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.
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.
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 Orchestra, Texas 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.
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)
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.
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.
Fairmount Historic District & Ryan 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 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.
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.
Cultural District — This is our Museum Mile. In a five-block radius you’ll find the Kimbell Art Museum, Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth (with a new Lucian Freud exhibit that is only here and in London), National Cowgirl Hall of Fame, Amon 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.
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.
- Van Cliburn — world class pianist
- Rebecca Butler — yogi extraordinaire
- Sheridan French — apparel designer
- Lou Lambert — restaurateur