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Fort Worth, TX City Guide

fort worthPhotos by Libby Pettit Johnson

Today’s Fort Worth, TX, City Guide comes from the wonderful Libby Pettit Johnson at byrd & bleecker. Libby is known for curating an incredible selection of paper goods and fun items in her store, and today she curates an incredible guide for the Fort Worth area. Thanks, Libby, for this excellent tour through “The Fort!” — Stephanie

Read the full guide after the jump . . .

Fort Worth is one of the best-kept secrets this side of the Mississippi. A melting pot with an internationally renowned art scene, good ol’ down home cattle drives, Rose Bowl champions and people without an ounce of pretension, Fort Worth, or “The Fort” or “Funky Town,” as residents like to call it, is an approachable city full of surprises. If you only have one day, prioritize with the Kimbell and Modern, dinner at Ellerbe’s or Shinjuku Station, and cap it off with a spin on the dance floor at Billy Bob’s or a stroll through the stockyards at night.

fort worth DOWNTOWN / STOCKYARDS

Downtown Fort Worth is where the West begins. Anchored by historic Sundance Square and brick-paved streets, Downtown is a mix of urban cowboys and corporate raiders. As you travel north on Main Street behind Tarrant Country’s pink granite courthouse (which, despite its beauty, resulted in all of the building’s proponents being voted out of office), you’ll arrive at the Fort Worth Stockyards.

Do

Fort Worth Stockyards — Four million cattle and one coin toss decided the fate of this unlikely crossroads and what gives Fort Worth the nickname “Cowtown.” Enjoy the Stockyards Museum, watch the daily cattle herd (11:30 a.m. and 4 p.m. daily with real, live, working cowboys and cowgirls), or just stroll the cobblestone streets to take in the culture, entertainment, and attractions.

Cliburn Concerts at Bass Hall — Bass Hall is home to the Fort Worth Symphony OrchestraTexas Ballet Theater, Fort Worth Opera (see below), and the Van Cliburn International Piano Competition. The Van Cliburn Foundation is a Fort Worth tradition unlike any other. Although the competition is only held once every four years, the three years in between are filled with concerts hosting the world’s leading classical musicians.

Fort Worth Opera Festival — “Opera.” Don’t let that word scare you. Fort Worth Opera produces all of its operas in the span of just a few weeks during our spring festival, beginning May 12 this year. It doesn’t matter if you are a seasoned opera-goer or a newbie, you will be captivated by superb performances and marvelous music in the city “Where the West Begins” and opera thrives.

Shop

Texas Rangers Team Shop — You’re probably thinking, “Fort Worth has a pro sports franchise?” Well, technically speaking, we have two (maybe three, but I’m not convinced about the Mavs). After two years’ worth of ALCS and World Series games, we’re pretty baseball crazy in these parts. Grab a red shirt with blue and white “TEXAS” on it if burnt orange shirts aren’t your thing for a souvenir. And for those who like the minor leagues, we also have the Fort Worth Cats.

Leddy’s — This legendary boot and saddle shop has everything you need (and then some) to look the part of cowboy or cowgirl. They’ve got two locations, one on North Main by the Stockyards, and one conveniently located on Sundance Square in downtown. For those who think western wear (fringe, rhinestones, and the like) isn’t their thing, worry not; just dig a little and you’ll find something your wardrobe has been missing.

Eat + Drink

T&P Tavern — Located in the Trinity Railway Station, this bar is a time capsule from a different era. Sit alongside the tracks underneath the fans and enjoy live music and local beer. At night, the light sculptures along Lancaster Avenue will guide your way back to a downtown hotel.

Billy Bob’s — The “World’s Largest Honky Tonk” is a required stop on your tour. Saddle up to a bar in the enormous venue, order a cold Shiner, then stay tuned for live music. Billy Bob’s hosts everyone from local Texas musicians to Willie Nelson and Rick Springfield (yes, that Rick Springfield, as in “Jessie’s Girl”). Music not your thing? There’s a mechanical bull, pool tables, and dance lessons, too.

