Photo by Ashley Gongora

The best of the best among Fort Worth's restaurants and bars were celebrated at the 2023 CultureMap Fort Worth Tastemaker Awards on Thursday, April 27.

Hundreds of hungry foodies and cocktail connoisseurs gathered at the 4 Eleven Venue in the South Main district to raise a glass to the city's top restaurants, bars, and culinary masters of the year. But first, they got to eat and drink.

Nominated chefs and restaurants served sumptuous bites, and hard-working bartenders whipped up cocktails incorporating spirits from the event's sponsors. A portion of the proceeds benefited Cuisine for Healing, a Fort Worth-based nonprofit that delivers healthy, nourishing meals to those battling illness.

Lines formed quickly for small plates and samples from some of Fort Worth's most popular and influential eateries, spread out across two stories in the historic building. Lucky VIP ticketholders got in an hour early to avoid the crowds and enjoy a bar area all their own.

Hungry guests were spotted going back for seconds for dishes including:

  • Tannahill’s Fried Chicken with hot honey, Korean BBQ or Love Sauce, served up personally by nominated chef Tim Love.
  • Jalapeño Popper Pizza, a vegan pizza withoil & garlic base, mozzarella, bacon, roasted jalapenos, red onion, and ranch drizzle from Restaurant of the Year nominee Pizza Verde.
  • El Borracho Taco from Guapo Taco and chef Angel Fuentes - Flour tortilla, pastor meat, pico de gallo, habanero pineapple escabeche, and guajillo crema topped with the delicacy that was the talk of the event - edible ants.
  • Italian Beef Sandwiches from Neighborhood Restaurant of the Year nominee Weinberger's Deli.
  • Tiradito Jamaica from Toro Toro's nominated chef Jonathan Esparza - Hamachi crudo, Jamaica flower salt, mango, serrano pepper, red onion, leche de tigre, Texas EVOO, micro cilantro, lotus chips, and daikon radish.
  • Tacos Dorados with Birria Ramen from nominated chef Jacqueline Anaya of Calisience.
  • Poblano Pimento Cheese on comeback crackers from Bar of the Year nominee Lockwood Distilling Co.
  • Pho Birria Ramen from nominated chef Hao Tran'sHao's Grocery & Cafe.
  • Jambalaya with crawfish, andouille, and roasted chicken from Neighborhood Restaurant of the Year nominee Tributary Cafe.

Beer drinkers made themselves at home in the Beer Garden presented by Deep Ellum Brewing Company and Ellum Ranch Patio Water. The micheladas using beer salt from Twang Partners, LLC earned rave reviews.

The bars poured signature cocktails featuring the spirits of sponsors Dripping Springs Vodka and Uncle Nearest Premium Whiskey: The Basil Sour, Lavender Lemon, The Blinker, Cherry Old Fashioned, and Strawberry Fields Mocktail. Guests rehydrated with plenty of Topo Chico Sparkling Mineral Water.

But this party wasn't just a feeding frenzy; we had some awards to present. For weeks leading up to the event, we published a special editorial series that highlighted nominees in eight categories.

The evening's emcee, beloved Fort Worth chef Jon Bonnell, announced winners in seven of the categories. He was joined onstage by Russell Woodward representing Goodstock Beef by Nolan Ryan, which sponsored the Best Burger category, as well as an on-site Burger Throwdown. Woodward announced the victors of both.

CultureMap Fort Worth Tastemaker Awards 2023

Photo by Ashley Gongora

Azilee Stephenson, Marla Lee

The Burger Throwdown - new this year - proved to be a hit with attendees, who had a hard time choosing which one of the four nominees to vote for. There was JD's Hamburgers' Bacon Cheddar Burger featuring a jalapeno-cheddar bun; Courtside Kitchen's super beefed-up Double Double Burger; The Omni Fort Worth's Beef Bulgogi Burger with blaukraut slaw and kimchi sauce; and Tommy's Burgers + Brews' The Ranch Hand, showcasing locally sourced BBQ sauce from Wild Rooster.

Competition sizzled, but in the end, voters chose The Omni Fort Worth as their favorite.

