You may think you know the North Texas dining scene better than you do your own kitchen, but when asked to come up with the region's "iconic" dishes, would you have said buffalo or chicken-and-dumplings?
Here are the dishes two Dallas-Fort Worth food writers picked as the area's signature foods, and where to get them.
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At Smoke, Tim Byres works magic with a wood grill, barbecue pit and vintage cold smoker, creating brilliantly conceived dishes, such as his signature pit-roasted cabrito with fresh masa, tamarind-goat's milk cajeta and green-apple salsa. Smoked meats, including house-cured sausages, pulled North Carolina whole hog and coffee-cured beef brisket, are at the heart of Byres' concept, which this year earned him Food & Wine magazine's Best New Chef nod for the Southwest. Not only that, the casual, retro Texas cafe is easy on the pocketbook, and its tiny, enclosed, hacienda-style patio may be the best place in town to sip house-infused spirits under the stars.
Address: 901 Fort Worth Ave.
Hours: 8 a.m.-10 p.m. Sunday-Thursday, 8 a.m.-11 p.m. Friday and Saturday
Contact: 214-393-4141; www.smokerestaurant.com
Chef-owner Dean Fearing, one of the fathers of Southwestern cuisine, continues to define haute Texas dining with his glamorous, see-and-be-seen Rattlesnake Bar and eponymous Fearing's Restaurant, where maple-black-peppercorn buffalo tenderloin over jalapeño grits with a butternut squash taquito is his signature dish.
Address: The Ritz-Carlton, 2121 McKinney Ave.
Hours: Breakfast 6:30-11 a.m. daily; lunch 11:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m. Monday-Friday and 11:30 a.m.-3 p.m. Saturday; dinner 6-10:30 p.m. Monday-Thursday, 6-11 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 6-10 p.m. Sunday; brunch 11:15 a.m.-3 p.m. Sunday.
Contact: 214-922-4848; www.fearingsrestaurant.com
Kathleen Tolbert Ryan, daughter of the late Texas chili legend Frank X. Tolbert, runs the namesake restaurant Tolbert's, where you can still get an authentic bowl of Texas red, the iconic state dish her father perfected.
Address: 423 S. Main St., Grapevine
Price range: $4.99 for a cup of chili, $7.49 for a bowl and $8.99 for a super bowl
Hours: 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Sunday-Thursday, 11 a.m.-9:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday
Contact: 817-421-4888; www.tolbertsrestaurant.com
-- Kim Pierce, Special to the Star-Telegram
Eating the spiciest and, arguably, the most sought-after burger in town is about far more than hitting a burger joint and tucking into one of the most unforgettable flavor encounters in perhaps all of North Texas. Devouring a diablo burger at Fred's Texas Cafe encompasses an entire experience.
This extraordinary burger, featured on the Food Network's Diner's Drive-Ins and Dives show, is served up by local legend Terry Chandler, who can turn a patty of ground beef into a thing of wonder. Chandler starts with a freshly-formed thick patty that takes a hit from his flat-griddle seasoning. Seared at the edges and lavished with chopped chipotles, it's served on a toasty bun swept with spicy mustard. For sweetness, add a slice of grilled onion and don't forget the tomato, lettuce and pickles. If you're made of tough enough stuff, you'll also add a few drops of sriracha hot sauce.
Address: 915 Currie St. and 2730 Western Center Blvd., Fort Worth
Hours: 10:30 a.m.-midnight Tuesday-Saturday; 10 a.m.-9 p.m. Sunday, closed Mondays (original Currie Street location) and 10:30 a.m.-midnight Monday through Saturday; noon-9 p.m. Sunday (Fred's North)
Contact: 817-332-0083 (original), 817-232-0111 (Fred's North); www.fredstexascafe.com
Chicken and dumplings
For 60 years, the Paris Coffee Shop has been known for its selection of pies and has built a passionate patronage for its Thursday lunchtime special, chicken and dumplings. Cafe owner Mike Smith makes some 60 gallons of the Southern specialty for this weekly offering. .
Address: 704 W. Magnolia Ave.
Price range: $7.95-$8.70 for the daily special
Hours: 6 a.m.-2:30 p.m. Monday-Friday, 6-11 a.m. Saturday
Contact: 817-335-2041; www.pariscoffeeshop.net
Black Forest cake
Delete all memories of squishy Black Forest cake with cherries. The version that Swiss Pastry Shop chef Hans Mueller created during his years at nearby Ridglea Country Club makes a statement like no other pastry we have found. Feather-light layers of baked almond meringue are lavished with whipped cream and dusted with dark chocolate shavings, rendering a lofty confection that has been the centerpiece of this bakery-cafe since Mueller opened it in the 1970s.
Address: 3936 W. Vickery Blvd.
Price range: $16.95-$99.95
Hours: 6:30 a.m.-5:30 p.m. Tuesday-Friday, 7:30 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturday (bakery only)
Contact: 817-732-5661; www.swisspastryonline.com
-- June Naylor, Special to the Star-Telegram