Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Best Of Fort Worth. 2010

Food and Fort Worth's 
Best of Fort Worth
(and a few worst, and one I'm really upset about) 

Best new retail and restaurant development: The West 7th and So7 (South 7th) developments have to be the biggest, and in my opinion the best, mixed-use development we have seen for many years. What the Target area south of Montgomery Plaza did wrong, West 7th has done right. The area south and west is developing now and adding to the whole cool vibe. Sundance Square, if I may say respectfully, feels a little touristy compared to what's going on at 7th Street.

Best Mexican Restaurant / upscale: I still think Mi Cocina's downtown is the most enjoyable upscale Mexican restaurant, when you look at it from food quality, service, location and price. Their recent corporate problems notwithstanding, I like to go there. Cantina Laredo is a pretty close second, but doesn't have quite the buzz of Mi Cocina's. Chuy's is a step down in atmosphere, but I liked their sauces and will be returning. Antonio's near the NorthEast Mall is an excellent upscale restaurant. I don't care too much for the location, though. I have not been to Lanny's.

Mexican Restaurant / larger, family owned: Benito's is a local favorite. I agree, it deserves the support it receives. Same with La Familia and La Playa Maya. I have tried dozens of locally owned Mexican restaurants but I always go back to one of these three. Maybe it's because I did not grow up in Fort Worth, but Joe T's has never been on my radar.
Sunni: El Asadero (Stockyards). 

Mexican Restaurant / small building. Salsa Fuego was selected 3 of 50 in the "Best Mexican" in Texas Monthly magazine and it too deserves the praise it gets. It's a long way from my house so I have been only twice. But it's good. Melis, on Vickery is good for a quick taco or burrito. And El Pollo Regio on Belnap is really good -- okay it's not going to win any restaurant design awards but I love the half-chicken with beans and rice.

Mexican / Taco stand or coach
I like the coach at Lancaster and about Oakland. It's been rolling in and out forever. Three tacos, beans and rice for about $4, and man it's good. There's a new taco stand on Berry across from Fuzzy's. I have heard that it is good.

Mexican restaurant opening soon downtown: Los Locos? I think. Kind if hard to see and read the sign. I hope the food is better than the sign design.

Fajitas: The best fajitas in town, in my opinion, are at Pappasito's. Their Wednesday night two-for-one fajitas is a ridiculously good deal. Many of Pappa's dishes, including the cabrito and shrimp, are really good, as well. Uncle Julio's is a Pappasito's knock-off. It's good and well attended but it's just too noisy for me

Worst Mexican: Last year, I criticized the Yucatan Grill. They are, by all appearances, surviving well without me. This year we are giving the You call this Mexican food? award to Habenero's in south Arlington. It makes Yucatan Grill look good. God-awful food, with guacamole that I swear was made without an avocado.

Pizza: Cavalli's in Irving is the best in the DFW area. Il Cane Rosso, is a very close second. Patrizio's is good. Many of you like Rocco's. It's okay by me. The great thing about Cavalli's is that it is the least expensive and it is the best. Fireside Pies? Well, we won't go there for now. All of the above are southern-Italy style thin-crust pizza. The New York style pizza which I like is getting harder to find.
Jake: Il Cane Rosso at Times Ten Cellar

Frozen Yogurt: Yogurtland is my favorite because it is good and it is inexpensive. Only 30 cents an ounce. Yogolait and Menchies are both excellent, as well. I hope the fro-yo trend sticks. I love the stuff.