The rest of the winners were chosen by a panel of local food and beverage experts, except for the category of Best New Restaurant, which was voted on by readers in a bracket-style competition online.

The winners were:

Cheers went up from the supportive Fort Worth crowd as winners were called to the stage to accept gorgeous glass trophies. Afterwards, they posed for photos with colleagues, fellow winners and nominees, and guests eager to find out more about their establishments.

Between feasting and celebrating, attendees stopped to snap Insta-worthy photos at a photo booth and bought raffle tickets benefiting Cuisine for Healing.

Spotted in the crowd, having great foodie fun, were Fort Worth dining VIPS, award nominees, and guests including: Azilee Stephenson, Marla Lee, Nancy Lamb, Justin Anderson, Carlene and David Dailey, Misty and Victor Villarreal, Ashley Smith, Connie Bally, Celia Valadez Guerrero, Joe Guerrero, Ian McDonough, Katie Robb, Darlyne Hollis, Tara Hollis, Keely Burke, Greg Pawlowski, Margaret and Marcos Silva, Richie and Robyn Urbani, Rodney Lambert, Michelle Payne, Chandler Paine, Preston Paine, Danette Wicker, Brian and Sarah Ross, Katie Kelly, Savannah Houston, Lauren Crouch, Brett Yanoski, Amber Arnold,Tammy Krieger, JP Goytia, Matt Kreston, Madison Hogue, Kate Lee, Bryan Lee, and hundreds more.

Hungry to be a part of it all next year? You can read about all the winners here, and we'll see you in 2024. Cheers!


Clown burgers & cookie nachos top this week's 5 most-read Fort Worth stories

This week's hot headlines

Editor's note: A lot happened this week, so here's your chance to get caught up. Read on for the week's most popular headlines.

1. Fort Worth restaurant news comes with cookie nachos and clown burgers. This edition of Fort Worth restaurant news includes some fun openings, a resuscitation, and lots of new menus for spring. Here's the latest restaurant news in Fort Worth.

2. The 10 best chefs in Fort Worth this year leave diners hungry for more. It’s not a job for the weary or faint of heart, cooking for the public. Throw in managing staff, battling food costs, and countless other challenges, and most quickly find being a chef is one of the hardest gigs around. These 10 nominees for Tastemaker Awards Chef of the Year make it all look flawless.

3. Fort Worth's best chef, restaurant, burger, and more crowned at 2023 Tastemaker Awards. The annual CultureMap Tastemaker Awards came to Fort Worth for the second year, with a grand celebration on April 27 to honor the city’s talented and hard-working culinary stars. Here were the winners in each category.

4. These are the 12 best things to do in Fort Worth this weekend. There are a bunch of great things to do in and around Fort Worth this weekend, including a great comedian, two concerts by a classical cellist, screenings of an acclaimed animated film, an art festival, five concerts in a variety of genres, a beer festival, and the final days of a notable art exhibition.

5. LL Cool J will rock the bells with tour of hip-hop royalty coming to Fort Worth. Rapper LL Cool J will embark on his first headline arena tour in 30 years, called "Rock The Bells & Live Nation Urban Presents The F.O.R.C.E. (Frequencies of Real Creative Energy) Live," which includes a stop at Dickies Arena on Thursday, August 24. The Roots, DJ Jazzy Jeff, and DJ Z-Trip will collaborate on performances at each stop, and the bill will also include a rotating cast of big-name acts.

Photo courtesy of The Fitzgerald

Fort Worth's best chef, restaurant, burger, and more crowned at 2023 Tastemaker Awards

Meet the Tastemakers

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.

Photo by Nancy Farrar

Oysters from The Fitzgerald, Restaurant of the Year.

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

Photo by Ashley Gongora

These are the 8 best food and drink events in Fort Worth this week

This week in gluttony

Crawfish, coffee, and Cowtown burgers are on the menu this week, which features many unique events and one of the biggest foodie celebrations of the year. A respected “roast master” from a New Orleans-based coffee chain will visit the area for an educational class. A local distillery will release a new rye whiskey after four years of aging. A Grapevine hotel will challenge two sommeliers to pair wine with dinner, and diners get to judge who’s best. Finally, the CultureMap Fort Worth Tastemaker Awards arrive on Thursday, when winners in multiple categories highlighting the best of Fort Worth food and beverage will be announced with a grand party.

