Finally, the message “Eat Local” is sinking in.
Chain restaurants are losing popularity and local restaurants are gaining regard, according to a ratings analysis by San Francisco-based Yelp Inc.
Fast-food chains in particular are rated about 16 percent worse than five years ago, while local fast-food or counter-service restaurants were up 7 percent, Yelp reported based on data.
Just look at the Fort Worth ratings, where small, independent restaurants such as Enchiladas Ole, Heim Barbecue, Istanbul Grill and Shinjuku Station lead the Yelp favorites along with only one chain: Florida-based Capital Grille.
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In Arlington, the highest-rated restaurants are Tiba Grill, Fork in the Road, Gyros To Go, Istanbul Grill (again) and Damian's Cajun Soul Cafe.
That's not a “best of” ranking. Those are simply the restaurants that get the highest ratings, maybe meaning in part that patrons who like small cafes go to small cafes.
In particular, Arlington is full of unique little cafes with character like Taste of Europe, Havana Bar and Grill and Mo's Best Eatery.
Diners are increasingly critical of corporate chains, Yelp said. (An exception is family-owned or chef-driven chains such as the Pappas restaurants, or regional favorites such as Fireside Pies and Velvet Taco.)
The Dallas-Fort Worth metropolitan area has seen one of the sharpest splits in diner ratings, Yelp reported. Many locally owned restaurants are rated 4-star or higher, while the average chains are rated closer to 2 stars.
“There's a huge difference in family restaurants and it's all in flavor and friendly customer service,” said Mary Patino Perez of Enchiladas Ole, which opened five years ago partly to showcase her rich, small-batch enchilada sauces in ancho-chile, tomatillo or poblano-mole.
She credits social media for helping diners find her off-the-beaten-path location at 901 N. Sylvania Ave. near downtown.
“People are using their phones, looking at reviews and then they look us up,” she said.
The line Wednesday stretched out the door. She's planning a new location closer to downtown, and maybe another in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.
Goat, Maya, Rise ranked among region's best
Another new restaurant ranking comes from the Dallas Business Journal, which combined Yelp, Zagat, OpenTable and several other ratings and rankings to compile a list of the region's highest-rated restaurants.
It's very Dallas-centric, but some of the favorite names on the list have Fort Worth or Tarrant County locations: Rodeo Goat, Meso Maya, Rise nº3 Salon de Souffle, Truluck's, Lockhart Smokehouse (coming to Arlington), Velvet Taco, Lonesome Dove and Cane Rosso.
Note again that most of the favorites are small, unique and local, except for now-California-based Truluck's (which started in Texas).
Also, Capital Grille again led all steakhouses.
With the Easter bunny comes brunch
This is your first warning: Easter is April 1, and it's a day when big families fill up restaurants quickly.
Cafe Modern's popular Sunday brunch is already filling with large parties. Most prime steakhouses are open, along with many restaurants that don't usually open for brunch.
At least three new brunch options will be available by then:
•Mesero, a new, contemporary Tex-Mex restaurant with Dallas locations, will open in the Shops at Clearfork.
Mesero's menu features soups, salads, quesadillas and nachos, but also six house salsas and specialties such as salmon, braised pork, halibut and a New York strip.
It will open about mid-March at 4955 Gage Ave., mesero.net.
•B&B Butchers & Restaurant, across the street from Mesero at 5212 Marathon Ave., will add a brunch menu by mid-March.
•Waters Restaurant, chef Anthony Felli's fine-dining seafood restaurant under the watchful eye of Jon Bonnell, will also add a brunch menu by mid-March.
Bud Kennedy: 817-390-7538, @EatsBeat.