Thursday, April 6, 2017

The Worst "Best of Fort Worth" Ever. 2017.

I begin with an apology: this is an incomplete list.

It's incomplete because Fort Worth and its contiguous burgs have gotten too big for this old guy to cover. And because my eating-out interests have narrowed.  The result of which is a "Best of" list that doesn't include dozens of new restaurants scattered around Fort Worth.

I'm not saying that the wife and I have defaulted to the LuAnn special at Luby's on Friday night. We're haven't--yet--but with the children gone we like our quiet dinners at home with Netflix.

Notwithstanding, here are my favorites and some observations. If you have any thoughts I'd like to hear them, or if you think another restaurant should be considered a "Best of Fort Worth" please let me know. I'd like to try it.

We start with pizza...

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Philadelphia-style pizza: Picchi-Pacchi downtown. Nothing fancy but their pizza and calzones are as Philadelphia as you'll find in Fort Worth. Good people, too. Unfortunately, they're only open in daylight hours during the week. They moved from their Main Street location to 411 W. Seventh. Just south of the YMCA.

Neopolitan pizza: I guess you have to say Cane Rosso. I'm not as quite as excited about it as everyone else. My favorite Neopolitan style is still Cavalli Pizza in Lewisville and Irving. I have heard that Central Market is making fire-cooked pizza on Friday and Saturday nights (this from my granddaughter just to show how out of touch I am). Cibo Divino just west of Dallas has great woodfire-cooked pizza and a deli and is great place to meet Dallas-bound friends for lunch.

A Cibo Divino Pizza

Ice cream: As I've mentioned before you're welcome to pay $5.50 for a single dip at Marble Slab if you want. Seriously, five dollars and fifty cents for a single dip. I'll take the single dip at Braum's for $1.50. Does the Marble Slab ice cream have 1% higher fat content? Probably, but I can't tell.

I haven't quite caught on to the Paciugo movement but I do like a good fro-yo with toppings in the summer sometimes and go to Yogurtland in the Montgomery Ward Plaza.

I'm happy to see a place like Melt Ice Creams open up and keep improving. They have moved to Magnolia and seem to be doing well.

Better "Street Tacos": I like Torchy Tacos. But really most of these Fuzzys type taco places are good in my experience. Most of the time for lunch I'm happy with the tacos at Taco Bell because I'm a cheap SOB and the Fuzzy's-type places have a very high ratio of millennials per square foot.

Mid range Mexican restaurant: I like Lupe's in Arlington. Their brisket tacos are as good as you can get and their food is made fresh. Locally owned and operated by people who care about customers. I also like Benito's on Magnolia. Their pork tacos are fantastic and I can't eat all three of them in one meal. I tried La Familia again recently. They've fallen off the cliff. See Tacos Los Tavares below. My new favorite.

Finer dining Mexican:  Pappasito's is not fine dining but their fajitas deserve to be in the high-end category. Pappasito's serves the best fajitas in town period. They're tender, perfectly marinated and the side dishes served with the fajitas complement them well. The medium serves 1-2 and it's fair to say that when all the fixings are included two people will not leave hungry. Price: $29, which is not bad all things considered.

Mi Cocina isn't what it once was but it is a great location downtown and the outside seating is an enjoyable setting for dinner. Also fading in my view is Taco Diner on Sundance Square. Sorry. We've been twice in the last year and the quality has declined. Great location though. We tried downtown's new Wild Salsa: first, the "Day of the Dead" theme does nothing for me, second, the portions are small and the tacos are mediocre.

In contrast, Taco Los Tavares, not in the finer dining category as far as the atmosphere and location, but the food is high quality, served hot and reasonably priced. The pico de gallo is excellent. It's the best new authentic Mexican restaurant in the area.

My daughter and wife like the Southwestern cuisine at Blue Mesa. Blue Mesa has been as successful as any restaurant in Fort Worth for about twenty years now. Successful enough to move out of University Park Village and build their own much larger facility off 7th Street near the Target. It's a very good-looking restaurant. Sometimes I get Blue Mesa and sometimes I don't. Most of the time I don't.

I'd love to see an authentic fine-dining Mexican restaurant in Fort Worth of any kind. I've been to some great ones in central Mexico and when it's right it is without question my favorite cuisine. If you've ever had real slow-cooked mole' you know what I mean.

In no particular category but worth a mention since it also is on Sundance Plaza: Bird Cafe. Good food. Great location.