Bread: Let's talk about bread for a minute. Most of us love a good loaf of bread. In my opinion, Artisan Baking Co. bakes the best bread, cookies, scones and assorted baked goods in town. Period. The more I shop there the more I believe that. Artisan's bread has a wholesome, clean taste, it stays fresh five or six days when covered, it's moist, it has a perfect texture, and it works great for toast, sandwiches, or just sliced with butter. Proprietors Gwin and Mark Grimes have a bigger vision, though, for which they can be commended: they use locally grown products, like eggs, wheat, and milk. That's not an easy commitment to make when you are competing with modern "economy of scale" purchasing, but they do it nevertheless, and for the consumer it means a fresher, better tasting product.
Jake: Sweet Potato Rolls at Artisan Baking.
Red Rooster Bakery. We have been to Red Rooster twice and I like their traditional French bread. Crusty exterior and great texture. Red Rooster promotes their use of a 24 to 48 hour fermentation which gives their bread a distinctive flavor. I'm not a baker. I don't know what that means. But I like their bread.
Public Service Announcement: Please continue to support our local bakeries, coffee shops, farmer's markets, restaurants, and merchants of all kinds. Large and small. 
Burgers: My current favorite is M&O Grill. Consistently good hamburgers. Five Guys on Hulen is new, and also one of my favorites, Smashburger is good, they are new, on University and in Arlington, and, drum roll please, In-N-Out Burger will be on 7th Street in 2011. I have not been to an In-N-Out, but everyone tells me they are good. Not new, but still good: Fred's, Kinkaids, Tommy's, Love's, Jakes. My least favorite "gourmet" burger is Dutch's and Pappas. Sorry, nothing personal, but that's the way I see it.
Sunni: Love Shack So7 Great burger with great atmosphere. Great place to take the kids.
Jake: M&O Station Grill

Coffee: Buon Giorno. New, with very good coffee. Buon Giorno roasts their coffee beans at their store in Grapevine. The Grapevine location has been operating for several years, in contrast to most independently owned coffee shops which have the lifespan of a tsetse fly. They must be doing something right. Avoca on Magnolia opens soon.  Aduro Bean is a local roaster with excellent coffee for home brewing. Cafe Brazil will be coming to Fort Worth at TCU, soon. More on that as it develops. I still like McDonald's coffee in the morning. Starbucks: I have loved you, but please bring Sumatra back. Pike's Place is nasty.

Steak and "Finer" Dining: I'm just not doing much anymore in this category. People tell me good things about Bonnells and Eddie V's. And of course, Saint Emilion. Your comments most appreciated in this department.
Becca (E): We love Eddie V's bar for drinks, dinner, and music.
Jake: Bonnells. Fantastic, their grits are insanely good..
Sunni: Eddie V's- I just haven't uncovered any weaknesses yet. For cocktails, Tillman's bar area. Warm peanuts, good drinks and selection of beers on tap. For a girl's night out: Winslow's, especially on the patio by one of the fires if it's a nice evening.

Italian Restaurant: My father and grandfather owned and operated an Italian restaurant. It's hard for me to get spaghetti and meatballs out even today, probably because I want to to taste my grand-pops sauce and never do. Nonna Tatta, La Piazza, Ruffino's (under new management) get good reviews. I have heard good things about Taverna, downtown.
Stephen: Patrizio's for everything. Our favorite restaurant.

Newcomer of the Year:
I'm going with Il Cane Rosso. That's good pizza.
Lunch at Terra Mediterranean Grill (started in Austin). Their babaganuesh is fantastic.

Angelo's on White Settlement is my old favorite. Cousins is good. Wilson's in the Meadowbrook area is my new favorite. Sorry Jenn, please don't stop reading.

Thai: Suk a Thai, in Arlington, is a repeat favorite of ours. Thai Tina gets good reviews from friends I trust, but I prefer Suk a Thai. I am never disappointed there.

Chinese: Like always: Help! I don't get Chinese food.

Best Hang-out restaurant-bar: Buttons on Hulen at I30.

Ice Cream: Braum's, $1.50 for a single dip of good ice cream.
Jake: Sweet Sammies (though they keep raising prices)

Favorite new fast-food: Jack in the Box Steak and Burrito taco. Not bad, not bad at all. I also like the KFC baked chicken breast. Very tasty.

Favorite Food Event of the Year: I doubt anything will ever surpass the Hatch Chili Festival at Central Market. I love the chili peppers, I love the pepper-filled air, and I especially love a hot, Hatch Chili sausage wrapped in a flour tortilla.

Best Developing Street, 2010: 7th Street has developed far more and more enjoyably than I expected. I still love to walk along Magnolia and think its development is the most promising in the long term. But right now 7th has it locked up.

Best Developing Street Still in Development. South Downtown near the Convention Center, St Patrick's, and Houston Place Lofts.That will help tie together all of downtown.

Best Retail News of the Year: Barnes and Noble on University is staying open. Great news. Second best retail news: Central Market has been painting, cleaning and generally updating the store. And speaking of  Central Market. I was pretty hard on them last year. The Fort Worth store, after nine years of pretty hard use, was looking run down and not quite maintaining the standard they had established -- but -- it's improving. They've cleaned, painted, and even repainted some of the needy areas. The aisles are less cluttered, the outdoor dining area is cleaner, the outdoor tables and chairs have been cleaned and varnished, and, the fresh food section has been updated a little. They had "set the bar high" nine years ago, maintaining that standard is harder than starting it, no matter what business you are in.