Lonesome Dove — Chef Tim Love has a monopoly on creative dining concepts in Fort Worth, and with good reason. His sophisticated interpretations of western cuisine are like no other, and the atmosphere in all of his restaurants is rockin’. Those who worry that Texas cuisine will be too heavy should worry not: He focuses on flavor first, and you can find a fusion fish taco just as easily as you can find a heavy meat-on-meat combo.

Grace — Perfect for pre- or post-theater drinks and modern American fare. The outdoor terrace faces Main Street, and on a pleasant night, it can be packed. But don’t worry if you have sit inside: The decor is as elegant as the presentation of your meal.

Regina La Abuela — Yes, everyone will tell you to go to Joe T. Garcia’s. It and The Original are a rite of passage. (And we should mention that the El Jefe marg at The Original stands on its own.) But if you are looking for good, secret Mexican, this is the place. (912 NW 25th Street)

Stay

The Ashton Hotel — A boutique hotel set in two buildings on the National Register of Historical Places.

Omni Fort Worth — It’s new, it’s shiny, and it was made for the Super Bowl. We’re glad it’s here.

fort worth MAGNOLIA AVENUE / NEAR SOUTHSIDE

Magnolia Avenue is a quickly gentrifying corridor south of downtown and directly east of the medical district. In the last five years, it has established itself as the Fort’s food heaven. All the better for you to receive medical attention when you lapse into a food coma.

Do

Fairmount Historic DistrictRyan Place — Assuming you don’t time a visit to coincide with either ‘hood’s annual house tours (I personally love the Christmas by Candlelight tour in Ryan Place), just strolling on foot through the streets is special enough.

Eat + Drink

Ellerbe Fine Foods — This eatery housed in an old gas station is the undisputed king of the new food movement in Fort Worth (literally — one of the owner’s names is Richard King — and figuratively, as it won Bon Appetit’s Best New Restaurants of 2010). I am lucky enough to be able to walk here on a nice night, and even luckier to eat here enough to report that you can’t order anything wrong. The maque choux and bread pudding are specialties, as is the red sea salt gracing the table oh-so-seductively (just try not putting it on everything). Ask Richard to pair a wine with Chef Molly McCook’s cuisine, and you’ll have a hard time leaving. If you only have one meal here, this is the one to have. PS: If it’s peach season, get whatever is offered with peaches . . . and then write me a thank you note.

Rahr & Sons Brewery — A major snowstorm last year collapsed the roof of our local brewery, but it’s back and better than ever. You can pick up Rahr six-packs at Central Market (see below), but better yet, take a tour on Wednesday or Saturday for a mere $10 (souvenir glass included). Rahr will be served at most restaurants in town, so don’t worry if you don’t make it here. My husband and I like the Ugly Pug brew.

Spiral Diner — Vegan cuisine even a carnivore can love. You can also find biodynamic wines and gluten/soy/wheat-free food, too.

Paco and John’s Mexican Diner — Street tacos, homemade tamarind juice and fantastic entrees. This is in regular rotation in our household.

Nonna Tata — Teensy, tiny, BYOB Italian. (1400 West Magnolia Avenue)

The Usual — The prices are unusually high for Fort Worth, but admittedly, the drinks are good. And it is the perfect place to stroll to after a good meal on Magnolia.

Stir Crazy Baked Goods — The newest bakery in town, focusing on all-natural ingredients like organic flour and real butter and eggs that are produced nearby.

Shijuku Station — This newcomer on Magnolia is our only izakaya. And the food that goes with the beer is amazing. My favorite dishes are the stirfried edamame (I get an extra bowl of rice to soak up the yummy sauce leftover at the end), ishiyaki beef, and any of the special rolls that day. There are usually three . . . and I order all three. The back patio is perfect for cooler weather. If you have two nights here, this is where you must go for your second meal, no doubt.

fort worth TCU / UNIVERSITY BOULEVARD

Do

Fort Worth Zoo / MOLA — Texas’ oldest zoo, and now one of the top zoos in the nation, featuring 16 permanent exhibits. A must-do if you’re coming with the wee ones, though any adult will be amazed by the big cats. We mean, BIG. CATS.

