We're days away from the CultureMap Tastemaker Awards, our annual culinary celebration of the best in Dallas-Fort Worth food and drink. The Tastemaker Awards spotlights the top talent in Dallas-Fort Worth's restaurant and bar communities, as determined by their peers.
We're on the final chapter of our special editorial series, where we honor each of the nominees. We've already paid tribute to the 10 Best Bars, the 9 Best Chefs, and we've also launched our bracket vote for Fort Worth's Best New Restaurant, where you get to help decide who will be the winner. (Click here to see who's winning so far and cast your vote.)
Now we come to the pinnacle: Fort Worth's top restaurants for 2021, and it's a deliciously varied lineup, from pizza to BBQ to trendy Asian to chef fare.
Who will win? Find out at the Tastemaker Awards party on August 19 at Fashion Industry Gallery, where we’ll dine on bites from nominated restaurants while emcee CJ Starr reveals the winners. Buy tickets here.
Here are the 10 best restaurants for 2021:
Black Cat Pizza
Pizzeria next door to Funky Picnic Brewery & Cafe features standout pizzas from founder Jamie Fernandez, baked in a brick oven, available whole and by the slice, ranging from prototypical pies such as pepperoni, to creative toppings such as summer squash and bresaola with white dill sauce. His non-pizza items are equally as good, from the Texas Wagyu meatball sub with smoked provolone, to amazing pastas, to gorgeous desserts such as budino pie, with a chocolate and coffee liqueur pudding filling in a flaky crust with tangerine olive oil and Maldon salt.
Cherished museum restaurant got a ripple of excitement with the arrival of new executive chef Jett Mora, a native of Los Angeles who has been working with Wolfgang Puck since 2011, for his restaurants, catering company, and test kitchen. Wolfgang Puck took over the operation in May 2021, and Mora moved to Fort Worth to be the chef onsite. His new menu features comfort food with global influences and a beverage program showcasing local spirits. (He's also been nominated for a Tastemaker award for Best Chef.)
Dayne's Craft Barbecue
Barbecue spot from Dayne and Ashley Weaver serves all the barbecue fundamentals: prime brisket, pork ribs, pulled pork, turkey, and housemade sausage, plus street corn, potato salad, and mac & cheese. They combine barbecue restaurant with family- and pet-friendly hangout, including a 3,500-square-foot outdoor space equipped with a seating area, games, and stage for live music: a place where, as Dayne puts it, "you can get great barbecue, have a beer, see people you know, hang out for a while."
Hatsuyuki Handroll Bar
Sushi chef Jun Mo Yeon, a former owner of Daan Sushi Asian Bistro & Bar in Grapevine, opened this small, quaint spot in 2018, the first sushi bar in Fort Worth to specialize in hand rolls, or temaki — cylindrical-shaped sushi rolls enclosing rice, fish, and vegetables. Rolls are made on the spot, while you watch, and are handed to you by the sushi chef who made them. Fillings include salmon, tuna, scallops, yellowtail, crab, eel, toro, and lobster. They're a returning Tastemaker nominee, having been nominated for Best New Restaurant in 2019.
Veteran Fort Worth restaurateur Vance Martin opened Lili's in 2007, an early settler in a storefront on Magnolia Avenue. Named for his daughter, Lili's does dinner and lovely lunch, with a menu that's been described as "unpretentious global cuisine." Hummus and tabouleh sit side-by-side on the menu with nachos, Thai pork dumplings, and signature waffle fries topped with Gorgonzola cheese. A big vegetarian selection includes tacos made with tempeh.
For years housed in a ragtag gas station east of downtown, this vegan-friendly Mexican spot upgraded to a brick-and-mortar location on the west side, taking over the space previously occupied by Mariposa's Latin Kitchen. The menu is made up of tacos, burritos, and other Tex-Mex staples, in both vegan and traditional varieties. Birria tacos are a major hit here – both the beef version and the vegan version, made with shredded jackfruit. The restaurant now serves alcohol, including margaritas, beer, and cool cocktails, such as a frozen Jack and Mexican Coke.
There are now three locations of this long-running and acclaimed Vietnamese staple including the scruffy original in Haltom City; a sleek location that opened in Colleyville; and a third that opened in Alliance in 2020. 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. The restaurant is good and memorable enough that it has earned back-to-back nominations for Best Restaurant two years in a row.
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. They opened this second location in the Medical District in 2018. Their ramen is acclaimed, in six varieties including classic tonkotsu, spicy miso, and a popular vegetarian option. They also do fun small plates, such as beets & Brussels sprouts, or crispy tempura pig ears, along with a selection of yakitori – grilled meats and veggies served on skewers.
Wild Acre Brewing
A more food-focused spinoff of the Wild Acre Brewery near downtown, Wild Acre Camp Bowie has made a name for itself in Fort Worth food circles for serving outstanding, elevated bar food - towering sandwiches, meaty burgers, stylish hot dogs, and inventive sides, such as yucca fries and crispy chicken skins. Leading the kitchen is Fort Worth native and longtime chef David Hollister, who once ran a string of impressive sandwich shops and restaurants in west and southwest Fort Worth. Hollister also serves a half-dozen salads, plus a kids' menu, so no one should feel left out. Along with a full menu, Wild Acre's Camp Bowie location offers a nice, shaded patio and selections of Wild Acre's vast brews. Wild Acre's original location serves food, too, but it's a limited menu available only on Saturdays.
Wishbone & Flynt
Restaurant in the trendy South Main district of Fort Worth is from chef Stefon Rishel, with a menu featuring PB&J chicken wings with spicy Thai peanut sauce, plus seasonal specials like a summer salad with heirloom tomatoes and peaches. They've won awards for their burgers and doting service, and are a return nominee, having been nominated for Best New Restaurant in 2020. They also host singer-songwriters and have a hearty weekend brunch.