Many of us approach restaurants in the same way others approach music or books or films, with a certain amount of trepidation toward anything trendy. Bored by or uninterested in culinary rages or those who follow them, we instead seek out the opposite: restaurants whose worth isn't based on their popularity.
No matter the ease with which we score a table on a Friday night; a wait doesn't necessarily dictate quality. No matter what the press says; the press doesn't know everything.
For this month's Where to Eat, we toast the underdogs: the best underrated restaurants in Fort Worth.
Chuy's Mexican Restaurant
Not the popular Austin chain, which spun off a madhouse location on West Seventh Street, but the family-run spot in River Oaks, open since '99. Regulars dig the carne guisada, comprised of tender beef tips smothered in a spicy gravy. On the side come fresh flour tortillas so thick you can use them to scoop up the fresh guac and rich refried beans. There are tacos, enchiladas, tamales, and breakfast dishes, too, and menudo on the weekends. In addition to the River Oaks store, there are two other locations in Haltom City and North Richland Hills.
King Tut Egyptian Restaurant
Magnolia Avenue restaurant has been in business since 1992, long before the area became a hotbed for hip restaurants. Despite the trendy development that now surrounds it, Amin Mahmoud's spot remains frills-free, touting simple but very good takes on hummus, falafel, kabobs, wraps, and pizza. Diners love the extra-garlicky eggplant dip, and it's a good pick for vegetarians. In 2004, King Tut expanded, taking over the next-door space once occupied by punk-rock club Mad Hatters.
Michael's Cuisine Restaurant & Ancho Chile Bar
Local chef Michael Thompson doesn't have the high profile of Tim Love or Grady Spears, but his simple yet creative cooking is on the same level as theirs. The menu at his 25-year-old restaurant in the museum district is made up of what he calls "contemporary ranch cuisine," a blend of Southwestern and Mexican dishes given cheffy makeovers. Chicken-fried steak, for instance, comes with chipotle-black pepper gravy, a shrimp salad comes decorated with shrimp poached and aged in pickled jalapeños. In the main dining room, tables are candlelit and servers dote and hover. A separate bar area is lively and happening.
Good Mexican food is a cinch to find on the west side, but 2-year-old Mi Cocula is often overlooked, its façade obscured by the curvy construction of its strip-mall location. But this classy, family-run spot is worth seeking out. In addition to tacos, enchiladas, nachos, and other Tex-Mex basics, Mi Cocula offers several excellent hard-to-find Mexican dishes, the best of which is the housemade sopes, discs of fried masa topped with refried beans and your choice of meat. The restaurant did receive statewide recognition last year, when Texas Monthly named its brisket tacos as some of the best in Fort Worth.
Opa Mediterranean Cafe
Among the West Seventh area's monstrously popular and glitzy restaurants sits this modest Mediterranean spot — all nine tables of it. Good prices and big portions of souvlaki, spanakopita, and other Greek dishes make the tight squeeze worth it. Especially good are the gyro wraps, in which slices of beef and lamb, straight off owner Alan Asadian’s vertical spit, practically come tumbling out of the pita.
Prima's Pizza & Pasta
Homey Italian spot has been a fave since Peter Kaba opened it 22 years ago, in an old Dairy Queen off Hulen Street. Various reconstructive surgeries over the years ensure you'll never know Hunger Busters were once served here. The restaurant specializes in classic Italian fare — lasagna, spaghetti, chicken parmesan, tortellini — served in huge portions perfect for splitting. Also good for sharing are thin-crust pizzas, baked in a brick oven. Complimentary housemade garlic rolls are so huge you may fill up on them — it's hard to just have one.
Part of the appeal of this 10-year-old Korean restaurant on the city's south side is watching it tick. Servers wheel around push carts jostling with food, and others deliver portable burners to tables so guests can grill their own meat and fish. It's a fun, upbeat place, with dynamite food to boot, such as a fantastic goat soup; pancakes with leeks and housemade kimchi; and bibimbap, a mix of beef, rice, vegetables, and spices served in a super hot stone bowl.
Six 10 Grille
Downtown diners often overlook Six 10 Grille, tucked inside the historic Ashton Hotel. Its hidden location is perfect for those who want to ditch downtown's bustle and enjoy a nice breakfast or lunch in a quiet, elegant setting. Classic American dishes make up the menu, from omelets and eggs Benedict in the morning to steak and potatoes, pork chops, and chicken-fried steak for lunch. It's also open for afternoon tea, ooh la la.
Two Sisters Restaurant
You have to know this place exists, or else you have to stumble on it. Two Sisters does little to promote itself, but with a built-in following, it doesn't really need to. Drawing its inspiration — and name — from a New Orleans restaurant, Two Sisters offers Cajun staples such as gumbo and crawfish étouffée, along with soul-food dishes that include smothered pork chops. Servers are friendly and quick, even when the place is jammed.
Not many people know about Wilson's BBQ, because not many people can see Wilson's BBQ. Open since 2010, it occupies a tiny, innocuous building sandwiched between a gas station and Loop 820 on the city's east side. Barbecue aficionados, however, are smartly attuned to owner/pitmaster Leroy Wilson's tender brisket, bologna, spare ribs, and pork sausage, all smoked over mesquite. Inside seating is limited; most zip through the drive-thru.
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