Wednesday, April 26

Egelhoff Wine Dinner at Bonnell’s Fine Texas Cuisine
Partake in Texas cuisine paired with California wines during this five-course dinner by chef Jon Bonnell and his team. Menu highlights include blackened scallops, cocoa and coffee smoked pork roulade, and duck breast with stuffed crepes. Cab lovers will be happy to know there’ll be three served along with brut reserve, pinot noir, and tawny port. The dinner is $190, plus tax and gratuity. Note that there is no official “start time” for the dinner. Diners are welcome to make reservations for the evening and will be visited by Bonnell and winemaker Bob Egelhoff at their table throughout the evening.

Thursday, April 27

Coffee Cupping at PJ’s Coffee
The North Richland Hills outlet of the respected New Orleans-based coffee chain will host Felton Jones, PJ’s official roast-master for more than 20 years. Jones will educate participants on the nuances of cupping (or tasting) coffee properly and understanding the roasting process. The cost is $30 and guests will receive a PJ’s t-shirt, coffee mug, fresh green coffee samples, and light pastry bites to cleanse the palate. The event will run from 4-6 pm.

CultureMap Fort Worth Tastemaker Awards
Our big annual celebration of Fort Worth’s top restaurant and bar talent arrives this week, at the 4 Eleven venue on South Main Street. Hosted by chef Jon Bonnell, the evening will feature sample bites and specialty sips from many nominated restaurants, including Guapo Taco, JD’s Hamburgers, Tannahill’s Tavern, Tributary Café, Pizza Verde, and more. Awards for Bar of the Year, Chef of the Year, the reader-voted Best New Restaurant, and more will be handed out. Tickets are $75 for entry at 7 pm, or $125 for VIP early entry at 6 pm, valet parking, and a dedicated bar. Proceeds from the event will benefit Cuisine for Healing. Read more about the nominees here.

Meet the Maker at Toro Toro
It’s the last Thursday of the month, which means it’s time for Meet the Maker at Toro Toro. Visit the Latin steakhouse inside the Worthington Renaissance hotel for complimentary samples from Del Maguey Mezcal from 5-7 pm. Also enjoy craft cocktails and happy hour pricing featuring the spirit inside the Toro Toro bar. Bonus that valet is always complimentary.

Friday, April 28

Somm Smackdown at Hotel Vin
Let’s get ready to rumble. The Grapevine hotel will host a tongue-in-cheek “smackdown” event pitting two expert sommeliers against each other to see who can best pair wine with dinner. Five courses will feature beef croquettes, Hamachi, and Iberian Secret – a succulent piece of pork shoulder. Tickets are $125, plus tax and a service fee, and the face-off begins at 7 pm.

Saturday, April 29

TX Whiskey Straight Rye Whiskey Release
Be one of the first to purchase TX Whiskey’s new Straight Rye Whiskey Bottled in Bond, exclusive to the Whiskey Ranch distillery. (To be “bottled in bond” requires certain criteria, including maturing for a minimum of four years.) Master mixologist Jason Shelly will be on-site to serve specialty cocktails using the spirit. There’ll be live music, food trucks, and complimentary bottle engraving with purchase. The $10 ticket includes your first cocktail, and the event will run from 12-5 pm.

Sunday, April 30

Crawfish Boil & Brew at Hop & Sting Brewing Co.
The Grapevine brewery will host its fifth annual crawfish boil, pairing cold craft brew with mudbugs and live music. Couillon’s Cajun catering will provide the crawfish and fixings, including sausage, corn, and potatoes. Purchase a ticket in advance (by April 29) to guarantee a plate, which will run $23.95 (plus tax and a small fee) for two pounds. The event will run from 12-4 pm.

Cowtown Burger Showdown
The second annual burger competition will take place at River Ranch Stockyards, where local burger pros will share their best burgers to be judged for cash prizes. Tickets start at $29 for general admission, which includes three tasting tickets, endless fries, and a beer and whiskey tasting. Or pay $69 for VIP seating, hosted bar, four tasting tickets, and apps. (Kids ages 6-13 can get $15 entry that comes with two tasting tickets and endless fries.) The showdown, which also includes live music and vendors, will run from 1-5 pm.

