As the New Year begins, we attempt to look into our culinary crystal ball and predict what food and restaurants trends will emerge for 2013. Will diners continue to focus on local ingredients, or is visiting locally owned establishments “local” enough for most? Are craft cocktails still important? And what about those food trucks?
Waiting for Waters
“I think 2013 is an exciting year for Fort Worth,” said Russell Kirkpatrick, a man of many titles who’s deeply involved in Fort Worth’s restaurant community. He’s the current president of the Tarrant County Restaurant Association, executive director and co-founder of the coming Fort Worth Food & Wine Festival, planned for 2014, and a member of Reata management. “Jon Bonnell opening Waters in West Seventh should be one of the most anticipated openings of the year,” Kirkpatrick said. “Seafood done in an upscale environment has been a much needed addition to the Fort Worth dining scene, and Jon’s spin on it should be exciting to watch.”
Bonnell describes Waters, which is expected to open in March in the former Bailey’s Prime Plus space, as a venue for fine coastal cuisine that showcases his love for both fly fishing and hunting. Gift certificates can be purchased now at Bonnell’s Fine Texas Cuisine, his wild-game-focused restaurant that opened in 2001 in Southwest Fort Worth.
“Obviously, the local movement continued strong in 2012 and should do the same in 2013,” Kirkpatrick said. “As many people called it a fad, I like to think of it as a trend. It has staying power and the consumer will continue to seek places that feature local ingredients grown or raised close to DFW or Texas.”
Jamey Ice, guitarist for the Fort Worth-based band Green River Ordinance and first-time restaurateur as part-owner of Brewed on Magnolia Avenue, says diners are not only passionate about local eateries, but want to know where their food comes from for health reasons.
“I think there was more education about healthy and clean eating in 2012. You saw a big push for gluten-free foods and dishes made from scratch. You also saw a lot more people trying to avoid processed foods,” he said. “I think you will see more restaurants using local ingredients and serving local beers and wines, too. It’s one of the biggest reasons Magnolia Avenue is continuing to grow. There are so many options for great local venues.”
2012 saw a bigger emphasis on restaurant bars with the addition of Brewed, Rodeo Goat, Live Oak Music Hall & Lounge and Woodshed Smokehouse. All share a strong focus on unique craft beers and wine as well as craft cocktails using simple, fresh ingredients.
“I think the trend of ‘happening bars’ in restaurants will continue,” Kirkpatrick said. “We’ve seen the success that Adam Jones has had at Grace and the happy hour crowd at Eddie V’s. People tend to gravitate toward the restaurant bar scene as opposed to a regular bar. Mixologists will continue to push the envelope and drinks at the bar will become a focal point. Brad Hensarling at The Usual jumpstarted the trend in Fort Worth a while back, and restaurants are following his lead and rediscovering classic cocktails.”
Are food trucks finished? Not even close, says Chris Kruger, owner of Fort Worth Food Park. Although recent high-profile closings like those of The Wiener Man, Drifting Bistro and The Bacon Wagon have caused a commotion of “fading fad” comments, Kruger is not panicking.
“I think the general novelty of the food truck is off a little bit. There is more focus now on the food and operation,” Kruger said. “There are all kinds of individual cases as to why [some trucks have] closed. The truck business gives people an easier in route to operating their own restaurant and some people may not be as prepared for the rigors of what it takes. It takes time away from family. Sometimes it takes a toll on them financially. Each case is different. But we’ve seen an equal number, if not more, that have opened. It’s a trial-and-error process for some of these trucks. But the level of trucks coming out is better because they have a benefit of learning from other trucks.”
Kruger promises a continued focus on atmosphere and food quality at his food park, which opened in late 2011, although he says he’s receiving calls almost weekly to host chain mobile kitchens such as Dickey’s Barbecue, Pizza Hut and even Chick-fil-A.
“We haven’t focused on those types of trucks at the food park because we’re focusing on more local chefs,” he said.
Regarding the continued development of more food parks, Kruger says opportunity is being missed in other areas of Tarrant County, such as far southwest and North Fort Worth, along with Grapevine, Colleyville and Southlake, all areas where he regularly attracts customers.
“We’ve had several food parks open here in central Fort Worth but I feel like people are missing opportunities in other places.”