Dallas & Fort Worth: the Texas Frontier's best food and drink
Discover the cutting-edge cuisine of two of Texas's great flavour frontiers – the vibrant cities of Dallas and Fort Worth – where, according to two local culinary luminaries, those in the know will be rewarded with phenomenal food
The cities of Dallas and Fort Worth combine many of the things visitors love so much about the USA's vibrant destinations: authentic local culture, and great food and drink. And with these two icons of the state of Texas serving up some of the best of both for generations, it's high time you discovered some of their unique stories, and dove into their rich culinary heritage.
With that in mind, we've rounded up two local food personalities who are among the best placed in each city to tell you more about their food and drink culture: Dallas-based chef Julian Rodarte, and Fort Worth food blogger and cookbook writer Scotty Scott.
Having spent the majority of his life living in Dallas – 22 out of his 29 years – chef Julian Rodarte can attest to its fertile ground for creativity and experimentation.
Dallas has provided me with great inspiration when it comes to our signature recipes. Perhaps the one that gets the most attention is the tableside liquid nitrogen margarita, which was voted ‘Best Margarita in Dallas’ three years running. The first frozen margarita machine was invented right here in the city by Mariano Martinez in 1971, and, like Mariano, I wanted to pioneer something innovative. Borrowing techniques gleaned from creating desserts in culinary school and following traditional guidelines (I believe a margarita only needs four ingredients: tequila, fresh lime juice, agave nectar and orange liqueur) I used liquid nitrogen to ensure that the frozen margarita never melts or becomes watered down, keeping it more balanced and boozy.
Playing the hits
The rich dynamism of Texan and Mexican culture, not to mention its fiery hot weather, has led me to lean into fresh seafood recipes such as the tuna tartare at Lexy’s and the ceviche tower at Beto & Son, which is sliced through with white wine, vinegar and agave, and best enjoyed with freshly fried corn tortilla chips. During the winter months I draw inspiration from my abuelita (grandmother) to create a ‘fideos’ – similar to a paella but made with chopped vermicelli – which I like to pad out with carnitas (pulled pork), fried egg and chilli.
A world of flavour
There’s a lot of cross-pollination in Dallas’s dining scene, and I find myself going back again and again to visit my favourite restaurants and the city’s top chefs. Royal China is an absolute must. Second-generation owners George and April Kao have been great mentors and have helped pave the way for immigrant-led, family-run Dallas institutions. Otherwise you’ll find me putting back crisp nori hand rolls at the horseshoe-shaped Namo sushi bar in
West Village, or pushing the boat out at Nick & Sam’s Steakhouse, where the food and hospitality is always gold-star standard.
There’s a reason many of America’s largest restaurant groups are relocating here. We as Dallasites love restaurants. We love to support our chefs and servers, and we love to eat! The commitment to the restaurant scene, to experimentation and innovation, is why Bon Appétit magazine named Dallas the “Restaurant City of the Year” in 2019. So, we invite you – come dine with us!
Find out more at visitdallas.com
As a food blogger, cookbook author and self-taught chef, Scotty Scott’s star is on the rise – he checks in with his home city of Fort Worth, which helped him along the way.
Fort Worth was only supposed to be a temporary layover for me, but it quickly cast a spell and became home. This was due largely to its community, as it’s a place where people encourage each other’s successes. Fort Worth embraced what I was trying to do as a chef and, six years after moving here, I’m still fascinated by the energy of the people pushing the city in new and exciting directions. I’d like to extend an invitation to come visit and taste the many flavours that Fort Worth has to offer. Here are some of the highlights.
The whole nine yards
The Stockyards development – a historic district in the centre of town which plays host to 41 bars and restaurants, 50 shops and the brand new Hyatt Hotel and Hotel Drover – feels like a cool indicator of Fort Worth’s evolution over the past five years. There are plenty of fancy, great eats nestled amongst a really fun, unique setting with its own rich history. People always say that Fort Worth is a big city with a small town heart, and The Stockyards is a great example of this.
Scene it all
The food scene in Fort Worth is going from strength to strength and there are a number of chefs really pushing it forward. Jon Bonnell is one of the great talents of the city, with his seafood restaurant Waters and farm-to-table grill Bonnell’s, and is just as beloved for his philanthropy as his cooking: he was on the frontlines during the COVID crisis. Sara Castillo really knows how to build a brand and push product, and her Mexican joints – Tinies, Taco Heads and the recently launched Sidesaddle Saloon in the Stockyards – are some of the best in the city.
Cut the 'cue
Texas is all about the brisket – it’s the jewel in the barbecue crown – and we can almost be a little obsessive about it; but Smoke-a-Holics is doing some really innovative takes with different cuts and meats. In the same barbecue vein, Sam Won Garden is my favourite hidden gem. Tucked away in a strip mall in the southside of Fort Worth, they do some of the best live-fire Korean cooking in town.
Dishing it out
I’ve found that residents here have been really curious and supportive of my cooking, which could loosely be described as soul food with a lot of twist. Whether it’s my signature gouda, apple, mint, truffle butter grilled cheese; my brown butter chicken waffles with sweet potato and maple bourbon sauce; or my take on shrimp and grits with blackened shrimp and fried polenta – they’ve given me a lot of love. We really hope that visitors to Fort Worth can feel it – and would love to see you drop in soon to try some of our delicious eats!
Find out more at fortworth.com
Where to eat in Dallas and Fort Worth
The Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex really brings the flavour, from city staples like barbecue or Tex-Mex to less trodden territory like New American small plates, spicy Szechuan or smouldering Korean. If you’re visiting either city, you’ll want to drop in to these restaurants for a true taste of Texas.
Beto & Son
Literally a next-gen Mexican restaurant, Beto & Son is a father-son operation serving a number of must-have dishes, including liquid nitrogen margaritas, ceviche towers and enchiladas verdes.
Aaron Franklin of Austin’s seminal Franklin Barbecue and James Beard award winner Tyson Cole have collided to create Loro – a fusion of Japanese izakaya and Texan smokehouse concepts.
Situated in the Oak Lawn district, Namo bills itself as a “product restaurant”, led largely by the ingredients it imports from Japan. Grab a pew at the bar for sushi or at a table for multi-course omakase.
An institution in the Preston Hollow district, Royal China offers some of the best Cantonese cuisine in the city, running the gamut from steamed buns to soup dumplings and everything in between.
Nick & Sam’s Steakhouse
If you’re after the steakhouse experience par excellence there isn’t much better than Nick & Sam’s Steakhouse, which serves perfectly prepared cuts from local cows.
Joe T Garcia’s
For Tex Mex of a certain vintage, point it to Joe T Garcia’s, which has been plying its trade since the heady days of 1935. You’ll want to go old-school with fajitas, enchiladas, nachos, tacos and chile rellenos.
Get a taste of Creole cooking at the Tributary Café in Fort Worth’s River East district, which specialises in traditional dishes ranging from crawfish etouffee to shrimp gumbo to boudin balls.
For farm-to-table fine dining in Fort Worth, Bonnell’s ticks all of the boxes, drawing inspiration from Southwestern, Creole and Mexican cuisines to devastatingly delicious effect.
Run by Sara Castillo, Tinies serves some of the best flavours from south of the border in Fort Worth. Come for the tacos, but make sure to save space for tamales, empanadas and ceviche.
Sam Won Garden
Want to dust down a hidden gem? Head to Sam Won Garden in the South Hills neighbourhood for excellent, authentic Korean barbecue.
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