Just about every neighborhood in Tarrant County has at least one or two: a restaurant beloved and populated mostly by locals. We're not talking about the restaurants along Magnolia Ave., or downtown or in the West 7th area, which are packed with just about every walk of Fort Worth life.
We're referring to neighborhood restaurants, those hidden gems that may not be known to outsiders or listed in restaurant guides but are cherished by another certain faction of people: those who live around the corner.
This month's Where to Eat is devoted to these restaurants, where the locals really eat.
TCU-area Italian restaurant at 3548 S. Hills Ave. looks unassuming but its nondescript exterior masks a warm, inviting room decorated with wine glasses and tablecloths. The menu is made up of Italian staples: spaghetti and meatballs, lasagna, chicken cacciatore, brick-oven pizza. Dishes are nicely presented, by servers who know your name, and most entrées are accompanied by hot and fluffy rolls, made in-house. Long-timers who've come here since it opened nearly 20 years ago bring friends, lots of wine (it's BYOB), and animated conversations. 817-922-9500.
Lieu's Vietnamese Restaurant
For those who live near 5315 Jacksboro Highway, this 2-year-old Vietnamese spot is a nice change of pace from the Mexican and American cafes that crowd the historic roadway. Regulars swear by the pho, which comes in both common (brisket, chicken) and not-so-common (tripe, tofu) varieties. The huge menu also includes rice and noodle dishes, soups, stews and stir-fry plates, along with some unusual items like buttered and fried frog legs. Owner Lieu Carter runs a tight ship: Food is delivered quickly and by a friendly, helpful staff. 817-237-0372.
New York Eats
Quirky shop in Arlington caters primarily to nearby UTA students but also to anyone who has a hankering for chicken over rice and doesn't want to stand in line at the Halal Guys. Hidden in a strip mall off Cooper St., next to UTA, at 604 Doug Russell Rd., this 3-year-old restaurant zeroes in on just a few dishes, most modeled after New York street cart food: chicken, lamb, or falafel over rice, doused in a yogurt-based white sauce; gyros; wraps; and burgers. A big plus: it's open until midnight daily. 682-593-1428.
Old Neighborhood Grill
If you live in the Forest Park area, no doubt you've dined, morning, noon, or night, at this cozy, accurately named home-cooking joint at 1633 Park Place Ave. Breakfast can be a zoo, but it's a fun kind of crowded. Everyone knows everyone and they all chat over blueberry pancakes, beer-infused biscuits, and plate-engulfing breakfast tacos. At lunch and dinner, chicken fried steak rules, but there are also good burgers, a nice selection of salads, and several seafood dishes. 817-923-2282.
Homey Middle Eastern spot has been an in-the-know fave for west-siders since the Chams family opened it two years ago at 7860 Chapin Rd., in an old Dairy Queen near the Benbrook traffic circle. Decorated with couches, books, artwork, and knick-knacks, it looks more like a living room than a restaurant. Owner Joseph Chams specializes in classic Mediterranean fare — moussaka, baba ganouj, shawarma, tabouli — hand-prepared in portions big enough to split. For smaller appetites, there are salads, light sandwiches, and a daily soup. Also good are the housemade specialty drinks, including jallab, a Lebanese drink made with grape molasses, pine nuts, and pistachios. 817-862-9728.
The east side of Fort Worth has several excellent BBQ options, from Kip'z's to Wilson's to Smokey's. Robinson's, at 1028 E. Berry St., is one of the longest-running barbecue joints in this neck of the woods — 30 years and counting — and it does its 'cue Kansas City-style, which isn't easy to find in Fort Worth. Pork spare ribs are the don't-miss dish here. You can order them short-end or long-end (on spare ribs, the bones on one end are longer than the other) or just the tips, all of which are slow-smoked, over hickory, then doused in a sweet sauce, like just about everything else here. 817-924-1009.
Roy Pope Grocery
Neighborhood gourmet grocery store, open at 2300 Merrick St. since 1943, offers to-go meals to west-siders but the wise get the fresh burgers; they're some of the best in the city. The old-school kind, they're made with pickles, onions, lettuce, tomato, your choice of cheese, and thick, freshly ground beef patties, grilled on a classic flat-top as you watch. For those who prefer gourmet burgers, there is one option: a hefty Kobe beef cheeseburger, comprised of an 8-ounce Kobe beef patty, thick-cut bacon, lettuce, tomato, caramelized onions, mushrooms, cheddar cheese, and housemade chipotle barbecue sauce. 817-732-2863.