El Rincón del Maiz

A DFW restaurant that's earned national acclaim has opened in Denton: El Rincón del Maiz, previously of Garland, is now located at 1431 E. McKinney St. in Denton where it's winning over locals with its Tex-Mex classics and vegan dishes.

Now in a small center east of Denton Square, the family-owned restaurant from husband-and-wife Carlos Guillez and Michell Torres, and their son Gerardo Guillen, first opened in a former Sonic Drive-In November 2021.

They quickly drew praise including making a 2022 list by Bon Appétit of the Best New Restaurants in America (which strangely identified them as "the Saporito family"), as well as winning the 2023 CultureMap Tastemaker Award for Best Neighborhood Restaurant.

"We were so encouraged," Carlos says. "We'd decided to open because my wife was such a good chef that everybody would tell her, 'You need to open a restaurant.'"

But they discovered that the majority of their clientele were coming from outside Garland.

"Pretty much all of our customers were from areas north of Dallas, and some were driving 30 to 45 minutes," Gerardo says. "People kept saying, 'You need to move north.'"

They almost ended up in McKinney but negotiations were taking too long, and then the Denton spot opened. It's only a half mile from the Square, and has enviable proximity to TWU, UNT, the Denton County courthouse, and the Denton sheriff's office, all representing a built-in audience for their award-winning food.

Their recipes come from south Mexico including dishes like panucho — refried tortillas topped with black beans, choice of protein, coleslaw, and red onion; and enomoladas — corn tortillas with chicken, mole, red onion, and sesame seed.

A longtime home cook, Torres is also vegan. When she crafted the standard Mexican menu, she created an entire vegan menu, as well, using plant-based items like jackfruit and cauliflower to substitute for meat items, served on eye-catching tinted tortillas in flavors such as cilantro, beet, chipotle, and chocolate.

Since moving to Denton, they've added new dishes such as vegan pozole; vegan menudo made with mushroom; and vegan huevos con chorizo, featuring scrambled tofu, a vegan version of chorizo, and black beans, with choice of fried plantains or spicy potatoes.

These days, they're reveling in packed crowds on weekends, and they still haven't even gotten their liquor license yet (it's pending).

And here's one sweet irony: "We've seen customers from Garland coming to Denton," Gerardo says.

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Hottest new bars top this week's 5 most-read Fort Worth headlines

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 listhere.

1. Where to drink in Fort Worth right now: 8 new bars to hit in August. Fort Worth’s new bar scene is as hot as the weather, as a slew of new drinking destinations has opened in recent weeks. Here are eight new (or newly revitalized) bars to cool off with a cocktail this month - including a long-awaited champagne bar.

2. Award-winning Fort Worth restaurateur debuts one-of-a-kind new Italian. Fort Worth restaurateur Belen Hernandez has already won awards for her Mexican vegan concept Belenty's Love Mexican Vegan Restaurant, and now she is expanding into a new cuisine: Italian. Belen and her son just opened Vida Cafe, at 3522 Bluebonnet Cir., where they're doing vegan versions of Italian food.

3. Popular Dallas sushi spot expands west with new location in Grapevine. A Dallas sushi favorite is expanding west: Oishii, which has been a destination for sushi fans for nearly two decades, is opening a location in Grapevine. The restaurant will open at 401 E. SH-114 in September.

4. Smoothie Factory debuts new concept first in North Richland Hills. The Smoothie Factory chain is opening a new kind of location, one that will make its debut in Dallas-Fort Worth. The new concept is called Smoothie Factory + Kitchen, and the first ever location will open in North Richland Hills, at 8517 Davis Blvd., in the fall.

5. These fast-growing Dallas-Fort Worth companies earned spots on the 2023 Inc. 5000 list. Hundreds of Dallas-Fort Worth companies have experienced explosive revenue growth over the last few years, with one such business landing near the top of the prestigious 2023 Inc. 5000 list. One Coppell-based company, Green Light Distribution, ranked No. 4 nationally.

Vida Cafe

Award-winning Fort Worth restaurateur debuts one-of-a-kind new Italian

Vegan News

Fort Worth restaurateur Belen Hernandez has already won awards for her Mexican vegan concept Belenty's Love Mexican Vegan Restaurant, and now she is expanding into a new cuisine: Italian.