TCU Football — If you’re here during the fall, you’ll find yourself in a new stadium and surrounded by more screaming, purple-clad fans than ever. Neither my husband nor I attended football colleges, but we’ve got season tickets and love the tailgating and family-friendly atmosphere.

Eat + Drink

Carshon’s Deli — When I first moved here from New York, I was craving knishes, roast beef and rye. Enter Carshon’s, a proper delicatessen with sandwiches that aren’t Texas-sized (trust me, after a few days of eating here, you’ll want to order off the kids’ menu just to see a smaller portion). What it lacks in atmosphere it makes up for in Russian dressing and good prices. The Rachel is my personal favorite.

McKinley’s — My friend Stacey Rumfelt’s cafe is located in the bustling University Park Village. Lines can be long, but patience is rewarded with a heavenly snickerdoodle (there’s a reason someone gave me a dozen of them for Christmas). But to be fair, any of their pastries and desserts will have you talking long after you leave town. The tuna melt sandwich is my fave.

Salsa Limon Tacos — A taco truck with carnival marquee lights on top located in the heart of the university scene (next door to the Barnes & Noble on Berry). The veggie taco is my go-to meal. The website says they open at 8am, but honestly, I suggest you stop by after 8pm, when things really get cooking.

Woodshed Smokehouse — This is the newest jewel in the Tim Love crown and my husband’s favorite. Set on the banks of the Trinity, this casual restaurant has picnic tables in the shade, loads of flavor, and vegetarian dishes, too. Best of all, you can take a little stroll down the river if you like, or just hang with the locals who flock here fast and furious.

fort worth CULTURAL DISTRICT / WEST 7TH / CAMP BOWIE BOULEVARD

This is a pretty spread-out area by Fort Worth standards. However, they are all linked by one incredibly long, five-way stoplight, so I’m bunching them together for relative driving “ease.” The best plan is to begin your day by parking at the museums (park at one and you can walk to them all), then decide if you want to go shopping and eating along West 7th or shopping and eating along Camp Bowie Boulevard.

Do

Cultural District — This is our Museum Mile. In a five-block radius you’ll find the Kimbell Art MuseumModern Art Museum of Fort Worth (with a new Lucian Freud exhibit that is only here and in London), National Cowgirl Hall of FameAmon Carter Museum, and the FW Museum of Science & History. If you only have a limited amount of time, cruise through the Kimbell and Modern first (which share a parking lot) and then head down to the Carter.

Fort Worth Stock Show and Rodeo — “This thing is LEGENDARY” is neither hyperbole nor an unfit slogan for the original stock show and rodeo. Each January and February, enjoy bull riding, cow chips (if you have to ask . . .), carnival rides, funnel cakes, cheap beer, and live music.

Shop

byrd & bleecker — Don’t be fooled by the diminutive size of this paperie; it packs a big punch in terms of modern letterpress design and classic engraved elegance. Owner Libby Pettit Johnson expertly curates a selection of books, linens, greeting cards, gift wrap, and assorted office supplies guaranteed to make you swoon. Best of all, they regularly ship out of state, so anything you find can be shipped home tax-free.

Cowtown Wag — Sage, a red lab, is the mascot of this newly opened pet boutique on Foch Street. Owner Hannah Scheideman has brought the best products for pooches and those who love them to this lively corridor of West 7th, which Fort Worth desperately needed. Pick up homemade dog treats from a local dog bakery here to take home to Fido, and maybe a cute collar, too. My dog, Hershey, has a Kenyan beaded one from here.

Beehive — The popular Austin shop now has a Cowtown outpost. Simply put: Find loads of cute clothes and accessories without spending loads of money. If even the folks from Dallas say this is one of the best shops in the metroplex, then you know you’re on to something!

Eat + Drink

Cafe Modern at The Modern — The best view in town, hands down, with great food, too. On the first floor of The Modern. Eat here if you don’t go to Ellerbe’s or Shinjuku.

The Original — El Jefe are the only two words you need to know here. A strong margarita, then soak it up with the Roosevelt Special, named for FDR himself, when he came to The Fort in 1932.

