The overload of trendy Dallas-based chains setting up shop in Fort Worth is a bit of a touchy subject for locals. As grateful as we are for restaurants like Velvet Taco or even Austin brands like Torchy’s Tacos, they tend to overshadow our homegrown ventures. Fort Worth has lots of hometown chefs, even if their names aren’t well-known outside of the 817.
Fort Worth’s food scene is still young enough to have glaring holes in our food offerings; non-chain seafood restaurants are still relatively rare, as are authentic Korean and Filipino restaurants.
But folks in North Texas may be familiar with some of our more established chefs: Jon Bonnell has long been known for heading Bonnell’s Fine Texas Cuisine, while Tim Love is perhaps best-known as the chef behind Lonesome Dove in the Stockyards. A youngish crop of pioneering chefs is also elevating the fare in Fort Worth.
River East is home to a new Latin seafood restaurant and cocktail bar called La Onda. The refurbished blue bungalow is as unpretentious as the venture’s husband and wife team, Victor and Misty Villarreal. The restaurant, which specializes in ceviche, caviar, and mild smoked fish, has garnered rave reviews and awards since opening just a few months ago.
Marcus Paslay recently opened Provender Hall in Mule Alley, the development that revamped Fort Worth’s historic mule barns in the Stockyards. Paslay is best known for Clay Pigeon Food & Drink and Piattello Italian Kitchen. Provender Hall pays tribute to classic Texas and Southern dishes, using wood-burning ovens and stoves that replicate how those dishes would have been prepared 100 years ago. It’s a fitting tribute to the Historic Stockyards District!
The jovial, red-haired sandwich maven at Wild Acre Camp Bowie is one of the most instantly recognizable chefs in Fort Worth. After a six-year stint at Gas Monkey Bar N’ Grill in Dallas, David Hollister, a Fort Worth native, took over as the head of food operations at Wild Acre Brewing before becoming executive chef at the popular brewpub in Ridglea Hills. Hollister makes pretty much everything in-house. One recent sandwich featured golden-friend pollock, fire-roasted jalapeño jam, English cucumber, red onion, “Funkytown” slaw, and aioli — all on a toasted onion roll.
Even great chefs can struggle to open a restaurant successfully. Felipe Armenta is the founder and owner behind four of Fort Worth’s most-prized restaurants: The Tavern, Pacific Table, Press Cafe, and, his newest, Maria’s Mexican Kitchen. Armenta has elevated casual Tex-Mex into delectable and immaculately plated dishes that include spicy vera cruz, West Texas cheese, and chicken mole enchiladas, among many others. Vibrant, Mexican-themed artworks and posh decor have made this a local hotspot.
Fort Worth’s famous mohawked chef, Stefon Rishel, opened Wishbone & Flynt on the Near Southside with the intention of building community around food. Rishel sources 90% of his famous seafood dishes from the Gulf Coast. Some of his other popular offerings include the PB&J Chicken Wings (Thai peanut sauce, blackberry coulis, cilantro), lamb shank (braised volcano lamb shank, crispy polenta, herb salad), and PEI Mussels (white beans, Spanish chorizo, tomatoes, white wine).
Fort Worth’s restaurant scene has blossomed over the past 10 years, and much of that growth is driven by homegrown chefs who have created unique dining experiences from our city’s history of Texas cuisine, Mexican traditions, and Southern classics.