Belen and her son Sammy Garcia just opened Vida Cafe, at 3522 Bluebonnet Cir., in the former Lettuce Cook, which closed in June (and before that was Hong Kong Restaurant for many years), where they're doing vegan versions of Italian food.

This is entirely new in Dallas-Fort Worth.

Hernandez hails from Tamaulipas, Mexico and has been in the restaurant industry for 17 years. She's a plucky entrepreneur who once owned 10 Mexican restaurants across Hillsboro, Whitney, Godley, and Granbury. She closed them when she made the decision to go vegan 13 years ago.

"Going vegan changed my life, my soul, and spirit," Hernandez says.

In 2018, she debuted Belenty's Love in Granbury, part of a Mexican vegan trend that began in DFW and draws both vegans and nonvegans alike. In 2020, she expanded with a second location of Belenty's in Fort Worth, at 3516 Bluebonnet Cir., a space that has been home over the years to Rusty Taco, Pegaso Mexican Diner, and a dive bar named Tiff & Andi's.

She stole the show at CultureMap's 2022 Tastemaker Awards when Belentys Love won the award for Best Restaurant — not "best vegan restaurant" but Best Restaurant — beating noteworthy fellow nominees such as Wicked Butcher and Provender Hall.

While Hernandez and Garcia love Mexican food, their second favorite cuisine has always been Italian and when the location two doors down from Belenty's became available, they felt it was time.

Like Belenty's, Vida Cafe is 100 percent vegan with a plant-based spin on traditional Italian items such as spaghetti, alfredo pasta, and a chickenless marsala.

Appetizers include mozzarella sticks, bruschetta, meatballs, and minestrone soup. Salads include a Caesar and an arugula pasta salad, and there's a big assortment of panini including chicken, pesto grilled cheese, crabcake, sausage, and a classic Monte Cristo which is fried and topped with powdered sugar.

They're open for breakfast with pancakes in options such as chocolate chip and pistachio; plus omelets and French toast. A refrigerated case is filled with enticing vegan pastries including cheesecake, muffins, panna cotta, tiramisu, fruit-topped tarts, and fruit-filled Danish. There are also coffee and espresso drinks, tea, and an AF virgin Bellini.

They've warmed up the space with deep pink walls and lots of floral touches including a row of adorable floral-rimmed lounging booths where you can sprawl out on pillow cushions.

“The idea [of] Vida Cafe has been in our hearts for years,” Hernandez says. “Vida is this place where you can come relax and feel like you are at home, enjoy conversations with friends, drink a tea or coffee, read a book, enjoy delicious food…drink a Bellini and just enjoy yourself and have a good time."


2 vegan chefs collaborate on exciting all-day food truck in Fort Worth

Vegan News

There's a vegan food truck in Fort Worth serving some exciting food off Magnolia Avenue: Called It's Food, it's a collaboration between two vegan chefs that sets up shop at 1001 W. Magnolia Ave., where it serves brunch Tuesday-Friday and dinner Tuesday-Sunday.

The food truck was launched in February 2022 by Luu Lac, a Vietnamese chef, and his partner Nicole Kerby, who first did pop-ups and events until they made a deal with Fort Liquor, who hosts the truck in their parking lot.

Luu is there for the night shift, serving burgers and sandwiches including:

  • Classic burger with onions, pickles, lettuce, tomatoes, ketchup, mustard, and mayo
  • Islander - caramelized pineapple, grilled onions, lettuce, hoisin sauce, and mayo
  • Ranger - grilled onions, sautéed mushrooms, horseradish, and mayo
  • East-Side - house-made kimchi, lettuce, hoisin sauce, and mayo
  • West-Side - crispy fried onions, pickles, lettuce, BBQ, and mayo

You can order any sandwich with a choice of Beyond Meat patty or else Crispy Fried Tofu. You can also build your own, selecting toppings and add-ons including bacon, kimchi, pineapple, red onions (fresh, grilled, or crispy fried onions), fresh/grilled jalapeños, sautéed mushrooms, sauerkraut, horseradish, romaine lettuce, tomatoes, pickles, and cheese.

Sides include fries, onion rings, crispy fried tofu triangles, and eggrolls. Sauces include Sweet & Sour, Teriyaki, and Hoisin Sauce, which they make in-house, plus BBQ and hot sauce. They also make their own salsa, veggie sausage patties, and kimchi.

