Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Does Fort Worth Have Fine Dining?

Well, yes, when viewed in the light of 2007, most definitely. I remember when we first moved to Texas, on the very occasional special occasion, my wife and I would go to the Swiss House on University. The food was great, the service was great, they had live piano, and by request, a table by the window overlooking the Trinity river jogging path. Our entree of choice was the Beef Oscar: a bacon wrapped, beef filet, topped with fresh crab meat in a Biarnaise Sauce, with asparagus spears, and fresh bread. Add a glass of red wine and the evening was just about perfect. After dessert and coffee, we walked along the river path. This was 25 years ago, and our tab with tip, was around $100. I have been to the Mansion on Turtle Creek, and the Pyramid Room at the Fairmont, and Morton's in Dallas and Chicago, but I preferred the Swiss House. Others will disagree I am sure, but a great dining experience is about the evening as a whole and only partly about the meal, and I think the Swiss House pulled together all the components well.
The Swiss House is no longer with us, but there are some great places for special occasions. I have mentioned before, the Fort Worth Chop House, downtown, a favorite of mine, with the added benefit of a walk around downtown after dinner. La Piazza, in University Park is a wonderful place, and you can window shop with a Starbucks coffee afterwards. The Reata is good, but a little too big and fast-paced for me. I haven't been to Lonesome Dove downtown, but it gets good reviews. I have been to St. Emilion's once and it was excellent, and to Del Frisco's downtown, when it first opened. Great steaks, but the tables are just too close together for me. The Silver Fox, on University is good, though somewhat lacking in atmosphere. I wouldn't put Charleston's in this category but their food is excellent, and their service is good. A couple of years ago I went with friends to Cool River, in Los Colinas, it was embarrassingly bad. But that's often what you get when you mix a popular bar with a steak house restaurant. High prices and a mediocre meal.
We don't live in a formal or even semi-formal attire world anymore and fine dining restaurants have adjusted to the demands of the times, that's business, but I think our best restaurants are as good as any, at least in the general sense of American cuisine. You will find better Italian food in the Northeast and better Cajun food in Louisiana, and there's nothing like a home cooked steak from pasture-raised cattle in Idaho (or Texas), but those exceptions notwithstanding, we have good food here in Fort Worth and some great restaurants. My top two are the Chop House and La Piazza.
For the record: Del Frisco's is the only one that rates in the Zagat DFW top 5.


Billy said...

On the fine dining article, you blatantly missed Bonnell's and Lanny's. Bonnell's rated second highest in the city in Zagat, and were named top 10 for the entire metroplex. Lanny's is one of the newest and best in the state. As for La Piazza, they do a decent job, but are known as the snootiest place in town. I saw the review of Sardines, but they have since shut down. I've been told they plan to reopen, but no word officially yet. They have been cited many times by the health department for major violations.

Anonymous said...

Back when my family lived in Ft Worth and my father was the golf pro at Ridglea Country Club, we always went to the Old Swiss House for special family celebrations. I remember Walter's shrimp scampi. No other version can compare! And his wonderful salad of boston sweet lettace with his special dressing. Wish I could go back and enjoy this all over again. Sue GaffordPiner, New Braunfels,Texas

brobob1225 said...

My wife and I used to go to the old Swiss House for our anniversary and loved it. The one thing I remember above everything else were the little cheese appetisers they brought to the table when you first came. Outstanding and i wish I could replicate them today. I have no idea what cheese was used but it was out of this world

james cole. jr said...

I used to work with The Late Chef Walter Kaufmann... As the second comment stated, his shrimp scampi?? It was SOOO GOOOOD!!! I got to learn and present that Shrimp Scampi item along with his 'lil swiss' rolls,(in the 3rd comment),Orange Roughy, and his rack of Lamb with famous Mint Jelly, which we turned into a jalapeƱo jelly at the Stonegate Mansion Restaurant,(known to locals as the Cullen Davis Mansion)in the mid-late 90's. Walter's Wine Cellar was in the basement,(an awesome visit and experience!) Unfortunately The Mansion did not last long. Walter was a well known, World Renowned Wine connoisseur. He knew his wine,his food, and his people of Ft.Worth. He was a very successful Chef and Businessman in Ft.Worth. He owned and operated The Old Swiss House on The Trinity River off University for a little over 50 years. I was privileged and honored to work with Chef Walter during his last years, and days(at Stonegate),may I say that he went on as an awesome Chef, a dedicated husband, and a generous, selfless man. I hold certain items close to heart,(as he instructed me to),and will strive to spread some of his love through his creations in food. I still stand thankful today for crossing paths with Chef Walter and for the things I learned from him. Never forgotten, and still doing what he told me.... "run with it" my final recipe. much love WK!! Worth... There is, or maybe was...FINE DINING in Fort Worth!!! I have since moved to Jax, Florida, but, Lucile's 'A Stateside Bistro', Bistro Louise, and Ricks on the Bricks For the FINE DINING in Fort Worth.. Been there.. Done that... Really good.

Francis Shivone said...

Thank you for the comment James. It appears you tried more than once to post. After 2 weeks all comments must be moderated to keep down spam. I apologize for the inconvenience. There really was nothing like The Swiss House in Fort Worth and even though we have good restaurants and a few fine dining restaurants that place was a cut above the rest.

But it was a different time.