The Meat Lovers Guide to: Fort Worth
It’s the city where the west begins, home to the stockyards, real cowboys, and a tradition of chuckwagon cooking. Here’s where you should eat while in Fort Worth, carnivore style.
Fort Worth is the Texas you’ve been looking for. You know, the one where people still wear cowboy hats, and say howdy, and where boots are acceptable as part of formal wear. The one where you may even catch a huge set of horns on the front of a Cadillac. The one that you quickly realize is not in Dallas (and nor are they the same city!!).
I fell in love with the quaint character of Fort Worth – beautiful brick buildings and unique small businesses that make it feel more like a town than a city. I particularly love the connection with the beef industry, still visible at the iconic Stockyards, where old warehouses sit next to modern processing plants, and where they still parade an impressive herd of longhorn down the main street twice a day. It’s quite simple – if you are looking for universally romanticized version of the Lone Star State, you’re looking for Fort Worth.
So now you’ve picked the location, you gotta get the scoop on where to eat. Here are my picks for meat lovers, plus a few bonus tips.
Sometimes it’s the unexpected places that offer the most meaty treats. One would normally seek out a steakhouse for a beef-heavy menu, but this Modern American gem has a plethora of phenomenal options. Chef Marcus Paslay is serving up grilled bone marrow, Prime tartare, pork chops and even foie gras torchons. The real star is the Ribeye cap, or Spinalis steak, which is often hidden under the “chef’s daily cut” title, so be sure to ask about it. Clay Pigeon website.
Fred’s Texas Cafe
Keeping folks fuelled since 1978, Fred’s is a Fort Worth institution known primarily for their burgers. Their enchilada burgers is exactly what it sounds like, a burger patty topped with an enchilada, perhaps the ultimate Tex Mex fusion? They also offer a variety of loaded and smothered fries, and it can be difficult to choose between the queso or jalapeno bacon. Fred’s is also the place you can try a true cowboy delicacy: calf fries. Fred’s website.
Get yourself ready for #Heimtime! No matter who claims to have invented them, Heim made bacon burnt ends famous, and IMHO they are a mandatory item to add to your order! In addition to a large selection of smoked proteins (done the old fashioned way in stickburner pits) Heim have a sensational mac’n’cheese with the option to mix in a variety of pulled/shredded meats. Bonus points: they have a full bar an impressive brown liquor selection. Heim website.
The Woodshed Smokehouse
Austin patio vibe with a meat-centric menu, the Woodshed Smokehouse is the casual offering from Chef Tim Love. In addition to lamb brisket, pit master fat (filtered smoker drippings) there’s even a special menu for four pawed canine friends. There’s a huge amount of food to please all palates: ramen, banh mi pulled pork tacos and butchers sandwiches, but the real show stopper is the slow smoked beef shin platter. Woodshed is an open indoor/outdoor space so just be aware the in no AC in the summer (but there are plenty of cold Margaritas). Woodshed Smokehouse website.
Tacos La Banqueta
For many out of state visitors, Mexican food is a must-eat while in town. Any while Tacos La Banqueta is more Mexico City style than Tex Mex, it’s still some of the finest Mex-eats I’ve ever had the pleasure of stuffing in my face. Cabeza and Al Pastor tacos are best served with a healthy dose of spicy green sauce, and the “long” quesadillas are definitely worth an order. Bring friends to help you work your way through the inexpensive menu so you can also try the Huarache de Suadero – a sort of open faced thick and quasi-crispy tortilla covered in cheese and thinly sliced beef. La Banqueta page.
With a sister restaurant in the tiny town of Alpine, West Texas, Reata is a Fort Worth institution offering classic cowboy cuisine in one heck of a western setting. Start with a cocktail at the rooftop patio then head downstairs for a chicken fried steak, buffalo ribeye or pepper crusted tenderloin steak.It may seem cheesy, but if you’re after the kind of well-executed classic Texan restaurant that you may have spotted JR Ewing at, this is the Tex-perience you have been searching for. Reata website.
Swiss Pastry Shop
Don’t let the name deter you, because this may be the most important hidden gem tip I could share with a fellow carnivore. While Chef Hans has inherited a legacy of the most famous cake in the city (the Black Forest) he is kept up at night dreaming up mad genius burger combinations. Most folks don’t know about the incredible Akaushi beef burger offerings on the menu here, and it’s their loss! From the green-chile queso smothered Fort Worth Cheesesteak, to the honey sriracha onion jam goodness of the Killer Bee burger, Swiss Pastry is a must try. Keep an eye out for special collaborations like the Heim brisket kolache. Swiss Pastry website.
Panther City BBQ
BBQ trailer (and soon to be brick and mortar) Panther City is a shining example of modern Texas barbecue. Black crusted fatty brisket happily shares a tray with giant beef ribs and pork belly jalapeno poppers. Panther City offer a “hells half acre” tray, a generous platter of 6 proteins and two sides, perfect for sharing, or instagram opportunities! My standout dish were the brisket elotes – Mexican style cream corn piled high with smokey brisket, cilantro and cotija cheese. Panther City website.
Other must-do activities in Fort Worth:
- Keep an eye out for interesting food pop ups: like Magdalena’s who create incredible Mexican feasts that sell out quickly, and Joe Riscky Barbeque who’s using his multi-generation pitmaster lineage to create high quality modern ‘cue.
- Indulge your inner whiskey connoisseur: there’s a the more renowned Whiskey Ranch which has an incredible facility and tasting room, but my money is on the lesser known Trinity River Distillery, which produces Silver Star whiskey – penny for penny, the best value “everyday” American whiskey out there.
- Be a tourist at the Stockyards: a national historic district, the Stockyards was once home to cowboys, cattlemen and outlaws. Grab a drink at the White Elephant Saloon and explore the Western Wear stores, or visit the world’s largest Honky Tonk; Billy Bob’s.
- Get outfitted at The Best Hat Store: If there was ever a place to pull the trigger on a cowboy hat purchase, it’s in Fort Worth. And to shop where the real cowboys do, get yourself to The Best Hat Store. Quality of hats is measured in “X”s, and they will custom fit and shape on site.
- Pick up a pair of cowboy boots (at a frugal price!): While a hat may be a little tough to pull off when not in Cowtown, there’s ALWAYS opportunity to wear cowboy boots, no matter where you are! The Justin Boot outlet is a HUGE store with mens, womens, kids and workboot sections, and a hefty discount on all the floor stock.
I AM LUCKY ENOUGH TO BE A MEMBER OF THE FORT WORTH DESTINATION ADVISORY BOARD. ALL OPINIONS ARE MY OWN AND I’M EXCITED TO SHARE MY GENUINE RECOMMENDATIONS.
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Fort Worth is experiencing a renaissance of incredible barbecue, and fast becoming one of the MUST VISIT destinations for Texas BBQ pilgrimages....