Critic Leslie Brenner: Fort Worth's scrumptious dining surprises

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If you think Fort Worth chefs can’t see past steaks and baked potatoes, restaurant critic LESLIE BRENNER has a few words for you

Smoked duck breast with turnips, local greens, cipollini onions and molasses at AF+B

 

photographs by JUSTIN CLEMONS

 

The bar at AF+B

How does lamb tartare with smoked egg purée sound? Or spectacular sea urchin from Santa Barbara? Or fabulous handmade tortillas enfolding huitlacoche — the corn fungus that is a delicacy in Mexico?For these, and many other treats, gastronomes in the know are heading to Fort Worth. Fort Worth — as in Cowtown? That’s right. For the first time in years, the Fort Worth dining scene has become so charged with creative energy that it seems half the restaurants on my must-get-to list are there.

A few of them, I’ve been to already — such as AF+B, in the fashionable West 7th Street district. Since the place opened in early January, the rustically handsome tavern has been the place for smart cocktails (like a smoky, vermouthy aperitif called Old Hickory), deviled Gulf blue crabs, venison sausage and majestic cuts of wood-grilled lamb or beef. Lunchtime at AF+B means smoked trout salad with grapefruit supremes and cotija cheese, or duck potpie. Chef Jeff Harris helped earn four-star reviews at Bolsa and the erstwhile Craft Dallas, once upon a time in a county more easterly.

AF+B's deviled Gulf blue crabs

 

AF+B's smoked trout salad

 

The Mezcal Margarita, Bourbon Sherry Cobbler and Old Hickory cocktails at AF+B

 

A bright-flavored red snapper ceviche at Revolver Taco Lounge

A few blocks away, stylish Revolver Taco Lounge has been drawing plenty of buzz. Where else can you savor tacos filled with tongue or huitlacoche in a chic, white-tablecloth dining room? Throw in mescal on the spirits list, homey dishes such as enmoladas (mole with handmade tortillas) and birria de chivo (roasted goat) and you’ve got quite the alluring destination.

Revolver Taco Lounge’s rustic-chic dining room

Veal-cheek tacos at Revolver Taco Lounge

From the folks behind Grace, the elegant dining room off Sundance Square that has lately been better than ever, we now have the more-casual Little Red Wasp Kitchen + Bar, which tops my shortlist of places to check out. Maybe Sunday brunch (chilaquiles, short rib Benedict) on the way to a show at the Kimbell?

Meanwhile, if you haven’t yet gotten to Little Lilly Sushi, which earned four stars in my Dallas Morning News review last summer, there is no time like the present. Its location in a nondescript strip mall might be the antithesis of fashion, but chef Jesus Garcia turns out some of the best sushi in North Texas: crisply wrapped hand rolls tangy with umeboshi (pickled plum paste) and fragrant with shiso; stunningly fresh mirugai (geoduck clam); and swoon-inducing uni (sea urchin).

OK, that’s it. I’m hungry. I’m heading west.

LESLIE BRENNER is the restaurant critic and dining editor for The Dallas Morning News. Reach her at lbrenner@dallasnews.com, twitter.com/lesbren or facebook.com/leslie.brenner.

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2 Comments

  1. Agreed, though I don’t know if it’s the first time in years.  I’d say the opening of places like Lanny’s, Ellerbe, Nonna Tata and Grace definitely started a trend.  I grew up in this area, and I remember when you could count the number of "good restaurants" in the entire Metroplex on two hands… now I can’t even count the number of "good modern American" restaurants on two hands.

  2. Also, don’t know how big a fan you are of Mexican street food, but Salsa Limon is the best at it, and has tongue and tripe tacos if you’re feeling adventurous…

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