Tom Thumb West 7th Street


Up-market Groceries: Central Market is still the best even if they stumbled on my last visit to the bakery department. It happens. Fort Worth loves Central Market and for all the good reasons. The new Whole Foods on Bryant Irvin may dent the activity at Central Market but I don't think so.

Eatzi's, on the other hand, is competition for CM in the prepared foods segment. Eatzi's is opening their first Fort Worth store at the old Chili's on University. Eatzi's is more prepared foods than it is groceries and they'll take a place in the high-end food sales. I think the Eatzi's bakery is the best of the "grocery store" bakeries. The breads are consistently good, the cookies and pastries are great, and their almond croissants are as good as you can get anywhere.

I just got back from the grand opening of the new Tom Thumb on West 7th. Impressive, very impressive. It's a Central Market style combination of groceries, bakery, deli, coffee bar, and beer and wine bar in a contemporary grocery store setting.  It looks the part of a West 7th grocery store. Based on the crowd I'd say they are off to a good start and the perfectly cooked deli roast beef at $8 a pound worked for me.

The Target nearby does very well in food sales. Add 1400 new apartments under construction in the Left Bank and there's fixin' to be a whole lot more folks shopping around there.

The challenge for Tom Thumb is to keep the prepared foods fresh and high quality -- at a profit. It's a restaurant within a grocery store and restaurants require chefs, quality control, and lots and lots of help day after day. I'm not saying Tom Thumb can't do it. I'm saying it's hard to do and expensive to do, and big corporate accounting offices like profits, not expenses. Count the number of employees the next time you're in an Eatzi's. They're everywhere but that's what it takes to provide good customer service and good food.
(A month later: After visiting Tom Thumb several times now I'll say their fresh market/deli foods are too generic to appeal to the demographic of their location. Compare a sandwich at Eatzi's with a sandwich at Tom Thumb. Similar price but if Eatzi's is an 8.5 Tom Thumb is a 5 and that's being generous. Same with the pizza: frozen pizza dough with average to below average sauce and cheese. To be blunt: the sandwich and the pizza were terrible. The pepperoni was good. In my opinion, they'll have to do better if they want the prepared foods to be successful. The exception in their deli area is "The Wok." It was fresh, hot and reasonably priced.)
While we're talking about Tom Thumb, the new small-footprint Tom Thumb on University appears be doing well after replacing Fresh Market which bombed (deservedly) from day 1.

Bakery: I'm not sure why a city as big as Fort Worth doesn't have a bakery where you can get an honest baguette or Italian roll. As stated abovethe best bread in DFW is made at Eatzi's. Black Rooster bakery is okay but expensive. Panera Bread baguettes are very good, not great maybe, but they're good and relatively inexpensive. Great Harvest Bread is new on Magnolia. I like their white sandwich bread. It's hearty and good for sandwiches and toasting. And Bread Winners Bakery & Cafe is opening soon at the old Blue Mesa location at University Park. They have a Dallas location but I've never been.
(Just reported today: Panera Bread sold for 7 billion and change and will go from a publicly traded company to privately held. The new owners will keep the same management. Panera Bread is a restaurant chain that did things right and it paid off.)
Chinese: Cannon. I like it. Their menu according to their website is "inspired by traditional Chinese cuisine." It's certainly not your typical American Chinese restaurant, and as I say, I like it a lot. I'm told their happy hour specials are good and inexpensive.

Thai: Spice on Magnolia was once my favorite. No more. Not sure what happened there but it's very mediocre. I've tried most of the Thai restaurants in Fort Worth proper. None of them draw me back for a second visit.

Coffee: It's hard to find a good espresso, I don't know why, but it is. If you read the post on Coffee Folk you know that the best coffee in Fort Worth is Coffee Folk in the Meadowbrook area. Honorable mention goes to Buon Giorno. Also, Buon Giorno's panini sandwiches are very good. (Speaking of sandwiches, I think the Which wich toasted ham and cheese sandwich is excellent. Good bread, a good portion of meat and cheese and fresh ingredients. I go to the Lincoln Square location in Arlington.)