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The 10 best chefs in Fort Worth this year leave diners hungry for more

Tastemaker Awards

As we count the sleeps until the 2023 CultureMap Fort Worth Tastemaker Awards, our annual celebration of the best in Fort Worth food and drink, we have arrived at our final category of nominees - Chef of the Year.

It’s not a job for the weary or faint of heart, cooking for the public. Throw in managing staff, battling food costs, and countless other challenges, and most quickly find being a chef – especially one who runs their own restaurant – is one of the hardest gigs around. These 10 make it all look flawless.

Over the past few weeks, our special editorial series has been profiling all of the Tastemaker Award nominees - Restaurant of the Year, Best Brewery, Bar of the Year, Best Burger, Rising Star Chef of the Year, and Neighborhood Restaurant of the Year.

You can still vote for Best New Restaurant in our bracket-style competition.

Who’ll be crowned the best of the best? Find out at the our reveal party and signature tasting event, happening Thursday, April 27 at the 4 Eleven (411 S. Main St.) and benefiting Cuisine for Healing. Hurry and get tickets before they officially sell out.

Here, in alphabetical order, are the 10 nominees for Chef of the Year:

Jacqueline Anaya - Calisience
From cooking for friends out of her apartment to opening a brick-and-mortar restaurant in less than four years, Jacqueline Anaya has put in work. Her food truck, Calisience (cah-LEE-see-ence), was a smash hit when it debuted in 2020, stopping traffic for its long lines near the intersection of East Belknap and North Beach streets. Anaya gained a cult following for her birria tacos - California-inspired crispy grilled tacos filled with slow-simmered beef and melted Monterrey Jack cheese – back then a novel concept in Cowtown. Folks also arrived in droves for the birria ramen, which comes steamy in a cup with ramen noodles. Anaya opened her brick-and-mortar location last year on Race Street in the former Dino's Live space. Today she has plenty of room for customers to spread out, though hours are limited as she awaits a liquor license.

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.

Chetra Chau – Dream Tacos
Bedford got a dreamy new taco joint last summer when veteran chef Chetra Chau opened Dream Tacos, a global fusion taco restaurant and bar featuring flavors from around the world. Influences include French, Japanese, Southern East Asian, and Southern barbecue. Tacos come in varieties like banh mi, sushi, tandoori chicken, Philly cheese, and even beef Wellington-wrapped tacos in puff pastry. The eclectic lineup combined with live music, good cocktails, and friendly customer service generates rave reviews. Dream Tacos sits next to Chau’s other restaurant, Chetra’s Kitchen Grill & Bistro, where he first introduced his globe-trotting cuisine before launching the taco spinoff.

Belen Hernandez - Belenty's Love
“Mexican food” and “vegan” aren’t terms that typically go together, but Belen Hernandez is out to change that. She opened Belenty’s Love, a completely vegan-Mexican restaurant, on Bluebonnet Circle nearly two years ago, welcoming diners looking for plant-based options for Mexican food favorites. But even carnivorous types have found lots to love at Belenty’s (it won Restaurant of the Year at last year's Tastemaker Awards), as Hernandez proves meat-less versions of pastor and barbacoa tacos along with portobello tostadas can be just as flavorful as the original varieties. An expansive menu, from cauliflower wings and Mexican pasta to brunch dishes and burgers, combine for a creative bill of fare that keeps hungry diners – vegan or not – coming back.

David Hollister - Boozie's
Boozie’s Brewery & Gourmet Sandwiches is new to Fort Worth, but its executive chef David Hollister is not. Hollister officially took the reins of the restaurant as part owner when the Camp Bowie Boulevard space recently transitioned from Wild Acre Brewing Company. He was the chef at Wild Acre, too, and still serves the same gourmet sandwiches for which the Ridglea Hills spot became popular. Before his stint at Wild Acre, he was the chef for Dallas’ Gas Monkey Live, but Fort Worth diners might remember Hollister most for his Dagwood’s concepts – one on Foch Street and the other by Ridgmar Mall. Wherever he goes, his sandwich fans follow for favorites like the Reuben with house-brined Akaushi Wagyu pastrami, and the Cuban Press with braised Duroc pork shoulder.

