When it comes to our monthly Where to Eat feature, CultureMap has an annual tradition: In December, we turn our attention away from what's new and hot to focus on a more immediate holiday-related need: where to take your visitors who are coming in for the holidays.
We include restaurants that can accommodate a group, satisfy multiple diet agendas, or, in some way or another, represent a dining experience that is quintessentially Fort Worth.
For Where to Eat in Fort Worth, here are the eight best restaurants to take out-of-town guests.
Affordable buffet/brunch: Blue Mesa
For many, brunch begins and ends at this long-running Southwestern-Mex restaurant, which moved from its longtime home in University Park to bigger digs near the Museum District. The term "something for everyone" definitely applies to their massive Sunday brunch, served buffet-style, as it includes items both Tex-Mex and not, from breakfasty items such as made-to-order omelettes and Belgian waffles, to street tacos stuffed with brisket and red chile salmon, to unusual signatures like their black bean adobe pie and blue corn enchiladas. Desserts are included, too, and feature a wide assortment of seasonal flans, churros, fruit cobblers, and the restaurant's well-known raspberry-cajeta bread pudding. At $24 per person, it's an absolute steal.
For the fancy feast: Grace
Elegant spot from owner Adam Jones and chef Blaine Staniford continues to dazzle diners 10 years after it opened in the 777 building downtown. The chef-driven American food is both classic and forward-thinking. Staniford and Jones know that Fort Worth loves a good steak, so they offer several. But they roll with changes, so you'll also see edgy surprises, such as a vegetable tasting menu featuring items such as miso-grilled trumpet mushrooms and cherry bomb radishes with black garlic butter. The restaurant maintains a special-occasion spirit while keeping the vibe approachable, but with first-class, attentive service, and shows Fort Worth fine-dining at its best.
Special diet: Righteous Foods
Most families these days have at least one diner with diet restrictions. Righteous Foods understands. Open for breakfast, lunch, early dinner, and brunch, the menu at this healthy-eating spot from chef Lanny Lancarte menu spans as many dietary restrictions as it does styles of cuisine – there are burgers, soups, pastas, sandwiches, tacos, salads, and bowls, in vegan, gluten-free, lactose-free, Keto-friendly, and nut-allergy-conscious forms. Planted on the outskirts of the Monticello neighborhood, it’s been a huge hit with locals and often attracts large groups to its attractive, colorful patio.
Tex Mex: El Rancho Grande
A trip to Fort Worth isn’t complete without at least one platter of Tex-Mex. Some of the city’s best can be found at this long-running spot on the city's north side. Its low-key and unfussy atmosphere perfectly mirrors the simple yet delicious food: chicken enchiladas with a rich, creamy sour cream sauce; fajitas served with satin-smooth refried beans and thick flour tortillas made in-house; and huge chimichangas stuffed with beef or chicken and smothered in queso. There's a variety of margaritas and daiquiris, plus an incredible margarita pie for dessert. Four separate dining areas accommodate groups of all sizes, and a dining room on the second floor can be reserved for large parties.
BBQ: Heim Barbecue on the River
We're in the best/worst time in the world, if someone in your family wants to try Texas barbecue. So many new places have opened in Fort Worth in the last two years. But the standard bearer has to be the new River location of the acclaimed Heim Barbecue from husband-and-wife Travis and Emma Heim. The River is bigger than the Near Southside original, with three indoor seating areas and an outdoor deck. The menu's bigger, too, with Heim classics – fatty brisket, bacon burnt ends, twice baked potato salad, and green chile mac and cheese – plus tacos, burgers, and bar-food bites.
Mid-priced spot for big groups: Piattello Italian Kitchen
The basics at this sophisticated concept from local chef/restaurateur Marcus Paslay are house-made pasta and wood-fired pizzas, both of which are great dishes for sharing. But the restaurant has a wide-reaching menu that goes beyond what you might expect at a typical Italian restaurant, such as roasted carrots in brown butter and sage and a quintet of salads both filling and affordable. You won't want to share the osso buco or the killer prime sirloin steak. Restaurant has a laid-back atmosphere, with the ability to handle a crowd in a way that's relaxed and easygoing.
Restaurant you've seen on TV: Fred's Texas Café
This quintessential Fort Worth dive, one of the last remaining vestiges of the old West 7th area, was once featured on an episode of Diners, Drive-ins and Dives, and if anyone in your group is into chasing the "famous" place, Fred's is a must. The ramshackle dining room is a real blast but there's more legroom – plus live music – on the absolutely huge patio. Burgers are essential dining here – our current fave is the Zaragoza, topped with candied bacon, candied jalapeños, Oaxaca cheese, lime mayo, red onion, and pico de gallo. But chicken-fried steaks are good go-to's, as are the loaded cheese fries.
Bar with food: Flying Saucer
There’s bound to be a barfly in your group, someone who likes to drink their way through the holidays. If beer is their favorite, Flying Saucer is one of the oldest bars/restaurants in downtown Fort Worth and the first in the area to offer craft beer on a large scale. They have at least 100 different types of beer, by the can, bottle, or draft, many hard to find. Plus, there's an excellent menu featuring burgers, pizzas, sandwiches, and sausages. When the weather's nice, the spacious patio is open, giving your guests a snapshot of buzzy Sundance Square, and there's often live music.