For a comprehensive list of downtown dining:
Many of our best steak and chop houses are planted in downtown – Del Frisco’s, Ruth’s Chris, Bob’s and Chop House are all there to make sure Fort Worth earns its moniker Cowtown.
But as downtown has become not just a central business district but a walkable, livable neighborhood as well, a variety of unique flavors and diverse cuisines have begun to take their place as dining options.
Some predate downtown’s rebirth: Bailey’s Barbeque has been smoking barbeque out of its time-warp, red building for generations. Located across from the Fritz G. Lanham Federal Office Building and with precious little sit-down space, Bailey’s does a brisk take-out business at lunchtime.
One of Fort Worth’s go-to Italian restaurants, Taverna Rissotteria, never fails. This is the place to go for a wood stone pizza with a crispy crust, or to linger with a glass of wine and a bowl of steamed mussels. Taverna’s pasta and risotto dishes are simply some of the best in town. Vivo 53 is another Italian favorite, especially for happy hour and brunch.
La Perla Negra is filling an entirely different niche. True Peruvian ceviche is the specialty and tequila is the drink of choice. The delicious selection of tequila-based cocktails is worth checking out.
For seafood, Daddy Jack’s is a quaint New England crab house. Some of my favorite dishes are the rich and robust lobster bisque, the pecan breaded rainbow trout and the occasional crab claws in lemon butter sauce.
Then there are a few restaurants that were so successful they spawned a spin-off nearby.
Take for instance, Grace and Little Red Wasp. The common thread between these two has nothing to do with the menu or décor (nothing at all). But both bear the indelible fingerprints of chef Blaine Staniford and owner Adam Jones. “Chef Blaine is very talented.” says Jones. “We travel all around tasting new things. Grace is my nod to what a great restaurant should be … with unique and creative menu items. But when we were looking at doing another restaurant together, we decided that casual dining is easier to grow.” Where Grace is modern and polished, Little Red Wasp represents the picnic and tailgate side of their personalities.
Jones will celebrate his 40th year in the restaurant business this year. “I have been on Main Street for 24 of those years,” he says. Downtown has changed a lot during that time. “There were only a handful of things to choose from – a lot has come and gone, too. We have quite a bit of corporate dominance in downtown, but there are still some great examples of one-of-a-kind eateries, like ours.”
Mi Cocina Mexican is a chain that has been sprinkled liberally around the Metroplex but is loved for its modern interior design and consistent execution. The success of Mi Cocina spun off Taco Diner, which now boasts six locations. Taco Diner has a limited menu centered on tacos and salad, and at a more moderate price. The coveted location overlooking Sundance Square and the potent mambo taxi drink make it a delicious draw.
After making downtown a destination for both dining and drinking with his (formerly glorious) 8.0 Restaurant and landmark Flying Saucer Draught Emporium, Shannon Wynne went back to the well and opened Bird Cafe on one spectacular corner of the newly minted Sundance Square at the end of 2013. Wynne has a few other restaurants and bars under his belt – Meddlesome Moth, Lark on the Park, Flying Saucer Draught Emporium (with 16 locations and counting), Flying Fish (with eight more), Rodeo Goat (now in Dallas and Fort Worth), and the new Mud Hen in Dallas Farmers Market, which he opened in January.
Chef David McMillan has a long history with Wynne and his 8.0 Management. McMillan’s menu put Meddlesome Moth on the map in Dallas with its similarly elevated pub appeal before he was tapped to launch Bird Cafe.
“Sundance is really the new hub of downtown. While there is not really the retail traffic to support it yet, we have all seen the master plan and are excited about the continuing long-term growth of the area,” said McMillan. “Planned retail like H&M will be an additional draw, and when weather is nice or Sundance hosts events like the Wednesday night movie series, our patio is always full. Bird Cafe will be a permanent fixture here.”
Last but not least, downtown is also home to some classy and creative Asian cuisine. P.F. Chang Chinese is a massive chain with a long history, but it is still a staple on Throckmorton Street. Owner/chef Kenzo Tran’s Piranha’s Killer Sushi is well-known for bringing the heat with unique twists and flavor combinations that are not typical of Japanese sushi. Then there is Hoya Korean, which is one of the only Korean restaurants in town. Hoya draws a crowd at lunchtime, especially for its affordable and fast lunch bowls. The downtown dining scene is a diverse mix and growing to meet demand.