The best of the best among Fort Worth's restaurants and bars were celebrated at the 2023 CultureMap Fort Worth Tastemaker Awards on Thursday, April 27.
Hundreds of hungry foodies and cocktail connoisseurs gathered at the 4 Eleven Venue in the South Main district to raise a glass to the city's top restaurants, bars, and culinary masters of the year. But first, they got to eat and drink.
Nominated chefs and restaurants served sumptuous bites, and hard-working bartenders whipped up cocktails incorporating spirits from the event's sponsors. A portion of the proceeds benefited Cuisine for Healing, a Fort Worth-based nonprofit that delivers healthy, nourishing meals to those battling illness.
Lines formed quickly for small plates and samples from some of Fort Worth's most popular and influential eateries, spread out across two stories in the historic building. Lucky VIP ticketholders got in an hour early to avoid the crowds and enjoy a bar area all their own.
Hungry guests were spotted going back for seconds for dishes including:
- Tannahill’s Fried Chicken with hot honey, Korean BBQ or Love Sauce, served up personally by nominated chef Tim Love.
- Jalapeño Popper Pizza, a vegan pizza withoil & garlic base, mozzarella, bacon, roasted jalapenos, red onion, and ranch drizzle from Restaurant of the Year nominee Pizza Verde.
- El Borracho Taco from Guapo Taco and chef Angel Fuentes - Flour tortilla, pastor meat, pico de gallo, habanero pineapple escabeche, and guajillo crema topped with the delicacy that was the talk of the event - edible ants.
- Italian Beef Sandwiches from Neighborhood Restaurant of the Year nominee Weinberger's Deli.
- Tiradito Jamaica from Toro Toro's nominated chef Jonathan Esparza - Hamachi crudo, Jamaica flower salt, mango, serrano pepper, red onion, leche de tigre, Texas EVOO, micro cilantro, lotus chips, and daikon radish.
- Tacos Dorados with Birria Ramen from nominated chef Jacqueline Anaya of Calisience.
- Poblano Pimento Cheese on comeback crackers from Bar of the Year nominee Lockwood Distilling Co.
- Pho Birria Ramen from nominated chef Hao Tran'sHao's Grocery & Cafe.
- Jambalaya with crawfish, andouille, and roasted chicken from Neighborhood Restaurant of the Year nominee Tributary Cafe.
Beer drinkers made themselves at home in the Beer Garden presented by Deep Ellum Brewing Company and Ellum Ranch Patio Water. The micheladas using beer salt from Twang Partners, LLC earned rave reviews.
The bars poured signature cocktails featuring the spirits of sponsors Dripping Springs Vodka and Uncle Nearest Premium Whiskey: The Basil Sour, Lavender Lemon, The Blinker, Cherry Old Fashioned, and Strawberry Fields Mocktail. Guests rehydrated with plenty of Topo Chico Sparkling Mineral Water.
But this party wasn't just a feeding frenzy; we had some awards to present. For weeks leading up to the event, we published a special editorial series that highlighted nominees in eight categories.
The evening's emcee, beloved Fort Worth chef Jon Bonnell, announced winners in seven of the categories. He was joined onstage by Russell Woodward representing Goodstock Beef by Nolan Ryan, which sponsored the Best Burger category, as well as an on-site Burger Throwdown. Woodward announced the victors of both.
The Burger Throwdown - new this year - proved to be a hit with attendees, who had a hard time choosing which one of the four nominees to vote for. There was JD's Hamburgers' Bacon Cheddar Burger featuring a jalapeno-cheddar bun; Courtside Kitchen's super beefed-up Double Double Burger; The Omni Fort Worth's Beef Bulgogi Burger with blaukraut slaw and kimchi sauce; and Tommy's Burgers + Brews' The Ranch Hand, showcasing locally sourced BBQ sauce from Wild Rooster.
Competition sizzled, but in the end, voters chose The Omni Fort Worth as their favorite.
The rest of the winners were chosen by a panel of local food and beverage experts, except for the category of Best New Restaurant, which was voted on by readers in a bracket-style competition online.
The winners were:
Cheers went up from the supportive Fort Worth crowd as winners were called to the stage to accept gorgeous glass trophies. Afterwards, they posed for photos with colleagues, fellow winners and nominees, and guests eager to find out more about their establishments.
Between feasting and celebrating, attendees stopped to snap Insta-worthy photos at a photo booth and bought raffle tickets benefiting Cuisine for Healing.
Spotted in the crowd, having great foodie fun, were Fort Worth dining VIPS, award nominees, and guests including: Azilee Stephenson, Marla Lee, Nancy Lamb, Justin Anderson, Carlene and David Dailey, Misty and Victor Villarreal, Ashley Smith, Connie Bally, Celia Valadez Guerrero, Joe Guerrero, Ian McDonough, Katie Robb, Darlyne Hollis, Tara Hollis, Keely Burke, Greg Pawlowski, Margaret and Marcos Silva, Richie and Robyn Urbani, Rodney Lambert, Michelle Payne, Chandler Paine, Preston Paine, Danette Wicker, Brian and Sarah Ross, Katie Kelly, Savannah Houston, Lauren Crouch, Brett Yanoski, Amber Arnold,Tammy Krieger, JP Goytia, Matt Kreston, Madison Hogue, Kate Lee, Bryan Lee, and hundreds more.
Hungry to be a part of it all next year? You can read about all the winners here, and we'll see you in 2024. Cheers!