Better Burgers: Five Guys is still my favorite for a consistently good combination of burger and boardwalk fries. The last time we were in the downtown Five Guys they were understaffed and the place needed a good cleaning. Tommy's, once my favorite in Fort Worth is way below average these days. John at Horsebits blog suggests Charley's on the southside of Fort Worth. I finally made it over there the other day. Excellent burger and fries. Chop House Burgers of Arlington has a new location downtown Fort Worth. I liked the burger, but it was slightly overcooked which may have been my fault because I asked for it cooked medium. The fries are the thin McDonald's-like fries, not the fresh cut boardwalk fries which I prefer. I'm told the burger at Del Frisco's Grill on the Sundance Square Plaza is very good.
Burger news: Last week McDonald's changed their quarter-pound burger from a frozen patty to a fresh meat patty. I ordered one and I think it's a little better than before but until they change the operations from a "pre-grill and hold" back to the "grill and serve" they will be just another bad burger. 

Italian: I stopped looking for good Italian food in FW years ago. ( I mean pasta, sauce, meatballs, bread, etc.)


WHAT'S NEW OR OPENING SOON 
FOOD, SHOPPING, ENTERTAINMENT, LIVING, OUTDOOR ACTIVITY, ETC. 

If North Texas continues to grow in population and the new developments succeed, Fort Worth will be a city built along the Trinity river. Developers and the City of Fort Worth are developing from Gateway Park on the east, which will be a 1,000 acre developed park, through downtown, to University Drive then onto Bryant Irvin Road on the west; of the following nine developing areas, only two are not on the river.

West 7th Street
More restaurants, bars, apartment complexes, shopping and the Left Bank (see below). No area in our city has seen more change than 7th Street. And with that comes success and failure especially for restaurants. Gone are: Patrizios, Fireside Pies, the two places on the corner whose names I don't recall, Fort Worth Marketplace, the bowling place. Fred's is still doing well. Times Ten has been there from the start and doing well as is Terra Mediterranean. Left Bank will add a new dimension to the area and make it more of a destination than it already is.

7th Street Left Bank
The difference between the average working man and a real estate developer is that the latter bets on population growth and demographic trends continuing and risks millions of dollars on that bet. The trends are two: North Texas is growing like a weed, and, alongside that, baby boomers and millennials are moving back to the city. The Left Bank developers believe that those two trends will continue for a while. I agree but that's one hell of a lot of apartments they're building.  http://www.centergyretail.com/properties

Downtown
Convention bookings are increasing and, we are told, they'd increase more if there were more hotel rooms. Sundance Square Plaza has been a huge success and draw for conventions.  Restaurants and bars seem busy and believe it or not retail clothing stores have returned to downtown.

Magnolia and Near Southside
It will always be my favorite section of Fort Worth. Anchored by St Mary's on the east and the hospitals on the west something new is moving into the Near Southside. almost daily and when Main Street construction is completed it will grow even faster.  Besides all the new bars and restaurants the stained glass windows at St. Mary the Assumption are a Fort Worth treasure.
For a short but thorough review of the revival of Magnolia and the old "Medical District" see this recent article in Fort Worth Business Press.

Panther Island
If it succeeds, and there's no guarantee it will, it will be the anchor for Fort Worth as a city built along a river. Critics don't like the cost which I understand. I think it's a risk worth taking. Panther Island.

Clearcreek is the western edge of the river development.  The Farmers Market, Trailhead, shopping center and walking and bike path along the river make it a destination. Can Clearcreek's new Neiman Marcus make it today in the age of Amazon? I'll be surprised if it does but I'm often surprised.

East Rosedale and Texas Wesleyan
I love what Texas Wesleyan has done with their campus and surrounding buildings. The only food establishment thus far is a Subway but I'm told more will be added soon.

Riverside North of I30
Yes, I said Riverside, a once thriving neighborhood just north and east of downtown. If you don't believe me drive over there on a Friday night. Martin Brewery, right on the river is packed. And nearby, soon to open, Top Golf which you have to see if you like creative sports/entertainment ideas. It's a driving range like Disneyland is a park.

Gateway Park
1000 newly developed acres along the river, north of I30 between Riverside and Oakland. Ball fields, walking and bicycle paths, dog parks, basketball courts, etc. The Gateway Park development


3 comments:

John said...

Thanks for the mention, but more importantly I'm glad you liked Charlie's. I always get the huge #3.

There's a new Mex place on Magnolia called Paco's (http://www.pacoscuisine.com/) which I found to be very good.

Maybe there will come a weekday when we can meet for lunch.

Francis Shivone said...

Thanks John, I haven't been to Paco's but will visit. Lunch sounds good, I'm free later this week but pick a day that's good for you. Do you have my email address? I thought I had yours but couldn't find it.

John said...

This week is way too busy. Email me at john.chawner at gmail.com and we'll get something on the calendar.