Hippest New Store I Will Never Visit: Anthropologie. New at University Plaza. The Anthropologie in Philadelphia is in the old Drexel family mansion on Rittenhouse Square. It's a beautiful building, but when I walked through the store a few years ago I got weird looks.

Hippest New Store I Do Visit: Apple

Hippest Store that I hope does well because she works hard marketing it but that I won't frequent because I'm too old: Dean-Kingston off 7th near La Familia. It's hard competing with the big clothing retail chains, you have to like it when someone does. 

Best Beer in the USA: Stephen: Dogfish Head IPA. Wins national awards, too.

Fast-food I do not get: Chick Fil A. What is it about a bad slab of chicken, a pickle slice, and a cold, white bun that people like?

Places that give me the eeba-jeebas: Chick Fil A, World Market, Ulta, any mall, Marble-Slab, IHOP, Waffle House, old Burger-Kings, Wal-Mart, TCC campus in Hurst. I have no idea why, maybe some psycho-analyst will find a connection.

Places that give me good vibes: Omni Hotel, Apple Store, Barnes and Noble on University, Magnolia Street, So7, Central Market, St Mary of the Assumption, Downtown Fort Worth, Trinity River Walking path just north of downtown,

Kevin Buchanan
Best post by a Fort Worth weblog writer: Steven Wade Smith's, piece on the family dog, Cassie. Also, Kevin Buchanan's work on the light rail.

Best New-to-Me Fort Worth Blog: Horsebits. Filled with interesting links, book reviews, charts, business-related information, and opinion.

Coolest Fort Worth related graph of the year: Where Americans are moving?

Almost Best Addition to Downtown: Light Rail. Didn't happen. I wish it would have. Yes, I'm a Republican, yes, I prefer a limited civil government, yes, I wanted the light rail to pass, and no, I don't want to talk about it.

Favorite TV ad of the year:  Apple TV ad. Apple gets advertising. Steve Jobs understands the TV "stimulus-response" medium. All the iPhone4 ads were good.

My favorite Radio Sports Talk: The Ticket, 1310 am. The Fan is making a run at them with the Ticket's former host, Greggo. Tough to beat Reins and Co. and I sincerely doubt they will.

Most Impressive Architecture: Dallas Cowboys Football Stadium. It may not be hosting a very good football team but it is one impressive piece of engineering. Best in Fort Worth is So7. It just works.

Greatest Sports News of the year: The Rangers beating the Yankees and making it to the World Series is not only my favorite event of the year but one of the highlights of my sports enjoying life. I still think about it. Second: ESPN's announcement to host their SuperBowl XLV show from Sundance Square. Very cool.

Favorite New Product of the Year (for us): Netflix, wireless, via the Wii. Love it. Cut the cable, too. Number two is the Kindle 3.

Worst Chain Restaurant Meal of the Year: El Chico's in Arlington on Collins. Just terrible.

Worst Movie I saw This Year. Expendables. The name says it all. Hey Sly. Dude. It's over.

Worst on video: Have You Heard about the F'ing Morgans? Booooring. And stupid, stupid, stupid. 

Worst Sound of the Year: Click here 

Trainwreck We Couldn't Stop Watching: Click Here

Best New Wine by the Glass: Becca: Times Ten Cellars, but don't forget Zambrano's.

Worst Tech Decision of the Year: GroupOn was offered $6 billion by Google and turned it down. Their IPO comes out late 2011. They're expecting to gen-up around 7 Bil from the offering, a little more than Google offered them. It all comes down to continued coupon sales which I do not think is a sure thing. Sorry, boys, there's already competition nipping at your heals. A $6B bird in the hand is worth more than . . .
Local Retail Store on My Pissed-me-off Radar: Half-Price Books.  My son-in-law had his expensive graduate school classroom books stolen from the trunk of his car. A few weeks later my son found one of the books at Half-Price with the original purchase receipt in it, and with my son-in-law's signature on the receipt. It was his book. So... Half Price Books buys books that have been stolen and resells them? I thought that was illegal.