Tim Love - Tannahill's Tavern & Music Hall, Caterina's
Tim Love is busy, but that’s nothing new. The nationally recognized Fort Worth chef seems to always have lots of irons in the fire, but perhaps not as many as in the past 15 months. Since January 2022, he’s opened not one but three new restaurants plus a live music venue in the Mule Alley district of the Fort Worth Stockyards. First was Paloma Suerte, his colorful Tex-Mex restaurant with open air views. Then came Caterina’s, Italian fine dining with tableside cocktail service and house-made pastas. Then Tannahill’s Tavern & Music Hall opened by fall, where patrons can grab dinner and drinks before ticketed shows with big-name acts. Love’s name is also on a slew of other restaurants in town and from Austin to Tennessee, including Lonesome Dove, Gemelle, Woodshed Smokehouse, Love Shack, and more. It’s an impressive feat, to say the least.

Stefon Rishel - Wishbone & Flynt, Tre Mogli
Stefon Rishel's big personality shines through the big flavors in his dishes, from his famous PB&J chicken wings to his custom ground burger seared in duck fat. Rishel has a long history in Fort Worth, first making a name for himself at Max's Wine Dive, where for three years he served as executive chef and received many accolades for his upscale comfort food and his friendly, good-time demeanor. After stints in Houston and Keller, Rishel returned to open Wishbone & Flynt and Tre Mogli, both in the Near Southside and both popular for their lively atmospheres and luxurious, scratch-made dishes. His next project is Teddy Wong's Dumplings & Wine, a Chinese restaurant in the Near Southside, expected to open in May.

Dena Peterson Shaskan - 3rd St. Market
It was Dena Peterson Shaskan who planted and tended an herb and veggie garden in a corner spot on the lawn of the Modern Art Museum more than a decade ago, back when she was executive chef of Café Modern. Her fresh take on food has always been evident throughout her culinary career, including catering from her business Mockingbird Food Co., and now at her latest venture, 3rd Street Market. The cozy downtown spot offers a refreshing daily menu of salads, soups, and sandwiches using sourdough baked in-house by her husband, Trent. The duo is aiming to breathe delicious new life into a quiet sector of Sundance Square that’s marred with multiple closures. With more than 25 years of culinary experience, Shaskan certainly has the credibility to do so.

Hao Tran - Hao's Grocery & Cafe
Running a restaurant and market, hosting pop-up dinners, and teaching cooking classes is enough to keep any chef full. Add working full-time as a high school science teacher, and you’ve got Hao Tran, the namesake of Hao’s Grocery & Café located in the Near Southside on St. Louis Avenue. The space was formerly The Table Market & Culinary Studio, where Hao was a partner and sold her beloved Asian dumplings and hosted many foodie events. Now the space is all hers, where she features a flavorful array of Asian food for dine-in or to-go.

Victor Villarreal
A tenured Fort Worth chef who’s worked in several respected restaurants around town, Victor Villarreal stepped out on his own when he opened La Onda – a Latin-fusion seafood restaurant – in 2021 in a 1940s house on Race Street. The menu specialized in exotic fish and artfully executed ceviche, charcuterie, and cocktails. Foodies loved it; La Onda was voted Best New Restaurant by readers in the 2021 Tastemaker Awards competition. While Bon Appetit took notice last year when the magazine named La Onda one of 50 best new restaurants in the country, Villarreal’s avant-garde, upscale endeavor didn’t quite catch on, unfortunately closing just this month. But Villarreal won’t sit still for long. A Facebook post announcing the closure ended with, “This is not a goodbye though, just a short commercial break…stay tuned!” We certainly will.

Cowtown Brewing Co./Facebook

Best breweries buzz into this week's 5 most-read Fort Worth stories

This week's hot headlines

Editor's note: A lot happened this week, so here's your chance to get caught up. Read on for the week's most popular headlines. Looking for the best things to do this weekend? Find that list here.

