The 2020 CultureMap Tastemaker Awards, celebrating the best in Dallas-Fort Worth food and drink, has almost arrived.
This annual event spotlighting the best in bars, chefs, and restaurants took a turn this year, no thanks to COVID-19. Instead of toasting our winners in person, we'll do it at a Virtual ceremony on July 30.
But our series covering the best of DFW in categories such as best bar, best chef, and best new restaurant has prevailed.
We now end on the grandest category of all: Restaurant of the Year, with 10 nominees gathered by our panel of judges, consisting of former CultureMap Tastemaker Award winners and local F&B experts. Be sure to tune in to find who the winner is.
Here are our nominees for the 2020 Tastemaker Awards Restaurant of the Year:
Upscale taco spot in the WestBend shopping center was the first Texas location of a Connecticut-based chain. It has many things going for it: good prices, a variety of tacos, and a nice patio overlooking the Trinity. Tacos are of street-style size, filled with ingredients such as ancho-crusted tuna, tempura-battered cod, cauliflower with romesco sauce, and roasted duck with tamarind glaze. There are also rice bowls, sides such as elote and chipotle slaw, and housemade agua frescas in flavors like ginger grapefruit.
Formerly a pub residing in a refurbished century-old house off hip Magnolia Avenue, the Bearded Lady reopened in 2019 on South Main Street with a stronger gastropub restaurant profile. You can still get plenty of craft beer, but there's a more robust menu that includes salads and sandwiches along with the signature stuffed burgers and brat corny dogs.
Museum restaurant menu reflects the stunning views of Tadao Ando’s architectural masterpiece. Executive chef Denise Shavandy packs the lunch menu with locally sourced ingredients and delicious entrees like the squash blossom tamales and the spring pea falafel. Don’t miss the Sunday brunch too.
Ellerbe Fine Foods
Darling restaurant is one of Fort Worth's best culinary treasures. Chef-owner Molly McCook opened the restaurant in 2009 and continues to roll out enticing and inventive dishes such as housemade pappardelle with water bufala cheese by Azle cheesemaker Battlefield with shaved Grana Padano cheese from Italy. The stylish re-do of what was once a former gas station still charms.
Heim BBQ - River location
Heim has been dubbed Fort Worth's answer to Franklin Barbecue of Austin. As they do at Franklin, people line up for the central-Texas style barbecue of owners Travis and Emma Heim: thick slices of brisket outlined in ribbons of crust and fat, meaty pork spare ribs, and snappy sausage. They started as a trailer, then opened a brick & mortar, and now have a second location in the River District, overlooking the West Fork of the Trinity River.
Little Lilly Sushi
West side spot, named after head chef and owner Chih "Danny" Liu's granddaughter, offers fresh and imaginative sushi, sashimi and other Japanese dishes in a quaint, low-key atmosphere. Rotating specials typically go beyond the local sushi joint norm, having included sea urchin, scorpion fish and geoduck clams. Locals wait with bated breath to try the restaurant's ever-changing okonomiyaki.
Named for the Mexican mortars and pestles used for grinding spices, herbs, and peppers, this small 3-location Tarrant County chain is well liked for both the quality and generous quantity of its food, delivered fast and hot. They do crowd-pleasing Tex-Mex with the occasional Americana twist such as the quesadillas filled with onions, mushroom, Monterey jack cheese, and bacon. As if all that weren't enough, they're also open for breakfast on weekends starting at 9 am.
There are now two locations of this long-running Vietnamese staple including the charmingly scruffy original in Haltom City, and a second, sleek location that opened in Colleyville, where good Vietnamese food is hard to find. Signature dishes include as the crispy chow mein and a grilled pork and rice plate served with a side of crunchy egg rolls; along with several new drinks, including frosted limeade and milk and boba drinks.
American beer garden in a former air-conditioning warehouse business features a Tex-Mex and classic American menu with a Wagyu beef burger, chicken nuggets, shakes featuring Curly's Frozen Custard (they share owners), and brunch with chicken & waffles, and biscuits & gravy. They have a big selection of beers on tap, a handsome rustic wood interior, murals highlighting Fort Worth and Texas, loads of TVs, and live music.
Ultra-hip izakaya-style modern Japanese restaurant first debuted on Dallas' Lower Greenville from Fort Worth-reared chef Dien Nguyen, who partnered with Kenzo Tran of Piranha Killer Sushi fame. Wabi House focuses on ramen and small plates such as crispy pig ears and seared scallops, as well as a large selection of yakitori – grilled meats and veggies served on skewers. They opened this second location in the Medical District in 2018.