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Famous chef’s Fort Worth burger grill closes, replaced by Hooker’s

Hookers Grill onion burgers: “Support Your Local Hookers”

The new Hookers Grill in Fort Worth serves fried-onion burgers like famous diners in El Reno, Okla., along with a Coney with sweet slaw. (It's owned by the Hooker family. They say, "All we sell is burgers.")
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The new Hookers Grill in Fort Worth serves fried-onion burgers like famous diners in El Reno, Okla., along with a Coney with sweet slaw. (It's owned by the Hooker family. They say, "All we sell is burgers.")

Celebrated Dallas chef John Tesar and the Food Hall at Crockett Row have closed his contest-winning Knife Burger..

Hooker’s Grill, a Stockyards restaurant, will replace Knife later this month in the food hall, 3000 Crockett St.., a spokeswoman said.

At its original location, 213 W. Exchange Ave., Hooker’s is known for El Reno, Oklahoma-style coneys and “onion burgers” with onions or jalapeños pressed into the beef while it’s grilled.

Knife Burger and the accompanying Knife Bar opened in December as anchor tenants in the food hall, a casual marketplace meant to draw more lunchtime diners and families to the bar-heavy Crockett Row development.

Tesar, winner of TV’s “Extreme Chef” and a four-time James Beard Award semifinalist, left the similar Legacy Hall in Plano in February as several chefs complained about the lease arrangement.

“Food halls are all for the landlord,” he said Monday. “Too much work ... and in the case of Crockett, not enough business.

“The whole thing is a mystery over there,” he said.

In a statement, chief executive Kevin Lillis of New York-based Hospitality Alliance said the Fort Worth hall is seeing a steady increase in business. and has an increased demand for stalls.

Tesar originally said Knife would stay open a few weeks, but hall officials closed it Monday.

The hall has been busy weekends but rarely full since it opened.

Press Waffle Co. gave the hall a boost with its win on “Shark Tank.” But several other Fort Worth restaurateurs changed plans about opening in the hall, at 3000 Crockett St, on the corner at Norwood Street.

Another anchor is Abe Froman’s of Fort Worth — chef Victor Villarreal’s tribute to the “Sausage King of Chicago.”

Rollin’ ‘n’ Bowlin’, an acai bowl stand, has also left the food hall and will open in the First on 7th office tower at 500 W. Seventh St. downtown.

Tesar’s signature Ozersky burger, named for late hamburger historian Josh Ozersky, was judged “best burger” at the Fort Worth Food & Wine Festival, but Hooker’s burger was named “people’s choice.”

If you want to see what Hooker’s is all about, it’s open for lunch Wednesday through Sunday and nights Friday and Saturday on West Exchange Avenue near Ellis Avenue.

The food hall remains open for lunch and dinner daily at 3000 Crockett St.; crockettrow.com.

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Columnist Bud Kennedy is a Fort Worth guy who covered high school football at 16 and has moved on to two Super Bowls, seven political conventions and 15 Texas Legislature sessions. Since 1985, he has also written more than 2,000 “Eats Beat” columns about Texas dining, restaurants and food.
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