Welcome to the 2017 CultureMap Tastemaker Awards, our annual event celebrating the best in local food and drink. We're honoring nominees in all categories of food and beverage, from best chefs to the best restaurant in Dallas-Fort Worth.
As part of the event, eight of the top new restaurants in Fort Worth will go head to head in our annual tournament, powered by Whole Foods Market. You get to decide who will be crowned the Best New Restaurant of 2017.
Vote for your favorites in the bracket-style elimination challenge now through April 19. You can vote once a day, every day. Click here to vote.
Here are the nominees:
Ahi Poke Bowl
Owner Khang Vo was one of the first to introduce the hot trend of poke to Dallas-Fort Worth. Forget sushi or sashimi, and say aloha to the popular Hawaiian poke, starring raw tuna combined with sauces and other delectable ingredients. You can build your own customizable poke bowl, adding toppings and embellishments from a Chipotle-like lineup.
The original branch of this Italian-Mediterranean restaurant has been on McKinney Avenue for more than 30 years. It's a cozy rendezvous spot and top go-to for night-owls, thanks to its willingness to stay open late, with its trademark "moonlight breakfast." The Fort Worth Avanti is much like the original, but with an expanded menu and twice the space. Pastas are tops, especially with a glass of wine. Decor is gorgeous, with subtle iron chandeliers, tufted white banquettes, and glossy dark subway tile on the wall.
Gus's World Famous Fried Chicken
Memphis chain is nationally known for its hot and spicy fried chicken, fried in peanut oil and featuring a crunchy crispy skin. Every meal comes with slightly sweet beans, slaw, and a slice of white bread. Fried chicken has become a big trend and Gus's is riding that wave.
Pizza joint in Argyle comes from the team behind LSA Burger Co. and Barley and Board in Denton. Housed in a converted fire station, Earl's serves superb thin-crust pizzas, piled with toppings both traditional and not, from meatballs and salami to smashed potatoes. There are also salads and sandwiches, along with craft beer, including lots of local labels.
Grapevine restaurant is the brainchild of former Abacus manager and wine guru Matthew Scott. Boasting a Prohibition Era theme, it serves pasture-raised, Heritage-breed meat with charcuterie boards in sizes big and small. You can pick four to 18 items, including rabbit, duck pâté, and soppressata. Entrées include lobster strudel, confit chicken thigh, and brick-oven pizzas.
Havana Bar & Grill
Arlington Cuban restaurant is the real deal, thanks to the trio of Cuban émigrés serving an authentic rendition of the food of their homeland. Menu items include tapas plate with Spanish sausage roasted in white wine with onions and peppers; Cuban sandwich with roast pork, ham, Swiss cheese, mayo, and pickles; ropa vieja, a savory stew with tomatoes, peppers, onions, and shredded flank steak; and gambas al ajillo, shrimp cooked in wine, garlic, and spices, a Spanish favorite.
Taste N See Chicken & Waffles
Tiny restaurant specializing in chicken and waffles was opened in 2016 by son-and-mom team DeMarcus Davis and Anita Wilcox. Menu is small, focusing on the namesake dish with a few other items such as shrimp and grits, Philly cheesesteak, and home-cooking sides such as sweet potatoes and greens. Portions are big: You get three large chicken wings or chicken tenders on a waffle that's nearly twice as thick as a Belgian. You can get it plain or with bacon, chocolate chips, blueberries, or pecans.
Restaurateur Mike Karns (El Fenix, Meso Maya) debuted his newest concept in Fort Worth, combining tacos, tortas, and bowls, with fillers and toppings like tamarind pork and diablo shrimp. The bar list is loaded with mezcal, crafted into cocktails like the one with orange peel, bitters, and simple syrup. The food is good and also cheap, and the rock 'n' roll atmosphere is a lot of fun.