Meet the Tastemakers
Fort Worth's best chef, restaurant, burger, and more crowned at 2023 Tastemaker Awards
The annual CultureMap Tastemaker Awardscame to Fort Worth for the second year, with a grand celebration to honor the city’s talented and hard-working culinary stars.
The winners were crowned at an awards ceremony and signature tasting event on Thursday, April 27 at the 4 Eleven venue on South Main, emceed by chef Jon Bonnell and benefiting Cuisine for Healing.
For weeks leading up to the event, we published a special editorial series that highlighted nominees in eight categories. A panel of expert judges helped select all of the winners, except for Best New Restaurant. That was determined by you, our readers, in a bracket-style tournament.
New this year: The Tastemaker Awards event featured a Burger Throwdown where attendees had the opportunity to taste and vote for their favorite slider. The Best Burger category was sponsored by Goodstock by Nolan Ryan, which also supplied the meat for the Burger Throwdown.
Now, without further delay, let's raise a glass to the 2023 Fort Worth Tastemaker Award winners:
Best New Restaurant: Calisience
The Calisience food truck was a smash hit when it debuted in 2020, gaining a following for its signature birria tacos, served with a side of beef broth consommé. Owner Jacqueline Anaya opened a brick-and-mortar location on Race Street in 2022. Hours are still limited as she awaits a liquor license, but the shop does steady business from folks hungry for her crispy grilled tacos and signature birria ramen.
Chef of the Year: Juan Ramón Cárdenas - Don Artemio
Juan Ramon Cárdenas is credited as the concept creator and founder of Don Artemio, which continues to hover in the national spotlight thanks to a nod by the James Beard Foundation Awards. The upscale Mexican restaurant on West Seventh Street is one of 10 finalists for Best New Restaurants in the country. A native of Coahuila, Cardenas has a business degree but grew up with restaurateur parents, which fueled his desire to become a chef. His culinary ventures have taken him around the world, from Chicago to Berlin. At Don Artemio, which opened last year, diners take a journey deep into Mexico through cuisine and atmosphere. Dishes like the crispy fried cactus and Chilean sea bass in black mole add to the adventure.
Restaurant of the Year: Fitzgerald
West Fort Worth was craving something fancy – both in cuisine and atmosphere – when Fitzgerald opened in 2022 on Camp Bowie Boulevard. Not since Café Aspen (once located in the same space) had a Ridglea-area restaurant generated such buzz from longtime locals. Chef Ben Merritt eventually closed his first endeavor, Fixture, in the Near Southside, to give full attention to Fitzgerald. The restaurant focuses on Gulf Coast-style seafood with influence from the Crescent City: New Orleans-style barbecue shrimp served with crusty French bread, seafood gumbo with oysters and crawfish tails, and more. But don’t sleep on the Mexican-style redfish or ribeye steak. Sunday brunch with crab cake Benedict, shrimp and grits, and crawfish omelets add to the French Quarter vibes.
Bar of the Year: Birdie's Social Club
Birdie’s debuted with a bang late last summer for its cheery open-air concept with pastel-painted patio furniture and Palms Springs vibes. It took over the former Lola’s space between 5th and 6th streets and draws mostly a young crowd for live music, game-watching, and picture-perfect cocktails served in pretty glassware. Try the Western Breeze made with TX Whiskey, strawberry puree, and pink lemonade. There’s also a recently updated food menu of tacos, nachos, quesadillas, queso, and kids’ items. Also new to Birdie’s is Bourbon & Shine, a Western-outfitted cocktail lounge hidden on site, which opened in March with darts, pool, and a back patio.
Best Burger: Dayne's Craft Barbecue
Dayne Weaver’s elusive OG Burger is available from his barbecue trailer as a special only on Thursdays and Fridays, and word is that they can sell out by lunchtime. Comprised of two juicy patties made from a mix of ground beef and brisket trimmings, the smoky smashburger draws legions of fans for its cheesy, heavenly goodness. Because of its limited supply, the burger has achieved legendary status. Look for it to be a daily menu offering once Dayne’s opens its brick-and-mortar location in the up-and-coming Westland area on Camp Bowie West.
Best Brewery: Martin House Brewing Company
The creative minds at this tenured Fort Worth brewery, which just celebrated a decade in business, go wild with imaginative (and sometimes really “out there”) limited edition beer flavors like ice cream with pistachios, barbecue sauce, and soon, mayonnaise beer, set to be launched with a party on Cinco de Mayo. But silly savors aside, Martin House is one of Fort Worth’s most esteemed breweries for its longstanding, easy-drinking favorites like The Salty Lady Gose and Toadies Texas Bock; its weekend, festival-style parties right on the Trinity River; and the friendly nature of its staff. Don’t miss House’s Best Maid Pickle Beer, now a staple in Fort Worth.
Neighborhood Restaurant of the Year: Cafe Bella
Open since 2000 in the hidden Westcliff Shopping Center, Café Bella is the Cheers of several nearby neighborhoods, from Bluebonnet Hills to Tanglewood. Except at this place “where everybody knows your name,” it’s up to you to BYOB. Perhaps that’s part of the draw, along with the unpretentious classic Italian dishes served at affordable prices, like chicken piccata, fettucine alfredo, and baked lasagna. The interior is also inviting, with faux floral hanging from the ceiling along with preset glassware and folded napkins. Also inviting is the owner, Eli Golemi, who’s gained a loyal following not only for her comforting dishes but for her gracious personality – like that of a best friend.
Rising Star Chef of the Year: Angel Fuentes - Guapo Taco
The Monterrey, Mexico native left his computer programming gig at an early age to embark on a restaurant career, eventually serving as managing partner and chef of Mariachi’s Dine-In in a Riverside gas station. Word spread via social media, and the taqueria quickly gained a loyal following for its discreet location and picture-perfect tacos. That was 2018, but by 2021 the restaurant moved to bigger digs on the west side of town. Fuentes stayed put in that space where he opened Guapo Taco, using his creativity to expand on the menu, which features birria tacos, burritos, tortas, beef cheek barbacoa, and the popular chile chicken posole soup that comes in red or green.
Winner of the onsite Burger Throwdown: Omni Fort Worth Hotel