It's Food burgerVegan burger topped with melted cheese, jalapeno, and red onion, from It's Food.It's Food

He often features specials such as a recent "shrimp" salad with a strawberry-miso-tamarind creamy dressing.

His hours are Tuesday-Thursday 6-11 pm, Friday-Saturday 7 pm-12 am, and Sunday 6-10:30 pm.

Luu is a staunch environmentalist who once rode a recumbent tricycle to Texas all the way from Massachusetts, where he grew up. His slogan on It's Food's Instagram page says: "It's Food. 100% Plant Based. Zero Plastics." The page is fun and whimsical, and often promotes other vegan businesses in Fort Worth such as Planted Bakery.

At the beginning of July, acclaimed vegan chef Armando Perez joined It's Food, with a breakfast operation that includes a classic breakfast sandwich and a burrito with black beans.

Perez is a well-known figure in the DFW vegan community who has worked at nearly every major vegan restaurant around Dallas-Fort Worth, including Spiral Diner, Zonk Burger, Tiki Loco, V Eats, Nature's Plate, and Nuno's Tacos & Vegmex Grill.

In 2022, he left Texas to live and cook in New York, but came back in the spring when a family member became ill.

"I also wanted to start something of my own," Perez says. "Luu had been doing burgers, and we talked about collaborating with a weekend special. But he came back and said he wasn't using his truck during the day, and came up with the idea of me doing sandwiches for breakfast and lunch."

Perez is serving two handheld items:

  • A.M. Sandwich: Just Egg patty, veggie sausage, hash browns, chipotle or regular menu, served on an English muffin, $7
  • Southwest Burrito: Tofu scramble, black beans, green chiles, zucchini, hash browns, chipotle or regular mayo, on corn or flour tortillas, $10

"With the burrito, I wanted to do something healthy, more vegetable-oriented, and also something that could transition into lunch," Perez says.

His hours are Tuesday-Friday 8 am-1 pm.

The partnership is a win-win for both chefs, giving Perez a chance to try out something in a low-risk way and giving Luu and his food truck another platform. Plus, we win because we get to eat their food.

"I always wanted to do brunch as well as late night, but it wasn't possible to do on my own," Luu says.

American Airlines

American Airlines adds travel perks for summer including new food & films

Airline Food News

Fort Worth-based American Airlines has made some additions to its in-flight lineup for summer 2023, including new meals and foodie snacks, Wi-Fi updates, and new movie options to stream.

That includes a special selection of films celebrating Pride Month in June.

The new food options include chef-curated menu options in premium cabins and choices for the indulgent or health-conscious traveler in the main cabin.

Plant-based: Customers flying on transcontinental American Flagship service flights have a new premium entrée and it's plant-based, woo-hoo: The new Plant-Based Bulgogi Noodle Bowl entrée comes with yakisoba noodles, stir-fry vegetables, and plant-based beef crumbles — offering a new meal option that is both nourishing and delicious.

Avli on the Park: Customers flying in premium cabins to Europe from Chicago's O'Hare International Airport this summer can enjoy dishes from Avli on the Park, a Greek restaurant in Chicago and a Michelin 2023 honoree. Options include a Greek Beef Orzo Stew and a Kagiana Egg Scramble for breakfast. These items from Avli on the Park are available on six nonstop flights to Europe: Athens, Barcelona, Dublin, London, Paris, and Rome.

Wi-Fi updates
Wi-Fi enhancements for the summer months include:

Complimentary Wi-Fi for T-Mobile customers: By July, 100 percent of American's Wi-Fi-equipped regional and narrowbody aircrafts will offer T-Mobile In-Flight Connection On Us, allowing eligible T-Mobile customers to enjoy complimentary connectivity with streaming on domestic flights.

Summer streaming: Travelers to international destinations should be able to enjoy faster Wi-Fi speeds and a more reliable service for all their connectivity needs thanks to increased bandwidth planned for American's widebody aircraft, offering 100 percent mainline aircraft with video streaming capabilities.

New film and viewing options include:

Monthly exclusives: New movies will be offered monthly which customers can watch exclusively inflight such as the new AppleTV+ movie Ghosted.

Pride Month: American is offering an entertainment channel featuring top LGBTQ+ talent; customers can choose from a list of movies and series.

