January brings cooler weather — usually. We are in Texas, after all. But when the temperature does dip, we turn our attention to food that warms us up. Fortunately, Fort Worth has plenty of options in that realm.
This month's Where to Eat is devoted to the ultimate in body-warming dishes: comfort food.
Billy’s Oak Acres BBQ
Billy Woodrich’s rustic barbecue joint on the far west side of Fort Worth may have ‘cue in its name, but it’s also known for comfort food. Plate-engulfing chicken-fried steaks are so huge, there’s barely any room for the mandatory sides: fluffy mashed potatoes with cream gravy and green beans spiked with bacon, plus freshly made rolls. Smoked pork chops, available on Wednesdays only, may be the best in the city; each weighs about a pound. Billy’s also serves terrific burgers, in addition to barbecue essentials.
Originally opened and run by chef Keith “Buttons” Hicks, this southwest Fort Worth mainstay was one of the first restaurants in the area to offer chef-driven takes on Southern and comfort food staples. Hicks’ cool rendition of chicken and waffles — made with hand-battered fried chicken and a freshly made Belgian waffle — helped popularize the dish locally, and his edgy renditions of meat loaf, pot roast, and other comfort staples has brought the restaurant much acclaim.
Open for more than three decades, Drew Thomas’ cozy café in the Como area of Fort Worth is often regarded as home to the city’s best fried chicken. You’re warned it’ll take a bit, as each order is freshly prepared; it’s worth the wait. The restaurant also serves chicken-fried steak, fried or smothered pork chops, meat loaf, and catfish. There’s also an impressive number of vegetables, which come as sides or as part of a veggie plate. Selections include candied yams, mashed potatoes, collard greens, fried okra, and the seldom seen fried corn on the cob. Freshly made desserts rotate but typically include sweet potato pie, chocolate sheet cake, and peach cobbler.
Madea's Down Home Cooking
This long-running soul food spot in the tiny town of Everman offers a fun, upbeat atmosphere, along with terrific comfort food. Gospel music — or The Game — blares through speakers while you move through a buffet-style line, first picking an entrée, such as beef tips, smothered turkey wings, and chicken and dumplings, then your sides, which rotate but usually include mac and cheese, broccoli casserole, and black-eyed peas. Bread costs extra but the hot water cornbread is worth the extra pennies — and calories.
Old Neighborhood Grill
Open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, this snug café in the Park Place Village shops has been a neighborhood favorite since it opened 22 years ago. Owners have changed but the menu’s the same. For breakfast, try the ginormous pancakes. Lunch and dinner feature sandwiches, burgers, soups, and plates of chicken-fried steak, grilled pork chops, and steak fingers, along with fancier dishes such as a black Angus ribeye.
Paris Coffee Shop
Fort Worth is home to a several beloved cafes that specialize in comfort food but none may be as cherished as this historic coffee shop and restaurant in the Near Southside area. Housed in a 1927 building, it’s a magnet for every walk of Fort Worth life, from politicians to the down-and-out. There’s often a wait at lunch, when people line up for daily specials such as chicken-fried pork loin, ham hocks and steamed cabbage, fried chicken, and grilled chicken livers. Finish off your meal with a slice of freshly made pie.
Mom-and-pop hidden gem on East Berry serves excellent home-cooking staples in a modest, frills-free atmosphere. Owner Stoney Johnson is master at comfort food classics, everything from fried chicken to meat loaf to chicken-fried steak. But the restaurant is best known its oxtails, oven baked and unbelievably tender. Sides include candied yams, collard greens, and macaroni and cheese.