Flounder at Clay Pigeon.
1. Fort Worth’s best new restaurant of 2014 is Clay Pigeon
. You’d never know it’s chef Marcus Paslay’s debut. That’s because Clay Pigeon comes off like a seasoned veteran, from the spot-on service to the quality of the farm-to-table scratch-made food to even the decor – nothing here screams “first-timer”. I love the bone marrow and each of the pastas I’ve had have been incredible, certainly on the same level with Nonna Tata’s, another resto that makes pasta from scratch. My favorite dish is the flounder (which rotated off the menu a few months ago but may rotate back on soon). They recently opened for lunch and feature several items not available at dinner, like a pork schnitzel that I can’t wait to try. 2731 White Settlement Road, 817-882-8065.
Cowboy risotto at Bird Cafe.
2. Bird Cafe
may be old hat to those who live in Dallas, since the menu is nearly identical to Bird’s sister restaurant in Dallas, Meddlesome Moth. But it has been a wonderful addition to Downtown Fort Worth. It’s not very expensive, it’s quick and the American-inspired food has been consistently stellar. For lunch, I highly recommend trying the daily risotto (my fave is the “Cowboy Risotto” made with chili), the smoked chicken salad sandwich and the egg white frittata. At dinner, get the fish and chips, the rabbit pot pie or the crispy tofu. There’s an extensive wine list and craft drinks, too. The restaurant is in the 19th century Land Title Block building, which has been beautifully restored. 155 E. 4th St. 817-332-2473.
Beef tenderloin at Le Cep.
3. For years Saint-Emilion has been Fort Worth’s go-to for French cuisine. This year in stepped Le Cep Restaurant
offering a more modern take on classic French staples. Locally owned by a French-trained chef Sandra Avila and her wine connoisseur of a husband David, the restaurant offers two tasting courses with dishes that rotate monthly. Those dishes have include a phenomenal beef tenderloin, a cauliflower salad, venison tartare and for dessert a lovely raspberry ice cream. A server walks the floor with a cheese tray and they’ll hard sell the wine. You’ll spend a lot of money but you’ll have a truly unique experience. 3324 W. 7th St., 817-900-2468.
The Delia at Cane Rosso.
4. Still one of the hottest restaurants in Fort Worth with long waits on weekends, the Fort Worth branch of Dallas-based Cane Rosso
has been a delicious education for us all. But even if you don’t like Neapolitan pizza, the restaurant’s other dishes are just as good, like the gargantuan Cuban sandwich and freshly made pastas (my favorite is the meatball lasagna, served on Friday and Saturday night.) Even the salads are great. 815 W. Magnolia Avenue, 817-922-9222.
AF+B’s grass-fed burger.
5. The W. 7th district really needed another hit, and it got one when AF+B
(American Food and Beverage) opened earlier this year. Former Bolsa chef Jeff Harris reimagines American standards with grace and skill in a warm classy setting. One of my favorite things to do is have AF+B’s burger in the bar area, with its black-and-white tile floor, room-length mirror and windows that let you peer out onto the street. 2869 Crockett St., 817-916-5300.
Crispy rice and chicken at Pho & Grill.
6. Go for the pho. Please, go for the pho at Pho & Grill
. But go back for the crispy rice dishes, the vermicelli and the specialty drinks like Vietnamese coffee. This tiny resto, housed where Red Door Bistro used to be, has been a godsend to southwest Fort Worth, where chains usually rule. 4938 Overton Ridge Blvd. 817-292-3311.
Pork belly ramen at Hanabi.
7. It’s been wonderful seeing Fort Worth embrace new ideas, such as the city’s very first ramen restaurant Hanabi Ramen & Izakaya
. Chef Ito Takao makes an absolutely beautiful bowl of ramen, in addition to several other standout dishes, like chilled tofu and grilled beef tongue. 3204 Camp Bowie Blvd., 817-420-6703.
Dry Pho Ga at Pho District.
8. What Kenzo Tran did with sushi with his Piranha Killer Sushi, he’s now doing with Vietnamese food at Pho District
– that is, putting a fancy spin on it while also paying homage to the food’s roots. In addition to the four kinds of pho he serves fantastic pork belly buns, a chorizo-topped rice pancake and for dessert ice cream sushi. Decor is sleek and sexy, also like Piranha. 2401 W. 7th St., 817-862-9988.
Pork shoulder omelet with sweet potato & zucchini slaw at Righteous Foods.
9. I love the Austin spirit and bright colors of Lanny Lancarte’s new Righteous Foods
, his tribute to eating healthy (in the space occupied by his shuttered Mexican resto, Lanny’s Alta Cocina Mexicana). Nearly everything is locally sourced and/or organic, down to the ingredients in the booze and cold-pressed drinks. He serves breakfast, lunch and early dinner – from light items like yogurt and waffles to heavier dishes like burgers and flank steak. The sweet potato ravioli is a must. I do wish the prices were a tad lower. I’d eat there every day. 3405 W. 7th St. 817-850-9996.
Sausage and candied jalapeño pizza at Pizza Snob.
10. Pizza Snob
is a fast-casual pizza place that doesn’t taste like a fast-casual pizza place. The ingredients go beyond the typical and the thin crust is highly addictive. They serve a mean kale salad, too. It’s always packed with TCU students but I take my two kids all the time and we always feel comfortable and welcome. 3051 S. University Dr. 817-462-7662.