The Buffet Restaurant at the Kimbell — Comfort food in a artful environment. Shelby Schafer’s famous homemade meatloaf is served on Fridays. The cookbook is definitely worth the extra weight home.

Kincaid’s — Classic burgers. The junior burger will feed you fine, and I like to get okra with ranch instead of fries and ketchup on the side.

Central Market — Don’t be put off by the IKEA-esque shopping maze; they carry tons of local Texas brands and buy from independent farms throughout the South. Hit up the prepared-foods section for a picnic in your hotel room.

Fred’s Texas Cafe — This is a dive holdout surrounded by new development. Cold beer, live music, and locals are always found here. They serve late night, too, which is a rarity among FW restaurants. I like the portobello quesadilla best.

J. Rae’s — Satisfy your sweet tooth at this charming bakery in the West 7th district. The white chocolate cheesecake is pretty divine.

NOTABLE LOCALS

  • Van Cliburn — world class pianist
  • Rebecca Butler — yogi extraordinaire
  • Sheridan French — apparel designer
  • Lou Lambert — restaurateur
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31 Comments

CKB

Libby read my mind! I’ve been wanting to do some exploring in “The Fort”…Nice to see it acknowledged on here. Beautiful photos, too!…Hate to be a Debbie Downer with the grammar, but the headline says “Forth” instead of “Fort” . Lovely guide though!

Emma

Oops! I’m sure someone else already mentioned this but I think you mean “Fort Worth”, not “Forth Worth”?

Brains love to repeat sounds, so it’s a mistake that makes sense!

McKenzie Zieser

Hi Stephanie! McKenzie Zieser here with the Fort Worth CVB. Appreciate you making the edits to the city’s name! Such a great post. Would you be interested in writing a guest blog post for blog.fortworth.com? Or potentially repurposing some of this content as a guest post? Email is below if you are intersted.

Many Thanks!
McKenzie

Jess

Yay!! My hometown!! I am living in Europe and this satisified my homesick feelings for today. Go Frogs! Thank-you!

Jordin

I love this post especially since I was born there! Great suggestions! I have been going to The Original since I was a little girl-so good!

Katie Edwards

I’m a local and think that no one should pass up the Montgomery Street Antique Mall (http://www.montgomerystreetantiques.com/). Lots of booths, lots of variety, and reasonable prices. Also, Curly’s on Camp Bowie is the place to go for yummy custard and don’t forget Lucile’s State Side Bistro on Camp Bowie for brunch, lunch or dinner. I’ve never heard us called “The Fort” or “Funky Town”.

Take a side trip, 30 min. west on I-20 and visit Larry Hagman’s home town, Weatherford, TX.

Molly

Yes, fried okra with ranch, a thousand times yes! Great summary!

how2home

Thanks for posting these adventure tips for us….really want to visit TX soon….we’re from Toronto, it’ll be such an amazing trip following these tips ;) Thanks again for sharing!

Marie

Yay Fort Worth! I’ve lived here for nearly three years and went to TCU and there’s still so much to explore! I love Byrd & Bleecker too–best cards and stationary in town!

Kirk Ohly

Very nicely done, as a former Dallas person I can tell you that Libby is spot on. FTW can be pretty amazing once you get past some of the glossiness & newness and realize how old most of the town is.

2n3designers

Love Forth Worth, we go there often and have watched the cattle drive several times. I love the Tea & Spice Exchange at the Stockyards. Great Post!

Emily

Go Funky Town!! As a current resident of the Historic Fairmount District a mere two blocks from Ellerbe, this post made me very happy! Also? I used to live in (and love) Austin…but it’s grown maybe too much – Fort Worth is like Austin used to be. And I like that. Let’s just keep it a bit of a secret, yes?

Elizabeth

I’d say the brunch at Fred’s is a must-have – that’s where I take any and all out of town guests. I know Smokehouse is listed at the mandatory Tim Love mention, but I like hitting up Love Shack when I’m in the stockyards.

Chadra Mezza and has a wonderful buffet that combines Italian and Lebanese flavors, and makes their own homemade ice cream with unique flavors.