Food-related Words I will Never Use: Foodie and Yum. As I have said before, if you are a guy and you are using the word Yum, you need to stop.

What I would like to see in Fort Worth about once a year: 
                                                                           Getty Images
Unchanged from last year's "Best of". Still the best:

View of Fort Worth: From the hilltop at Channel 5.

Best Bicycling: the bicycle/walking path on the north side of downtown.

Bagels: Yogi's on Hulen. They are good. The breakfasts are a little expensive for what you get but the bagels are still good.

Best Donuts: Pauls, off Magnolia. Good people, good donuts. Dale's gets lots praise from our readers. I love Dunkin' Donuts but the closest is in Hurst. Kountry Donuts on NW Hwy in Grapevine are the biggest donuts I've seen and very good. Whatever happened to the Krispy Kreme craze? They were always a little too sweet for me. My favorite donut is a fresh cinnamon and sugar cake donut, if you want to know.

Sandwich: Carshon's makes a good sandwich. Whichwich sandwich is a pleasant surprise for a chain store. For the money, Central Market probably still has the best sandwich in town, although I wish they had a "double the meat for a buck" deal like Subway.

Most Dependable Good Meal: Charleston's on Hulen. Okay, I'm 58 and 5 years younger than the average diner, but the food is still good.

Only Good Pool Tables in DFW: Dave & Busters / Dallas (also, real snookers table)

Beer Downtown: The Flying Saucer is still going strong. The Pour House opened on 7th St. this year and is busy, as did many others along 7th, like Durty Murphy's. Ginger Man still gets good reviews.

My favorite sushi: has always been Hui Chuan Sushi, on Camp Bowie. Blue Sushi Sake Grill on 7th is getting a lot of buzz. Confession: I haven't been out for sushi in a while.

Best Intimate Dining: Zambrano's downtown. Lili's on Magnolia. Both places: good people, great atmosphere, and good food.

Best Traditional Fine Dining: Since 1985, Saint Emilion has been serving Fort Worth traditional French cuisine. Same owner, same location. Great food, honestly priced. If you like a quieter atmosphere, good food, and personal treatment, this is the place.

Best Bookstore in North Texas: The used bookstore in Denton.

Best Bicycle Shop: Colonel's, on University. Panther City on Magnolia is closing, sorry to say, Trinity Bicycles is now open in the Magnolia Street area.

Most Under Appreciated Great Amenity: Trinity River Park, Botanical Gardens, Trinity River Trail. About 30 miles of paved walking and bicycling along the river and improving every year. Parks along the way. Tough to beat and not used much except along University.

Places that need your support:
1. Fort Worth Opera Festival, 2011.
2. Cowtown Farmer's Market.
3. Locally owned and operated shops, restaurants, bars, cafe's, bakeries, etc. 
"Best Of" ground rules:
  1. Some restaurants or shops are my favorites every year. I separated these selections and placed them at the bottom of the list so that I am not boring you with what you already know.
  2. Comment at will, please. Disagree at will, please. But mean-spirited or personal attacks will be deleted without comment.
  3. The list is not exhaustive. If your favorite is not on the list, please tell me. I want to know.
  4. The posts on this blog are my opinion. Sometimes it's an educated opinion, sometimes it's an impulsive reaction. I try to be civil and to treat every "reviewee" with respect, especially the ones I criticize. Sometimes, I get a little horsey, but not often.
  5. With the above in mind let me say this: some weblogs, magazines, and newspapers, are one puff review after another. I find that annoying and dishonest. If everybody is the best then nobody is the best.
  6. Names in blue are the favorites of friends and family: Jake, Sunni, Becca, and Stephen
  7. Please add your favorites in the comment section and disagree at will. Thanks for stopping by.


callie salls said...

I feel guilty about commenting on a "worst of" but I COMPLETELY agree with you about Yucatan Taco Stand. I can't stand the place and I think the food has been horrible more than a handful of times. Every once in a while, I will go for a margarita (or two) sans food.

cd0103 said...

So7th-- do you mean only So7th or does that include the West 7th development?

So7th by itself is a little lame right now, but if you are including both developments- you are spot on. Amazing progress!

Sunni R. said...

Nick and I were just talking about Carshon's the other day- thanks for pushing the craving to red alert levels, Mr. S.

Incaman said...

For me, the best Carne Asada I have ever had is at Uncle Julios. And they also have the best fajitas for my taste since they use the same skirt steak and marinade from their Carne Asada (or vise-versa).

