillman's space in the West 7th District and features celebrity chef Kalen Jane Morgenstern.
Heim Barbecue is Fort Worth's answer to Franklin, Austin's hallowed barbecue spot. As they do at Franklin, people line up for Travis and Emma Heim's Central Texas-style barbecue — thick slices of brisket outlined in ribbons of crust and fat, meaty pork spare ribs, and snappy sausage. Heim's offers a unique menu item that no other Texas barbecue joint serves: bacon burnt ends. These are fun, bite-size pieces of pork belly — crisp and smoky on the outside, chewy and sweet inside. Right now, the trailer is only open three days a week, Friday-Sunday, starting at 11 am. It's usually sold out by 1. You might need a backup plan.
Horseshoe Hill Cafe
This eatery from Grady Spears does classic Texas dishes right. Chicken-fried steak, mustard-spiked devil eggs, and even calf fries populate the menu, which draws in locals and visitors alike to the Stockyards Historic District location.
La Perla Negra
Latin-influenced hot spot opened by a super group of restaurateurs: Salsa Limon’s Ramiro Ramirez; Andrew de la Torre, who for years ran the Cuban-inspired restaurant and bar Embargo; and Imran Khan of Black Rooster Bakery and Lunch Box. Here, they zero in on lively and fresh coastal cuisine. You can build your own ceviche, for instance, choosing from such ingredients as salmon, ginger, and cucumber. Heavier dishes include the Domenicana, a shareable sandwich stuffed with ham and flank steak. Cocktails sometimes take a while but with good reason: They're made with freshly squeezed juices and small-batch mezcals.
This Peruvian restaurant may look unassuming, but its flavors — especially the chicken, done rotisserie-style — are out of this world. Specials regularly offered include entries such as whole chicken with french fries and salad for $17.99. Suburban location keeps the mobs at bay; more for you.
Husband and wife Braden and Yasmin Wages serve a slightly gourmet, slightly upscale rendition of Thai and Vietnamese food. Menu extends from classics such as pad Thai to an appetizer of Vietnamese meatballs made with pork, green onion, and caramel.
The second branch of this relaxed Vietnamese eatery (first branch is on Belknap) serves pho, banh mi, rice bowls, and other traditional fare. The space has a large aquarium inside, but those fish are for looking, not eating. The BYOB policy is a customer favorite.
Felipe Armenta, owner of popular Fort Worth eateries Pacific Table and The Tavern, expands his restaurant resume with Press Cafe. Located in the burgeoning Clearfork development, Press is delightfully hip with views overlooking the Trinity River. A solid menu, consisting of several sandwich and salad lunch options, also features larger entrees and craft cocktails.
Austin-esque taco stand serves cheap, well-made tacos with fillings that run the gamut: chorizo, pork, tripe, tongue, black beans, chicken, and steak. Breakfast tacos are available all day, with eggs and choice of meat, plus potato and bean and cheese. There are multiple locations, but this one occupies a cool 1940s Streamline Moderne building, once home to Topsy's Cafe.
Tacos are taken seriously at this Fort Worth joint, which began as a series of food trucks and expanded to catering and brick-and-mortar restaurant after demand soared. Breakfast is the best; order a flour taco filled with eggs, Wright bacon, and aged cheddar, plus a corn taco filled with eggs, garlic-oregano potatoes, and aged cheddar. Load everything with some of the signature salsa verde.
Family-run restaurant on Vickery Boulevard may be small, but the menu is big and bold, encompassing traditional dishes like pad Thai along with novel fusion items such as Thai pecan basil pesto with shrimp. Lunch is a bargain with a selection of entrees priced at $7.95.
Downtown Fort Worth Italian serves top-notch pizzas, pasta, antipasti, and salads. Restaurant takes over a location that's seen plenty of concepts come and go, but Vivo 53 gets it right. The billowy crusts on its pies alone, baked in a wood-burning oven, make it a destination for any pizza aficionado. But there are also cool starters such as fried artichokes, pristine salads such as the arugula with beets, and rustic pastas such as the signature rigatoni with San Marzano tomatoes.