Dallas-Fort Worth had a fun year in dining, with lots of great new restaurants, from the inexpensive taqueria to the fine-dining spot with $50 entrees. We also welcomed new concepts and cuisines. Here are the 10 best new places that opened in 2016 — and most of our picks are in Fort Worth.
Cork and Pig Tavern
Prodigious chef Felipe Armenta (The Tavern, Pacific Table) opened two spots in 2016: Press Cafe, his all-day restaurant by the Trinity Trail; and Cork and Pig, a third branch of his gastropub that has branches in San Angelo and Odessa.
As is always the case with Armenta, the portions at C&P are generous, and the value is good. The menu incorporates on-trend items like rotisserie chicken, alongside tried-and-true dishes like grilled salmon and filet mignon. Sandwiches, burgers, wood-fired pizzas and shareable appetizers such as cheddar and bacon biscuits offer a little something for every appetite and price.
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The restaurant brings something good to the old AF+B space in the West Seventh District.
Earl’s 377 Pizza
Earl’s comes from the team that owns Denton restaurants LSA Burger and Barley & Board, who have brought the utmost civilizing agent to this former fire station in Argyle: namely, pizza.
And superb pizza it is, with sophisticated techniques, including fermenting the dough and adding a little whole wheat flour, resulting in a crisp, crunchy crust with flavor and personality.
Toppings are as good as the crust, with ingredients such as potato and rosemary that are far from run of the mill. In addition to pizza, there are great salads and sandwiches; a snappy ambiance with recycled materials such as the chandelier made from banjos; and plenty of craft beer.
This upscale restaurant in Grapevine in a former Carraba’s Italian Grill has a French-Euro twist. The focus is simple: sip some wine and munch on some charcuterie.
Owners Matthew and Danielle Scott, who have worked at restaurants such as Abacus in Dallas, strive with the utmost earnestness to use pasture-raised meats and local produce; there’s even a small garden on the premises.
The menu has a stick-to-your ribs presence with dishes such as lamb cassoulet and pappardelle pasta with rabbit. As befits a restaurant in Grapevine, the wine list is serious, with happy hour discounts daily from 5 to 7 p.m.
Even if Heim didn’t put out phenomenal barbecue, its Horatio Alger-like rise from humble beginnings to runaway success would be hard to resist. From cooking for friends at church and on through their food truck days, Travis and Emma Heim followed their dreams to finally open a brick-and-mortar location on Magnolia Avenue, in the former Mijo’s Fusion space.
That they’re doing barbecue, a cuisine with which Fort Worth has long held its own, makes their story sweeter; that their smoked meats take it to the next level, sweeter still.
Whether it’s their trendy bacon burnt ends or their classic brisket with a peppery crust, their food is on the money. And their story continues, with plans to open a second location in the former Thurber Mingus space on White Settlement Road.
Family-run restaurant in a former Sonic on Fort Worth’s east side serves spicy south Indian and Nepali food that’s both excellent and unique. The menu includes goat and other dishes inspired by the cuisine of eastern Himalaya, where the owners are from.
That includes skewered chicken with a spicy ginger-garlic marinade, served with crunchy dried soybeans and a refreshing salad. Thali is a fun selection, with rice and a medley of accompaniments served in small dishes. Don’t settle for what you see on the menu; many good dishes can be found on a separate menu on the wall.
And don’t expect a buffet. Namaste isn’t just noteworthy for Fort Worth, it’s a destination for any diner who likes authentic, adventurous food.
923 E. Seminary Drive, 817-349-9350, https://www.facebook.com/namasterestaurantfortworth
Taste N See Chicken and Waffles
This was surely the year that chicken and waffles took over the world, showing up on every menu, at every brunch in town. The dish has also spawned restaurants fully dedicated to the dish, such as Taste N See.
This small storefront in a shopping center comes from mother-and-son Anita Wilcox and DeMarcus Davis, who are putting out a rave-worthy C&W. You get a waffle that’s round and puffy, its edges crisp. Syrup’s thoughtfully served on the side.
The waffle’s topped with chicken wings — still on the bone — with a light crunchy crust and a delectably spicy flavor. (If the wings are too messy, you can get boneless tenders instead.) There are a couple of other dishes on the menu, such as baked chicken breast in cream sauce, and some noteworthy sides such as mac and cheese and garlic-mashed potatoes.
But the chicken and waffles are where it’s at.
Technically speaking, this Japanese restaurant is not new but instead a re-opening, after being closed for two years due to a devastating fire. But we’ll let it slide; with its fresh remodel and an expansion of the menu, it sure feels new.
The old roof was wiped out, erasing the evidence of its origin as a Pizza Hut; it’s been replaced by an appealing “farmhouse” theme with big friendly windows.
In addition to top-notch sushi, the restaurant serves ramen, roasted chicken and a twist on fish and chips with herbed french fries and chunks of red snapper fried in a crunchy tempura crust.
Chef Kevin Martinez is putting out magical specials such as spicy Sriracha chicken wings or an “avo bake,” a half avocado quickly broiled, then topped with a perfect poached shrimp and a drizzle of cilantro oil.
Hipster biker-bar wannabe with tacos, tortas and mezcal is the latest concept from restaurateur Mike Karns, of El Fenix and Meso Maya fame, and it’s his edgiest yet.
It debuted in Fort Worth’s West Seventh District, followed by a branch in downtown Dallas. The decor may be over the top, with chains draped over the bar and a motorcycle propped up inside the restaurant. But the place weaves a kind of spell — especially after one of the intoxicating cocktails such as the Flux, which combines mezcal with bitters and simple syrup, poured over one of those super-size ice cubes.
There are $4 tacos, $6 tortas and $8 bowls, where you can get your beef tenderloin sliced into a taco, inserted into a sandwich or layered on top of a bowl of dense, moist jasmine rice, with mushrooms, tomatoes, sweet potatoes and butternut squash. It’s all pretty addictive stuff.
Greenville Avenue restaurant marks a strong culinary debut for Brandon Hays and Phil Schanbaum, a young team whose experience had been primarily with bars in the Uptown neighborhood.
In chef Graham Dodds, they found the ultimate foodie pick, with his career-long focus on ingredients and local sourcing. Soon a garden began to sprout along a narrow strip of dirt near the patio in what was formerly a Woodfire Kirby’s steakhouse.
The food combines Dodds staples such as Windy Meadows chicken with the culinary ambitions of Hays and Schanbaum, embodied in dishes such as the vegetarian “charcuterie,” with sausage made in-house from lentils.
The menu is seasonal, and there’s always something new. A great wine list and chic decor finish the package.
In a town with as much Mexican as Fort Worth has, Wild Salsa might not initially seem to be a revelation. The restaurant is the Mexican entry in the DRG Restaurant Concepts Group, which also includes Dallas Fish Market, Dallas Chop House, and Chop House Burger; Fort Worth is the third branch after Dallas and Fairview.
Wild Salsa’s menu does an upscale version of Mexican, with fine-dining entrees such as the signature lamb shank barbacoa for $24. But on the other end are taco plates for $11 with delectable fillings such as beef braised in Negra Modelo beer, chipotle pepper and caramelized onions.
Cocktails are pretty and upscale, and they keep late hours. Getting a generous plate of food in an ornately decorated dining room sporting the chain’s trademark Day of the Dead theme for under $20 is a deal.
Star-Telegram/DFW.com correspondent Malcolm Mayhew contributed to this report.