1. The 10 best breweries in Fort Worth truly put the craft in craft beer. The 2023 CultureMap Fort Worth Tastemaker Awards is fast approaching, when we celebrate the best in food and drink in Fort Worth. Here we pay tribute to Fort Worth breweries, which rank as some of the best in Texas. Here are our top 10 nominees for Best Brewery.

2. Watch '80s film Sixteen Candles in Fort Worth with star John Cusack. Actor John Cusack will thrill kids of the 1980s when he hosts two screenings of popular movies of his from that decade, with both Fort Worth and Dallas on the agenda. Cusack will screen Sixteen Candles at Will Rogers Auditorium in Fort Worth on Friday, June 23 and Say Anything at the Music Hall at Fair Park on Saturday, June 24.

3. Top 10 Fort Worth restaurants showcase city's dynamic dining scene in 2023. Approaching the end of our Tastemaker Awards editorial series profiling all nominees, we now take a look at candidates for Restaurant of the Year. Some are newer than others – and some are older than many of our readers. All have made their delicious mark in Fort Worth and deserve praise. Find out the winners at the party on April 27.

4. Fort Worth Art Fair reveals lineup of musical acts plus 100 artists. The details are in on the 2023 Fort Worth Art Fair (FWAF), coming to Fort Worth's Sundance Square from April 20-23. This is the second year for the Fort Worth Art Fair, conceived as a celebration of local art, music, cuisine, and culture, and it focuses on local artists — making it a complementary experience to the Main St. Fort Worth Arts Festival, which focuses on national touring art exhibitors.

5. Power-posing Greta Van Fleet gets ready to rock Fort Worth on new world tour. Classic rock-influenced band Greta Van Fleet, consisting of brothers Jake, Josh, and Sam Kiszka plus Daniel Wagner boast a legion of diehard fans, a Grammy Award, and are set to launch a highly anticipated third studio album, Starcatcher, slated to drop July 21. Fans can catch the quartet when they hit Fort Worth's Dickies Arena on July 27.

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CultureMap Emails are Awesome

'Yellowstone' stars to greet fans at Fort Worth Stock Show & Rodeo

Yellowstone news

Yellowstone fans, get your comfy shoes ready - there'll be a long line for this one. Cole Hauser a.k.a. "Rip Wheeler" on Yellowstone, and Taylor Sheridan, the show's co-creator, executive producer, and director of the series, will meet fans and sign autographs at the Fort Worth Stock Show & Rodeo.

The event will take place from 4:30-6:30 pm only on Friday, February 3. Location is the 6666 Ranch booth near the south end of Aisle 700 in the Amon G. Carter, Jr. Exhibits Hall.

According to a February 2 announcement from FWSSR, "fans will have the opportunity to snag an autograph as well as purchase some distinctive Yellowstone and 6666 Ranch merchandise while also enjoying all the features the Stock Show offers."

The event is free to attend (with paid Stock Show admission) and open to the public.

It's the second year in a row for Hauser to appear at FWSSR; in 2022, he and fellow cast mates drew huge crowds.

Sheridan, a Paschal High School graduate, is no stranger to Fort Worth; he lives in a ranch near Weatherford and filmed 1883, the prequel to Yellowstone, in and around Fort Worth. Currently, another spinoff, 1883: The Bass Reeves Story, is filming in North Texas.

The Fort Worth Stock Show & Rodeo is winding up its 2023 run on Saturday, February 4.

Openings and closings head up this Fort Worth restaurant news roundup

News You Can Eat

This roundup of dining news around Fort Worth has an opening, a closing, a gofundme campaign, and loads of new menus for summer.

Here's what's happening in Fort Worth restaurant news:

Original ChopShop has opened its latest shop in Southlake at at 2101 E. Southlake Blvd. # 100. Their menu features protein bowls, salads, sandwiches, breakfast items, juices, protein shakes, and acai bowls with quality ingredients that are always chopped-in-Shop. Founded in Scottsdale, Arizona in 2013, Original ChopShop currently has 20 locations in Phoenix, Dallas-Fort Worth, Houston and Atlanta and is continuing expansion with two additional openings slated for the remainder of 2023.This will be the 11th location in Texas.