American Black Film Festival channel: This summer, American is bringing new content to the American Black Film Festival channel, elevating the unique voices and power stories of the Black community to offer a deeper understanding of the Black experience.

"Our customers are the inspiration behind everything we do, and American is committed to consistently deliver a world-class experience for them,” said Kim Cisek, Vice President of Customer Experience. “We know customers want a convenient travel experience throughout their journey on American and to arrive at their destination satisfied and ready to explore — a focus we keep in mind when refreshing and creating new experiences for them to enjoy on the ground and in the skies."

Chris Plavidal

Fort Worth's first fine-dining vegan restaurant makes maiden voyage in June

Vegan News

There's an opening date for Fort Worth's first fine-dining vegan restaurant. Called Maiden: Fine Plants & Spirits, the eatery is from the founders of the acclaimed vegan restaurant Spiral Diner & Bakery, and will open on June 1 at 1216 6th Ave., in the PS1200 complex.

Maiden will reside near its two siblings: in the same block as Spiral Diner, and a few doors down from Dreamboat Vegan Donuts & Scoops, which opened in mid-May at 1204 6th Ave. — creating a voodoo vegan triangle within Fort Worth's Near Southside District.

Maiden will offer a $150 seasonal tasting menu consisting entirely of plant-based food, with eight courses designed to be consumed over a two- to three-hour timespan. The restaurant will host two seatings per night, with room for 50 diners per seating.

Opening dishes include:

  • Lemongrass Grapefruit Consommé
  • Roasted Parsnip filled with confit zucchini and walnut, served with sourdough bread and shallot jam
  • a play on potato-leek soup that will have surprises

Patrons can add wine or mixed-drink pairings from choices that include sake, cocktails, beer, zero-proof cocktails, teas, and a zero-proof drink pairing. A-la-carte drink options will be available as well.

Prepaid reservations will be required and can be made via Tock starting in mid May.

For those who don't want to do the tasting, the restaurant will also offer first-come, first-serve seating at the bar, plus an outdoor lounge with limited service and dishes such as a vegan cheese board.

Maiden is from husband-and-wife James Johnston and Amy McNutt who, according to a release, will present emotive courses that evoke a cinematic experience. Johnston is a filmmaker ( The Green Knight, Ghost Story, Ain't Them Body Saints); as the release notes, the couple's passion for film and food are interwoven.

From the release:

"Every menu change will seek to tell a new story, full of twists and turns, asking: what does winter feel like; what surprises does spring bring; what stories does summer tell; what emotions does fall induce?"

In a statement, McNutt says that "Maiden is all about time," stating "The time devoted to forging our beautiful space. The time to thoughtfully compose each course. The time you grant yourself as a guest to relax and relish the experience. And now, finally, it is time to present Maiden to the great state of Texas."

Time is on your side. Time waits for no one. Does anybody really know what time it is? It's time to end this story. Time out.

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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.

Quonset hut in south Fort Worth to be transformed into ballroom

Quonset Hut News

A Quonset hut in south Fort Worth is about to make a Cinderella-like transformation: Called the Quonset Ballroom, it's being developed into an entertainment space which will host live music, food trucks, and events.

The hut is located at 2608 W. Dickson St., and was previously home to a lawn care operator for 30 years.

Husband-and-wife Jason and Hedy Peña stumbled onto it while searching for a new location for Hedy’s insurance agency, Armor Texas Insurance Agency. They landed at 2612 Dickson St., a cool mid-century office building built in 1957, which was ideal for the agency, even despite its offbeat address in a heavily industrial area.

“It was a piece of property where we could locate the office and it also had this 4,000-square foot Quonset hut next door,” Hedy says. "We started thinking about creating a venue which could be rented for parties, weddings, and social events."

Quonset huts are sprinkled across the Dallas-Fort Worth landscape, most dating back to the 1940s, shortly after the structure was first invented at Quonset Point Naval Air Station in Rhode Island.

Fort Worth is also currently in thrall with Quonset huts, thanks to the hip PS1200 mixed-use development near the Medical District which opened in July.

This one was built in 1948, and will require an overhaul, including new flooring, AC, and framing, with a planned-for capacity of 250 people.

Even as they work on the revamp, the Peñas have hosted private parties as well as a campaign event for Jason Peña, who ran unsuccessfully for Fort Worth city council in May 2023.

“We’ve had some private events there, but it’s not ready for a full event," Hedy says.

