Iconic Fort Worth Dishes

10 quintessential dishes all Fort Worthians must eat before they die

10 quintessential dishes all Fort Worthians must eat before they die

Tamales at Reata in Fort Worth
Tamales at Reata. Photo courtesy of Reata
Fred's Cafe burger
Diablo burger at Fred's Texas Cafe. Photo by Malcolm Mayhew
Heim BBQ
Brisket at Heim Barbecue. Photo courtesy of Heim BBQ
Drew's Place fried chicken
Fried chicken at Drew's Place. Photo by Malcolm Mayhew
Swiss Pastry Shop black forest cake
Black Forest cake at Swiss Pastry Shop. Photo courtesy of Swiss Pastry Shop
Tamales at Reata in Fort Worth
Fred's Cafe burger
Heim BBQ
Drew's Place fried chicken
Swiss Pastry Shop black forest cake

To say Fort Worth is "becoming" a foodie city isn't exactly accurate. We're already there.

We have five-star restaurants serving chef-driven, farm-to-table food. We have ramen in the trendy West 7th area and pho near Hulen Mall. We have food trucks serving vegan sandwiches and burger joints smearing Akaushi patties with blackberry compote.

But we're not a town that forgets. We treasure our traditions, the dishes we hold dear, be it ribs at Angelo's Barbecue or nachos at Joe T's.

For this list, we've compiled our 10 quintessential Fort Worth dishes. Some have been around for decades, while others have newly proven their staying power. These are the dishes that define our culinary identity; they've made Fort Worth, Fort Worth.

Black Forest cake at Swiss Pastry Shop
Hans Peter Muller's long-running bakery recently added a German dinner menu and, before that, a burger menu — both of which have brought his 40-year-old spot on West Vickery new rounds of acclaim. But Muller will go to his grave as the purveyor of Fort Worth's most iconic dessert: Black Forest cake.

Dreamed up by Muller's pop, who ran Swiss before Hans took the helm, the cake is the opposite of most Black Forest cakes. Instead of being thick and heavy, Swiss' is feather-light: a base of crisp, airy almond meringues, layered with whipped cream and drenched in chocolate shavings. The shop sells at least 50 whole Black Forest cakes a day.

Diablo burger at Fred's Texas Cafe
Who has the best burger in Fort Worth? Kincaid's? Rodeo Goat? Dutch's? You guys can duke it out while we enjoy our favorite: the monstrous Diablo at Fred's. There are now three locations, but the Diablo is best appreciated at chef-owner Terry Chandler's original diamond of a dive in the West 7th area.

Here, the burger's vivid flavors of chipotle peppers and rich, juicy beef can be soaked up while you sit in a gold, sparkly booth at a rickety, wobbly table, surrounded by crackpots, lawyers, singers, politicians, and everyone in between. 

Rebecca at Carshon's Deli
This kosher, New York-style deli on the south side of Fort Worth is one of the oldest restaurants in town, and its mammoth Rebecca sandwich is both a rite of passage and way of life for many Fort Worth food lovers. It's stacked sky-high with layers of pastrami, cream cheese, and smoked turkey, then smeared with a tangy Russian dressing, and served on toasted egg bread.

First-timers, remember two things: Get there early, because the place gets packed, and bring cash or your checkbook, because they don't take plastic.

Fried chicken at Drew's Place
Small, cheery spot on the tip of Como constantly wins raves for its expertly seasoned fried chicken, sheathed in a light, crispy batter that cracks open to reveal ridiculously moist and tender meat. Owner Drew Thomas and his wife Stephanie won't reveal the recipe, but it has an addicting kick to it that has kept people coming back since the place opened in 1987.

The chicken is fried to order, and servers warn you it'll take at least 20 minutes to cook. It's totally worth it.

Tenderloin tamales at Reata
A tornado couldn't crush this long-running, upscale homage to cowboy cooking, nor can an ever-shifting downtown in which Reata is now one of several well-heeled restaurants. There's much to love here, but the signature dish is the tenderloin tamales.

A filling of seasoned ground tenderloin is enclosed in soft, house-made masa, topped with a slightly spicy pecan mash and fresh pico, and drizzled with sun-dried tomato cream. You may never go back to ordinary tamales.

German pancake at Ol' South Pancake House
Fort Worth's only non-chain, 24-hour restaurant has been a night-owl hideaway and booming breakfast joint since it opened in 1962. A build-your-own pancake option includes both chocolate and peanut-butter chips, and there are waffles too.

But the dish du jour, without question, is the German pancake: a plate-engulfing crepe doused with butter, lemon juice, and powdered sugar, then folded over like a burrito, at your table, by your server. You'd better tip well.

SOB eggs at Jazz Cafe
There's nothing else in Fort Worth quite like Nick Kithas' Jazz Cafe, a funky, Mediterranean-style restaurant filled with antiques and relics of Fort Worth's past. Go for breakfast on Saturday or Sunday, and among the clutter you'll find the SOB eggs, Kithas' version of migas.

The eggs are scrambled with cheese and tortilla strips and served with creamy black beans, a kerplunk of sour cream, and a pile of pico. Mix everything together and stuff it into flour tortillas. It ain't pretty, it ain't healthy, but gosh, it's good.

Brisket at Heim BBQ
The best barbecue in the city limits is coming out of a trailer on the south side. Everything Travis and Emma Heim do is great, but brisket is where they really shine. Go for the moist brisket; it's fatty and juicy and has the right touch of smoke and seasoning. Fortunately, the couple is opening a brick-and-mortar location at 1109 W. Magnolia Ave., in the old Mijo's spot, because it's looking a lot like Franklin's over there.

Chips and salsa at Mexican Inn
Fort Worth has hundreds of Tex-Mex restaurants, but the chips and salsa you'll never forget come from Mexican Inn. The chips are unique, like homemade Fritos, and the accompanying red tomato salsa is highly addicting. First established in 1936, Mexican Inn is a regional chain with humble beginnings; it now has 10 locations and is part of a restaurant family that includes Spring Creek Barbeque.

Bacon-tomato pizza at Parton's Pizza
Since 1968, this tiny, family joint with checkered tablecloths and wood paneling has been serving pies to locals and tourists who have an affinity for thin-crust pizza. The signature pie is bacon-tomato, topped with real bacon crumbles and freshly sliced tomatoes.

Instead of marinara, ranch is used as a base, giving each bite a zesty pop. It's the anti-artisan pizza, a reminder that, while we champion culinary progress and adventure, we still love our traditions.