Enjoy it with their Presidente Margarita!

Francis Shivone said...

Callie -- As a margarita hang-out place, I would like it.

cd -- I mentioned 7th St as a whole later on, I do think So7 is an impressive urban design.

Sunni -- thanks for your contribution, sorry for the over-edits, the post is too long.

Jorge -- I believe Uncle Julios and Pappasitos are the same recipes. I may be wrong. Thanks. Jorge would know. I want to hear about the Ireland trip, btw.

Anonymous said...

I will go to M&O again without the kids. Food was good but seemed like it was expensive for what we got. Loved 5 guys. Took my whole brood in there a couple months ago and it was a bustling Sunday. They had tables big enough for all of us and the kid noise just blended in with the crowd noise. Burgers were great and loved the fries too.

I went to Uncle Julio's last week and it was not as good as I remember. We've been to Chuys a few times and I like it. My caution would be do not let them seat you upstairs. We went on a cold night and it was so hot upstairs because of the heat being on that I felt sick.

LaFamilia is one of my favorites.

Went to Buon Giorno with Becca last week and really liked it. I'm not really a coffee drinker but I got apple cider and I loved the quiet atmosphere. Starbucks always seems so hectic and crowded to me.

Francis Shivone said...

You might be right Liz -- Tough to beat 5 Guys for the money. Thomas and I ate at the Chestnut St / Phila. 5Guys about once a week. I like Buon Giorno a lot but Stephen told me he thinks the we are their primary customer base. They need to be busier.

Terra Mediterranean Grill said...

Jake, thank you so for for naming Terra your "Newcomer of the Year". Although we are in the process of opening a location in Austin - we did not start there. We are Dallas-based and look forward to meeting more of you in 2011!

Francis Shivone said...

CD -- concerning the West 7th and So7 development. I noticed today, while I was on 7th, that you were right and I was wrong. Can I blame it on old age?

cd0103 said...

Funny. The entire area is cool, but West 7th is definitely the showcase of the area.

John said...

First, thanks for including Horse Bits in your Best of 2010. But keep in mind that your judgment on everything else is now in question.

And now for all my me-toos.

I prefer Cantina Laredo over Mi Cocina. One simple reason why is that we go to the Grapevine location so often that our waiter knows us by name now. (As for Martin.)

Benito's is also a personal fave.

I wept a single tear when your list of favorite burgers didn't include Charlie's. IMO opinion, it is superior to the others you list. Be sure to get the #3 or, as we call it, the "barnyard burger", so named because it has a piece of virtually every barnyard creature.

I don't get coffee shops.

For fine dining, Eddie V's has yet to disappoint. And that's odd cuz I'm not a seafood guy. I've been there with parties from 2 to 40 and it has always been good. I'm a traditionalist so for steak I'll always head to Del Frisco's first. And St. Emilion (where we recently had our office Xmas party) is everything you say - good food, good service, good for a quiet couple's evening.

BBQ: I'm a Cousin's fan. Brisket and sausage combo for lunch.

I don't get Chinese food either. It's not that I don't like it, but it doesn't inspire me. I also work with a real native Chinese person who says none of what we're eating is truly Chinese and she drives to some place in Plano for truly authentic Chinese.

I don't get Apple.

For best beer, I suggest Arrogant Bastard Ale from San Diego's Stone Brewing.

I don't get Chick Fil A either and refuse to eat there because the name is stupid.

I don't get Marble Slab. Why in the hell would I want someone to beat up my ice cream? (If I ate ice cream.)

Light rail - I don't understand why we'd want something with that much fixed infrastructure. I don't understand why buses wouldn't achieve the same end results.

Thanks for providing such an exhaustive list.

Francis Shivone said...

John -- As far as my judgment goes, even I don't believe half the things I say.

I go back and forth on Cantina Laredo and Mi Cocinas

Charlies: There is always someplace I leave out that should be included. I have never been to Charlies but I need to go, and will. Thanks.

I love Apple for the same reason I love McDonalds and Starbucks. They are always at the front of innovation, they get marketing, and they integrate disparate parts on a very large scale. It just impresses me.

Light rail: I'm a city boy. I don't want to own a car. It's purely my own interest that I would like to have it.

Thanks for comments.

Trinity Bicycles said...

Thanks for the Mention!