I was surprised not to see any of the Hedary businesses. I’m currently going to Celaborelle, in a historic home on Hemphill.

There’s also Meli’s on Vickery – a fantastic and truly Mexican style torta.

Revolver Taco Lounge on 7th is beautiful and an experience, and Tillman’s may have a Dallas outpost but is still one of my favorite places in Fort Worth.

I’m sure I’ll think of more later.

indiekitten@gmail.com

Andrika King

What a great post. Love seeing my old home town get some national promotion. Libby you picked some great spots to highlight and even introduced me to some new ones to visit when I get back into town,.

christina furr

hello! what a great post. i just moved back here a year ago and am rediscovering how awesome my home town is. we live in the magnolia neighborhood and i know our favorite place is Avoca Coffee, its another good place to go after a delicious dinner. i’ll have to check out your suggestions. especially on mexican food. thanks! Christina

jeanie williamson

We Texans love our state in a way no one but fellow Texans can understand or believe. Thanks for the nod, ladies.

Brianna

Sad to see that the most amazing gift shop and paperie Prim & Proper was left off this list! I can’t say enough good things about this store and the owner Melanie is the most delightful and helpful girl and fills her store with unique and one of a kind items found no where else in Fort Worth!

MB@YarnUiPhoneAppv2.5

Knitting travelers need to know where the yarn shops are. Texan cowboys knit, don’t they? Tis most important after good tequila, boots and tacos, friends!

Marquel

Thank you, thank you, thank you! I love my hometown. Great list! I do agree that some things were left off, but you can’t make everyone happy. Well done!

Dominique

This is LONG overdue. I myself had been comtemplating a submission to d*s. Fort Worth is a city worth visiting. I love living here. So glad you mentioned Stir Crazy! It is the best bakery in town, hands down! I think you HAVE to note that Woodshed has no A/C so skip in in July or August or go late in the evening! Camp Bowie has tons of great boutiques worth mentioning on a design sponge guide! Etta’s Place is a great “Fort Worth” hotel also Downtown. Lili’s and Avoca Coffee are great stops on Magnolia! Blueeyebrowneye is a great local letterpress whose work was sold in Anthropologie. So much still to discover in this small big city!

allison

“You’re probably thinking, “Fort Worth has a pro sports franchise?” Well, technically speaking, we have two (maybe three, but I’m not convinced about the Mavs).”

Not sure what you mean by that exactly… The Texas Rangers are based in Arlington, while the Cowboys and Mavericks are Dallas franchises. However, if you’re visiting during baseball season, it’s not too long of a drive, and Rangers tickets are generally pretty affordable. And yes, Rangers shirts are all over the place, as they should be! :)

Also, Lola’s on 6th, the Chatroom, and the Wherehouse are some pretty fun places to grab a drink, watch a local show, and hang out with friends.

Gabrielle Lee

Hello!

I’m working with Movie Tavern at West 7th St in Fort Worth, Texas! We want you and your group to come check out a movie for free! Movie Tavern is a premium movie-going experience, combining dining and cocktail service with a night of film & movie entertainment. It is a full evening out, all in one state of the art location. New members automatically receive (1) free pass to come and enjoy the Movie Tavern experience. And, all members also receive a free movie pass on their birthday! Membership is free. We also have great specials for meetups and group events.

Link for offer is here – http://bit.ly/MovieTavernWest7th

I was hoping you could share this great offer with your group. As a new movie theater, we want your members to have a chance to come out and experience our theater for free!! Also, we will hook you up for movie and dinner for two if you send this out to large groups!

Please let me know if you need any further information.

Sincerely,
Gabrielle Lee

Alyson Jennings

Thank you guys for giving Beehive a shout out! We love being in Fort Worth and have had a blast getting to know all our Cowtown customers!

xo
Beehive
Alyson and Kacey

Eryika Tucker

Can someone guide me?? I will be traveling to the Fort Worth area on a scouting mission for eventual relocation… My daughters are very much interested in rodeo, cowboys, horses, etc… I want to be able to take in as much practical, real-life culture during our few days there as possible so that I get a good representation of Fort Worth life. Any suggestions?

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