Tis the season for out-of-town relatives and friends to come to town. They'll be hungry, too, and depending on you for dining-out guidance. Your assignment: Find restaurants that can handle big groups, appease a variety of tastes, represent Fort Worth well, and, with any luck, not financially drain you. After all, you still have Christmas shopping to do.
Here's our list of Fort Worth restaurant suggestions for where to take your holiday company:
Babe's Chicken Dinner House
With communal seating and family-style servings of fried chicken and all the fixin's, this small chain with nine locations around DFW is a wise choice for holiday gatherings. The original store in Roanoke offers fried chicken and chicken-fried steak only; other locations also serve fried catfish, hickory-smoked ribs, chicken tenders, smoked chicken, and fried catfish. Vegetable plates are available for those not into meat, and there's also a kids' menu. If you're looking for kitschy Christmas décor and servers who do the chicken dance, hit the location in Burleson.
Billy's Oak Acres BBQ
No trip to Fort Worth is complete without barbecue. Billy's offers some of the best in town in a charmingly rustic building full of Texana memorabilia; out-of-towners love that stuff. Barbecue can be ordered by the pound — a good option for big parties who want to sample a little of everything. Point your party in the direction of the brisket, pork ribs, or pulled pork. Desserts are a cut above the rest, especially buttermilk pie and banana pudding, both made in-house.
Finding a good breakfast in town isn't hard, with veterans such as Ol South, West Side Café, and Paris Coffee Shop. For breakfast with a bit more pizzazz, there's this hip spot in the Near Southside area. Diners can build their own breakfast plates, choosing from items such as serrano grits and housemade sausage. Biscuits are a big deal here and come stuffed with any number of ingredients, from avocado to Veldhuizen cheddar cheese. Waffles come in sweet and savory versions. Excellent coffee drinks, too.
El Rancho Grande
Tex Mex is another gotta-have cuisine for any out-of-towner visiting Fort Worth. Joe T. Garcia's is the obvious choice, but the food is better and the lines are shorter at El Rancho Grande, a long-running mom and pop spot on the north side. Generously stuffed with cheese, shredded chicken, seasoned beef or spinach, enchiladas here rank as some of the city's best. Extra thought is given to small details: corn and flour tortillas are made on-site, and the housemade chips are light and airy, so they won't fill you up. Finish off with a slice of the restaurant's signature margarita pie.
Visiting downtown during the holidays is a must. Christmas lights twinkle everywhere, and in the center of the happening Sundance Square Plaza shopping mecca is a 65-foot-tall Christmas tree. Just a few blocks away is this fine-dining spot, regarded as one of the best restaurants in the city. Dress up for chef Blaine Staniford's modern American cuisine: steaks topped with espresso horseradish sauce, lamb belly dumplings, Maine diver scallops with caviar butter sauce. There's also a seven-course tasting menu, including a new all-veggie option.
Horseshoe Hill Café
This rustic café specializes in what may be the city's official dish: chicken-fried steak. But not just any CFS. Chef Grady Spears, himself a Fort Worth institution, offers it several ways: covered in peppered cream gravy, doused in chile con carne, topped with an ancho cheese enchilada. One order is big enough for two. Shareable sides include beer-battered okra and baked beans cooked with Dr Pepper. Bonus: The restaurant is located in the heart of the Fort Worth Stockyards, the city's top tourist destination.
There's more to Fort Worth than hamburgers, barbecue, and chicken-fried steak. Our city's Mediterranean-food game is strong, too, thanks in part to this classy spot, which opened downtown earlier this year. For Mediterranean novices, there's hummus, grilled salmon, and chicken shish kebab. More adventurous eaters will find a terrific lamb shank and pan-fried zucchini pancakes. Large portions are perfect for sharing, and extra rounds of pita bread are complimentary.
Lucile's Stateside Bistro
This west side spot is great for those who can't decide where to go. You want pizza? They have it, cooked in a wood-fired oven. Burgers? Some of the best in the city, they're chargrilled wonders, juicy, and smoky. The menu also includes a half-dozen steaks, several seafood options, soups, and salads. Lucile's occupies a cool old building that dates back to 1927; grandparents will eat that up.
There's bound to be someone who wants a burger — this is where you take them. At this West 7th area spot, burgers come straightforward or unusual, with toppings such as bacon and onion marmalade, grilled peaches, green chile chutney, and blackberry compote. There are also veggie, turkey, chicken, and salmon burgers. Hand-cut fries and kettle chips made in house are both excellent sides, and plentiful, too, enough to share. Communal tables guarantee legroom for big groups.
Five years after opening, Tim Love's ode to campfire cooking remains one of the top tables in Fort Worth. Parked on the bank of the Trinity River, the open-air restaurant offers killer views of the river down below and the sky up above. In addition to barbecue standards, tacos, and sandwiches, there are several family-style dishes: a gargantuan beef shin, smoked for 16 hours; paella with mussels, clams, shrimp, rabbit-rattlesnake sausage, smoked garlic aioli; and a tomahawk prime rib so large that it causes the entire restaurant to rubberneck when brought out.