After 15 years in Fort Worth, I finally decided to get over my fear of attending the Stock Show. As a longtime vegetarian, I’ve resisted looking too closely at the animals and learning in detail about cattle raising and associated subjects. But I very much respect the early history of Cowtown, traditional animal husbandry (that is, not factory farming) and the ranching way of life as still practiced by some of our neighbors.
On this first trip I only tiptoed into the animal exhibits, but I enjoyed the carnival barkers and rides of the midway, the shopping halls and rubbing elbows with cowboy types, especially the hordes of children.
But would I find anything to eat? This is a cattle industry deal, after all, and would seem to be the least vegetarian-friendly event around.
I decided to skip the day-glo nachos and french fries at the most basic concession stands — I’m still recovering from a deep-fried pig-out at the State Fair of Texas.
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The Stock Show’s freshest plant-kingdom food can be found at the Fruteria Cano stall inside the Amon G. Carter Jr. Exhibits Hall. (Cano has multiple permanent locations in Dallas and one on North Sylvania Avenue in Fort Worth.) The most popular items seemed to be a mango “flower” on a stick, enormous fruit cups where you choose your own fruits, and a nonalcoholic piña colada smoothie served inside a hollowed-out pineapple. I loved my spicy strawberry-mango smoothie with a chile-coated straw.
For a full meal, my choice was La Espuela Mexican Cantina, a pop-up restaurant from the owners of Reata located inside the Charlie and Kit Moncrief Building. You order at a window, then find a table inside a big, pristine space with colorful decor and plenty of big screens showing sports. It feels a world away from the cattle-washing stalls right outside the doors.
The meatless entree here was the cheesiest cheese enchilada dinner ($10) I can remember, with thick slabs of cheese inside and a huge pool of a slightly spicy cheese sauce on top. The refried beans and vegetable-flecked rice are both vegetarian, I was told. You can also get fresh guacamole on the side for $4.
Another sitdown option is Reata at the Rodeo, with full table service and a pared-down version of Reata’s main menu. There are no vegetarian entrees, but those who eat dairy could make a meal of two appetizers, the pan-grilled cheese quesadilla ($7) and the excellent field greens salad ($8) with herbed Texas goat cheese, San Saba pecans and sherry vinaigrette. And with a small list of wines, beers and cocktails, this is one of the best places to imbibe at the Stock Show if you want something other than big-brand light beer.
For something on the go, I recommend Texas Skillet, which sets up next to Cattle Barn 4 with its 7-foot cast-iron skillet, and specializes in grilled steak. But it also offers the vegetarian Sidekick burrito ($7), starring red potatoes sautéed with red peppers, tomatoes, onions and “skillet seasoning.” I was so startled — and grateful — to see the word “vegetarian” on any sign here that I ordered one even though I’d already had lunch. It’s a starch bomb, a flour tortilla loaded with those potato slices plus cheese, but it was well-seasoned and satisfying.
Though I couldn’t bring myself to try it, another quick option is the black bean and spinach burrito at Tad’s Bodacious Burritos at the Roundup Inn’s food court. Next time, my Stock Show plan is just to get one of these two burritos and chase it with something healthy from Fruteria Cano.
Lili’s Bistro in Fort Worth held its first-ever vegetarian wine dinner on Jan. 21 and it’s more evidence that a meatless wine-dinner trend is blossoming. The Jan. 16 mushroom dinner at Grace, several courses of inventive dishes using exotic mushrooms, offered vegetarian and vegan options, and it was fantastic.
Grace, one of the top restaurants in DFW, is welcoming vegetarian and vegan diners with uncommon, er, grace. After two successful events in the past six months, owner Adam Jones says he and chef Blaine Staniford plan to feature vegetarian- and vegan-friendly menus at a couple of its special dinners each year.