Chicken roulade at Red Door Bistro. Above, the restaurant’s provolone-topped burger.
1. Red Door Bistro
: My pick for Fort Worth’s best new restaurant of 2013 is Red Door Bistro, opened by the Albanese family (Piola, Ruffino’s). From its strip mall facade, it certainly doesn’t look like much from the outside. The modest looks give way to a modern, stylish room and a menu that touches on all corners of the globe. Not one dish I’ve had there over the course of the year has been a dud – not the burger, beef flatbread, chicken & black bean crepes, hummus, chicken roulade or the savory beignets. Bigger and fancier restaurants have opened in Fort Worth this year, but they’ve been unable to match the consistency of the food and service at this little Southwest Fort Worth gem.
Goat cheese French toast with potato and corn hash at Magnolia Cheese Co.
2. Magnolia Cheese Co.
: It took a while for me to warm up to owner Elizabeth Northern’s quaint cheese-centric bistro on Fort Worth’s south side. Every time I went there was a long line at the counter and I would just give up and leave. After catching them on a slow day, I was instantly hooked on chef Jen Williams’ artisan cheese sandwiches and cheese boards. I was thrilled when the restaurant went from counter service to table service, doing away with the long, confusing line. Another bit of good news came when the restaurant introduced Sunday brunch. You must try the epic chèvre French toast. So good.
Potato and onion omelete at Sera.
3. Sera Dining and Wine
: Fort Worth needed a good tapas restaurant and we got just that when Sapristi
reopened as Spanish-French tapas spot Sera. Yes, the pig ear frites are good, but do try the lamb stew and potato omelet, two of my favorite things on the small menu, which also features larger plates such as rabbit confit. And I love that among the wine and beer list are bottles of soda pop and Reed’s Ginger Beer. Obviously this place doesn’t take itself too seriously.
Lean and fatty brisket, deviled eggs and potato salad at Billy’s Oak Acres BBQ.
4. Billy’s Oak Acres BBQ:
What a great year for barbecue in the Fort Worth area, with three new and very good places – BBQ on the Brazos
in Cresson and Jambo’s BBQ Shack
in Burleson and in Fort Worth proper Billy’s Oak Acres BBQ, located on the grounds of the old Hip Pocket Theater. Pitmaster Billy Woodrich will do your brisket however you want – lean, fatty, crusty, from the point, etc. His second language is barbecue. The sides and desserts are made on – site, like the stellar lemon pie and banana pudding. The decor is cluttery and rustic, about as “Texas BBQ joint” as you can get.
Crispy chicken sandwich at Little Red Wasp.
5. Little Red Wasp
: Sibling of nearby Grace
, Little Red Wasp’s prices are higher than what I expected, but I’ll gladly fork over $12 for the restaurant’s crispy chicken sandwich, which has been the talk of the town since LRW opened late this summer in the downtown area. I love the resto’s splashy colors and service has been spot-on during my visits. A big, big bonus – Late hours.
Chicken and waffles at Rachael’s Soul Food.
6. Rachael’s Soul Food
: Put this east side joint on your soul food radar. Run by local caterer-turned-restaurant-owner Rachael Smith, the tiny takeout joint serves fried chicken, neck bones, oxtails, chicken fried steak, catfish and all the trimmings. But I keep going back for the chicken and waffles – the fluffy, Belgian-style waffle is made to order, then topped with two chicken wings coated in a light batter with a peppery crunch. It takes a while to get your food, so patience is a necessity. They’re also open for breakfast.
7. Sol de Luna: Fusion restaurants always make me nervous. Instead of focusing on doing one cuisine right, they try to merge two, often with poor results. That hasn’t been the case with Sol de Luna, TCU grad Frank Sigala’s fast-casual marriage of Venezuelan and Mexican. Shrimp tostones and a massive pepito sandwich stuffed with pork have had me going back time and time again. Grab a coffee drink on your way out. The resto uses a high dollar Simonelli espresso machine.
Pork pepito sandwich at Sol de Luna.
Red enchiladas at Enchiladas Ole.
8. Enchiladas Ole
: If you devote your entire menu to one item, you better do it right. Luckily, Mary Perez has been doing enchiladas right since her sunny east side enchilada spot opened earlier this year. I can vouch for just about everything here, but my personal favorites are the old-school red enchiladas and the enmoladas, which rank as the best in the city.
Brussels sprouts at Pacific Table.
9. Pacific Table
: Where else in Fort Worth will you find a tuna sandwich, sashimi, Brussels sprouts, a rib eye and a fried oyster po-boy all on the same menu, not to mention all done very well? Thank chef Felipe Armenta whose second restaurant (he also owns The Tavern
on Hulen) offers a wide assortment of affordable and delicious dishes from both land and sea.
Ume opened this fall on Bryant Irvin.
Ume’s rainbow roll with tuna, escolar and salmon.
Pumpkin soup and lotus root.
: While it’s not a game-changer like Little Lilly or Shinjuku Station, Ume offers some creative dishes and solid sushi in an inviting, warm atmosphere. I’m infatuated with their pumpkin soup served with fried lotus root and the crispy yam french fries. There’s also a handful of Korean dishes like bulgogi and hot stone bibimbap. Save room for the green tea creme brûlée.
In compiling this list, I considered restaurants that opened December 1, 2012 to December 1, 2013. Feel free to comment with your favorite new local restaurant of 2013.