Lettuce Cook/Gourmet on the Go will close its Bluebonnet Shop on June 15, due to staffing, overall inflation, and food costs. "We will miss this store incredibly and we have an awesome following at Bluebonnet and hope you will come see us and support us at our original location in the ever growing River District that Todd has taken back over and given the TLC and facelift it deserves," they say in a Facebook post. They've been at that location for seven years.

Dusty Biscuits Beignets has launched a gofundme campaign to help with operating costs and paying down debt. They're currently having equipment hiccups at the shop but should be up and running again soon.

Grimaldi's Pizzeria has a new Summer Selections menu with Smoked Brisket Pizza and Sweet Baby Ray’s barbecue sauce; Spinach Salad with feta cheese, red onion, almonds, and strawberries; Cheesecake topped with blueberries or strawberries; a charcuterie board with prosciutto, salami, mozzarella, Spanish olives, and antipasto peppers; and the Bourbon & Blues cocktail with Tincup American whiskey, lemon juice, muddled blueberries, and thyme. It runs June 6 through September 11.

Salad and Go has a new summer menu with four new dishes: Antipasto Salad with romaine, salami, feta cheese, cucumbers, banana peppers, kalamata olives, red onions, and croutons in red wine vinaigrette (can also be ordered as a wrap); Mediterranean breakfast burrito with spinach, eggs, feta cheese, and avocado with green tomatillo salsa (can also be ordered as a bowl); Minestrone Soup, a vegetarian soup with kale, cannellini beans, and pasta in a tomato-based broth, which will become a permanent menu item; and the return of Blueberry Basil Lemonade. The dishes will debut on June 1.

Modern Market has brought back its cult classic Street Corn Pizza, with corn, jalapeño, chile powder, cilantro, lime, smoked crema, cotija, mozzarella, and cheddar cream sauce. Their pizzas are really a deal. A whole Street Corn Pizza is $12.45, but they also thoughtfully offer their pizzas in a half-size for $7.45. They have locations at Preston Hollow/Dallas, Plano, Southlake, Las Colinas, and Richardson, and their website is one of the easiest and most sophisticated in the restaurant industry.

Smoothie King smoothie chain has brought back its X-Treme Watermelon smoothie and a new Watermelon Lemonade smoothie for the summer.

Chili’s has new Chicken Crisper Combos with Cheddar Mac & Cheese, Fries, and two dipping sauces: new Buffalo Ranch and Sweet Chili Zing. Their OldTimer burger can now be ordered with double patties because more meat is appealing to some people? New premium margaritas feature high-end tequila like Casamigos and Teremana Tequila.

Naturli’ is a Danish brand launching its award-winning plant based butters in the U.S. The products will initially launch in H-E-B stores across Texas. Naturli’s vegan butters are among the best on the European market thanks to their exceptional taste and healthy ingredients. Made with cocoa butter, almond butter, coconut oil and canola oil, they are dairy-free and palm-oil free. The Butter Spread is for spreading on bread; Plant Butter Block is for baking. Both are made to taste and perform like traditional butter; Plant Butter Block is approved by professional bakers.

Orange Leaf, the Dallas-based self-serve, choose-your-own-toppings frozen yogurt chain with a location at 6076 Azle Ave. in Lake Worth, has brought back fan-favorite froyo flavor Watermelon.

Gong Cha the drink chain with 7 stores in Dallas-Fort Worth has a special Pride drink running June 1-30. It's a sweet and tart Lemon Ai Love Yu bubble tea with white pearls and edible glitter.

H-E-B is opening a new eCommerce Fulfillment Center in Plano later this summer to service its new stores in North Texas.

Texas Dairy Queen Operators’ Council is launching a contest to find The Biggest Fan in Texas. You have to write an essay, plus tell what your favorite DQ item is, your favorite location, and a photo with a DQ memory. The winner gets free Treats & Eats for a year, plus swag from Josh Abbott Band, DQ, and Dr Pepper. The contest is open only to legal residents of Texas, 13 or older. Entries must be received by August 6 at 8 am. The rules can be found on the dqtexas.com/biggestdqfan website. The winner will be announced on August 14.

