Eats beat: Tim Byres shows he can smoke 'em and fry 'em

Fort Worth and Arlington are great burger towns.

But Dallas is a chicken town.

The city known for the 1960s Youngblood's restaurants and successors Bubba's and Babe's -- not to mention the beloved Highland Park Cafeteria -- has a new chicken stand worth a drive.

Chicken Scratch is the latest effort from barbecue pitmaster Tim Byres, who took an old motel coffee shop and made it into the award-winning Smoke.

Along the way, Byres won Food & Wine's award as "The People's Best New Chef" in the Southwest for smoking everything from duck to cabrito and serving it at Oak Cliff's Belmont Hotel, 901 Fort Worth Ave. at Sylvan Avenue.

Four blocks east, Chicken Scratch serves skillet-fried or pecan rotisserie chicken from an order counter inside a courtyard and playground with a laid-back, west Dallas vibe.

Byres has said he tried to respect "legacy recipes" and update them with hormone-free chicken, more brining to bring out flavor and touches such as a drizzle of oregano.

The fried chicken is reminiscent of honey-fried favorites from Texas' past, even better dipped in the rich crackling gravy or oregano honey.

The menu of side dishes includes first-rate "sweet-salty" fries, collard greens, macaroni-and-cheese or biscuits to go with that crackling gravy.

It's not a dinner restaurant. There's no table service, and the rookie counter workers are still making mistakes. (The restaurant has been open a month.) If you want a white tablecloth or silverware, take your chicken to go.

It's open for lunch and dinner daily (closing in midafternoon), 2303 Pittman St. at West Commerce Street, 214-749-1112;

The annual Taste of Fort Worth restaurant festival, no longer very affordable but still fun, is Sunday night in the Omni Fort Worth Hotel.

The Taste is now a $100 ticket, $175 with a wine tasting. Familiar favorites include Bob's Steak & Chop House, Del Frisco's Double Eagle Steak House, Eddie V's Prime Seafood, Fireside Pies, Ruth's Chris Steak House, Wildcatter Steakhouse near Graham and The Wild Mushroom Steak House in Weatherford.

For tickets, try and go to the North Texas site, or call 888-887-BIGS.

Plans for a Fort Worth location of Dallas' The Commissary burger bistro have cratered along with former Mansion chef John Tesar's role in that restaurant.

Tesar is now opening Spoon Bar & Kitchen in Preston Center in Dallas, replacing the former Tramontana at 8220 Westchester Drive. No word yet about any Fort Worth Spoon.

Bud Kennedy's column appears Sundays, Wednesdays and Fridays. 817-390-7538,


Twitter: @budkennedy