They currently have no plans for a bar but they're building a kitchen space to serve as a platform for the food trucks, including hookups.

The tract also has what was once a 10-car garage, which the Peñas are developing as storefronts they hope to lease as office spaces.

The industrial nature of the neighborhood initally gave them pause, but Hedy says it's turned out to be a positive, and the property itself has mature, leafy trees.

"Everything around us is industrial and at first I was uneasy about opening the insurance agency there," she says. "But the neighborhood has not deterred customers. We've even grown. And without homeowners nearby, it's a good setup if we have live music."

She envisions a spot that will eventually have a community feel, where families can dine and sit outside or inside – there will be seating – and enjoy music and conversation.

“It will be open to rent to the public, for sure, and could turn into something where it has regular hours," she says. “It will be for everyone, the public, our friends, family, so that everyone can see what we have here.”

Gamestop stock saga gets fun, star-filled movie treatment with Dumb Money

Movie review

The stock market feels like one of those aspects of American life that only a select few truly understand. The rest of us acknowledge it as something that exists and affects our lives in some way, but how and why any particular stock is traded and becomes more (or less) valuable can be a complete mystery.

Dumb Money tackles one of the most interesting recent stories to come out of the stock market, the surprising inflation of Gamestop stock in late 2020/early 2021. The film bounces around to a variety of characters, but centers mostly on Keith Gill (Paul Dano), a YouTuber who went by the name of Roaring Kitty. Gill, an amateur stock trader, took an early position about liking the lightly-regarded Gamestop stock, regularly posting videos and on the Reddit thread WallStreetBets about how his significant investment in the stock was doing.

Concurrently, hedge fund managers like Gabe Plotkin (Seth Rogen) were actively trying to short, or bet against, the stock. That began a battle by Gill and other similarly-minded individual investors to fight back against what they saw as unfair trading practices by the big firms, resulting in Gamestop’s stock rising astronomically in a relatively short period of time.

Directed by Craig Gillespie (I, Tonya) and written by Lauren Schuker Blum and Rebecca Angelo, the film is notable for what it is not, a deep dive into the inner workings of the stock market. Instead of getting into the nitty gritty details, the filmmakers treat it as the ultimate David vs. Goliath story, with Gill and other everyday people like a nurse, Jenny (America Ferrera), Gamestop worker Marcus (Anthony Ramos), and college student Harmony (Talia Ryder) going up against billionaires like Plotkin, Steve Cohen (Vincent D’Onofrio), Ken Griffin (Nick Offerman), and Vlad Tenev (Sebastian Stan).

Paul Dano in Dumb Money

Photo by Claire Folger/Sony Pictures

Paul Dano in Dumb Money.

It doesn’t hurt that Gill is an eccentric character who wears cat-emblazoned shirts and a headband, and that the Reddit community he inspires communicates primarily in memes, upping the entertainment factor of their side immensely. The story is also a suspense in a way; as the variety of individuals drive the stock ever higher, their net worth – on paper – also grows exponentially, and the longer each of them holds on without selling ups the potential that they could be burned.

Because the real-life event happened during the thick of the pandemic when it was still up in the air as to the full impact of COVID-19, the story takes on a little more significance. Characters mask up regularly, conversations take place on the phone or over Zoom, and a general feeling of unease permeates the film. That may or may not have influenced how certain people approached the situation, but in the context of the film, it definitely seems to play a part.

The back-and-forth between the haves and have-nots takes up so much time in the film that it barely has time for such well-known actors as Shailene Woodley, Dane Dehaan, Olivia Thirlby, and Pete Davidson, among others. Each of them plays a supporting character to one of the main people, and all of them deliver that little something extra in what could have been throwaway roles.

Dano is a chameleonic actor who’s gone between drama and comedy with ease throughout his career. This role is a mixture of both, and he has an effortlessness about him that makes everything he says instantly believable. Rogen is great casting as Plotkin, amiably playing the buffoon of the story. After her big role in Barbie, Ferrera once again shows that she deserves as many showcases as Hollywood can give her.

Storytellers can rarely go wrong in showing people with little power taking on those with great wealth, and the fact that the story shown in Dumb Money is (mostly) true makes it that much better. You may not understand the stock market any more than you already did at the end, but you’ll be so entertained that it won’t matter.


Dumb Money is now playing in theaters.