José Andrés Group has partnered with Loliware, the world’s first seaweed-resin company, to launch Loliware straws at all restaurants. Loliware’s innovative seaweed-resin straws and utensils look and act like plastic but can compost completely within 50 days. They've already debuted at Chicago restaraunts Bar Mar, Bazaar Meat by José Andrés, and Jaleo, and will expand to José Andrés Group restaurants across the country.

Nueva Pescanova, a Spanish seafood company, is trying to open an industrial-scale octopus farm, and scientists and activists are calling for it to be quashed. Octopuses are intelligent and curious sentient beings, able to solve complex puzzles. They're also territorial and solitary animals who may resort to cannibalism if kept in tanks together, as Nueva Pescanova intends. The company also plans to subject breeding females to 24-hour periods of light, which would cause extreme discomfort, and their proposed method of slaughter — death by ice slurry —causes significant pain as animals can take hours to die. If you don't care about the cruelty aspect, consider the health threat: Octopuses are known to carry over 20 different pathologies, including vibrio cholerae which causes cholera in humans; octopus farming would increase the risk of spreading more zoonotic diseases like COVID among humans. IDA USA has a form you can fill out to log your protest.

Breathtaking Hill Country hideaway is Vrbo's only Texas Vacation Home of the Year


A magnificently hidden home in Dripping Springs has been chosen as one of Vrbo's "Vacation Homes of the Year" for 2023. It was the only Texas home chosen out hundreds of thousands of private residences on the vacation rental site.

The Vacation Homes of the Year showcases several popular homes throughout the country (with the occasional international spot) that range from "idyllic lakeside escapes to cozy mountain retreats and desert paradises." In all, two homes are based in California, and one each in Arizona, North Carolina, Oregon, New York, Florida, South Carolina, Idaho, Colorado, and Mexico.

Texas' Hill Country Riverfront Hideaway is tucked away on five acres of land bordering the Pedernales River. The home spans 2,150 square feet with an open-concept living area, three spacious bedrooms, two lavish bathrooms, a modern chef's kitchen, fireplace, and a breathtaking wrap-around terrace.

Floor-to-ceiling windows complete the space, allowing guests to take in the tranquility of the Hill Country. With the home's 430 feet of river access, visitors can enjoy escaping the city and relax into the views of the vast canyon below.

Dripping Springs Riverfront HideawayIt's about an hour-long drive to Fredericksburg.Photo courtesy of Vrbo

The property is within a half hour drive to many of the finest wineries, breweries, and must-see outdoor recreation spots in Dripping Springs. Fredericksburg is an hour's drive west for those wanting to head deeper into the Hill Country, and downtown Austin is an hour's drive to the east.

The average nightly cost for the riverfront oasis is $475.

Dripping Springs Riverfront Hideaway

Photo courtesy of Vrbo

The Hill Country Riverfront Hideaway was the only Texas home chosen on Vrbo's list.

Expedia Brands president Jon Gieselman shared in a press release that there were plenty of eye-catching homes to wade through for the report.

"This year’s Vacation Homes of the Year range from an urban oasis and a cozy ranch home under $400 a night to a beachfront estate that can sleep the whole family and more," said Gieselman. "Every single Vacation Home of the Year has a beautiful view, and combined boast seven private pools and fire pits, eight hot tubs and even five putting greens."

The full list of Vrbo's 2023 Vacation Homes of the Year are:

  • No. 1 – The Oasis Estate in Palm Springs, California
  • No. 2 – The Happy Roadrunner in Phoenix, Arizona
  • No. 3 – The Chasestone in Lake Norman, North Carolina
  • No. 4 – The Contemporary Gem in Manzanita, Oregon
  • No. 5 – Ocean View Oasis in Montauk, New York
  • No. 6 – The Riverfront Hideaway in Dripping Springs, Texas
  • No. 7 – 30A My Way in Rosemary Beach, Florida
  • No. 8 – Port of Call in Isle of Palms, South Carolina
  • No. 9 – Salmonfly Lodge in Victor, Idaho
  • No. 10 – Trestle House in Winter Park, Colorado
  • No. 11 – Villa Luna Nueva in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico