Tablet Life & Arts

Last meals in DFW: Where would you go?

What if, by some twist of fate, you only had one day left in Dallas-Fort Worth?

Your bags are packed and you’ve bid farewell to family and friends. The i’s are dotted and t’s crossed on your important paperwork. You’ve even snapped selfies at all your favorite haunts and landmarks.

The only thing left to do is dine like there’s no tomorrow.

That scenario floated into our heads recently when a dear friend and co-worker announced he was hitting the road in a matter of days, driving east toward a new chapter in his life.

Those of us being left behind dealt with the usual conflicting emotions: sadness, because he was going away and not coming back anytime soon; joy, because he’s moving toward a great opportunity and the love of his life. We even felt a twinge of resentment, because he was embarking on an adventure and we were staying put.

But soon afterward, as we started mapping out his farewell tour of lunches, dinners and happy hours, we were reminded of just how much we’d miss it here if we were leaving.

We’d miss so many things, but especially the food. Because, like it or not, friendships are formed over enchiladas at Los Asaderos, memories are made sipping margaritas on the patio at Joe T. Garcia’s, and bonds are strengthened while devouring gourmet burgers at Fred’s and Rodeo Goat (just to name a few).

So, to fill our emptiness, we decided to tackle the question ourselves and ask others around town:

With only one last day to Dine Hard in DFW, where would you go? What dishes would you absolutely have to have one more time? And when North Texas finally fades from your rearview, what meal will you carry with you?

At least until you come back home.

Nick Dean, social media editor, Star-Telegram and

Confession: I’m the one who’s leaving. (It’s not you, Fort Worth, it’s me and my starry-eyed aspirations.)

But before I go, I conjured up my perfect last-day menu. As you’ll be able to tell, it assumes my stomach is just like a good mimosa at brunch: bottomless.

I’d start my day with a warm cup of coffee and a few friends at Lucile’s Stateside Bistro. We’d splurge and order beignets, and I’d round out brunch with the incredible lump crab and spinach omelet.

For lunch, it’s over to Rodeo Goat, current king of the burger joints, for a half-Caca Oaxaca, half-Salted Sow burger (remember, this is my fantasy!) and a Rahr Ugly Pug to wash it down.

Next up: a slice (or four) at Cane Rosso. I’d order the Honey Badger pizza, an off-menu pie (that’s right, it’s so good you have to know to ask for it) with mozzarella, soppressata and basil topped with a hefty drizzle of house-made habanero honey. I originally had this at the Dallas pizzeria, but Fort Worth’s pie shop has it, too.

Then, it’s time for happy hour and a Martin House Day Break beer at The Bearded Lady. Before dinner, I grab a bottle of wine at Oliver’s Fine Foods downtown and head back to Magnolia Avenue for pasta at Nonna Tata. This tiny place embodies Fort Worth. It’s not flashy, but it’s confident. It’s got hardworking people who cherish good food and treat people well. After my last meal of involtini mirella, a hearty pasta in béchamel sauce with ham, I leave town with a full stomach and an overflowing heart.

Bud Kennedy, Eats Beat columnist

I will be really sad if Mi Cocinita ever closes and I have to go without the tamales from that little shack in the Martinez family’s back yard on Bryan Avenue in Fort Worth. And I’m a big believer in the healing power of Saint-Emilion’s honey-orange roasted duck. But anybody who knows me knows I eat lunch at Paris Coffee Shop at least once a week, and have for the past 35 years. All I can say is, if I have to leave, make it on a Monday so I can have the Paris turkey and dressing and pineapple meringue pie.

Steve Wilson, The Weekend Chef at

Fort Worth on a plate to me is Mexican food, chicken-fried steak and barbecue. So I would start with a Mexican breakfast at Benito’s (migas or huevos rancheros). For lunch I would try to work in a chicken-fried steak. Of course, when I think of chicken fried steak and Fort Worth, Massey’s comes to mind. During the ’80s it was selling 6,000 a week. Unfortunately, Massey’s has closed, but Billy’s Oak Acres BBQ has a chicken-fried steak day Thursdays that is on par with what Massey’s used to fix.

Next for some barbecue, Angelo’s is the obvious choice, rich in Fort Worth history and some pretty cold beer. But you can get Angelo’s shipped to you out of state, so with that in mind I would go for the “New Q” that Tim Love dishes up at Woodshed Smokehouse. His 16-hour smoked beef shin looks like a brontosaurus bone from The Flintstones. I also like the sausage of the day, which can be anything from wild boar to rattlesnake.

Rick Press, editor

Breakfast at Yogi’s, where I’d order the cheese grits special with a garlic bagel, read the paper and keep my eyes peeled for TCU coach Gary Patterson, whom I’ve spotted there on occasion.

Lunch has to be enchiladas poblanas at Los Asaderos on North Main. I’m addicted to the restaurant’s mole. For a mid-afternoon snack, I’d hustle over to Big D for the mystically delicious Magic Shroom burger at Hopdoddy. Then I’d wash it down with a happy-hour margarita and some ambiance on the Joe T’s patio.

Dinner would be the smothered porterhouse pork chop at Buttons, with a side of sweet soul music. Dessert: coconut meringue pie from Dixie House. Sinfully good! And I couldn’t leave without a late-night stop at the original Fuzzy’s for garlic shredded-beef tacos slathered in Butt Burnin’ sauce. I’d probably slip a few bottles of that stuff in my luggage.

Robert Philpot,

With all the great advances in the Fort Worth food scene in the past five years, the places I would miss most are still the places that have a history here (and that I have a history with). So: breakfast at Paris Coffee Shop, with a slice of chocolate meringue pie for dessert. For lunch, a Diablo burger at Fred’s Texas Cafe — the original, which keeps its funkiness while new stuff grows up all around it (sorry, Rodeo Goat — I love you, too). Dinner at Benito’s — probably one of the guisados or enchiladas with red mole. And because I spent a lot of nights there in my early Fort Worth years, late-night pancakes and coffee at Ol’ South Pancake House.

Heather Svokos,

My Dine Hard fantasy begins with a breakfast burrito at the original Fuzzy’s — potato, chorizo, egg and cheese. For lunch, I’m hopping over to Buttons in Fort Worth for a big bowl of Keith Hicks’ mystically good gumbo, and I can’t leave without the sweetness of Sunshine’s Pecan Thang — a caramel and pecan tort a la mode with chocolate drizzle.

For my mid-afternoon snack, I’m either meeting up with Rick in Dallas for one last Magic Shroom Burger, or heading to Rodeo Goat for a Caca Oaxaca (it’s my fantasy, and I STILL can’t decide which I love more). Dinner takes me to Plano for my starter, to Zorba’s Greek Cafe for a plate of tirokafteri (feta and red roasted pepper dip), and some of the best pita I’ve ever ingested. While I’m in Plano, I want dessert before my entree, and head to Whiskey Cake for a piece of, yep, whiskey cake, and a French 75.

The main event veers me slightly westward to Misto-Bistro in Carrollton, for low-country shrimp and grits in Pontchartrain sauce. My late-night snack: a big plate o’ pancakes at Cafe Brazil on Cedar Springs Road … and washing down the decadent day with a bottle of Zantac. (And a Revolver Blood & Honey.)

Cary Darling,

My last day would take me all over the Metroplex, just so I can experience a DFW traffic jam one final time. And it would be a Sunday so I can get a belly full of brunch at Fort Worth’s Spiral Diner and its all-you-can-eat pancakes.

By the time that food coma wears off, it’s time for a late lunch at Liberty Burger in Dallas. The turkey burger comes draped in arugula, hula-hoop-size rings of raw onions, mustard, tomato, avocado and marinated cucumbers, and it’s that combo of crunchy and tender, tangy and sweet that lifts this sandwich above so many other bird burgers. (A close second would be Rodeo Goat. Its version subs in delicious berry boursin for the cucumber-avocado combo.)

For dinner, it’s on to Richardson for a place that’s totally mom-and-pop — if Mom and Dad came straight from Taipei. First Emperor Barbecue is a no-frills joint that offers some of the best Taiwanese-style Chinese food in the Metroplex. Go for the kung pao, stay for the scallion pancakes. And it’s cheap. What’s not to like?

Preston Jones,

My last day of gustatory delights would come in five evenly spaced courses, because who wants to collapse into a food coma before pigging out is completed?

Breakfast would be had at Paris Coffee Shop, where a stack of three pancakes, some perfectly crisped bacon and a couple mugs of hot coffee would steel me for the day ahead.

The first installment of lunch would be at the East Mockingbird location of Dallas’ Taco Joint (where I’d have to smuggle in a bottle of Revolver Brewing’s Blood & Honey), so I could feast on Dr. J’s chips and queso and drown my soft beef tacos in the delicious, house-made jalapeño-ranch dressing.

Lunch, part two, would be at Pecan Lodge, where I’ll need some help, because I’m intent on taking down “the Trough,” a heaping hot pile of meat that effectively features one of everything (usually brisket, sausage, ribs and pulled pork, among other things), and I’ll be sure to double up on the tasty fried okra, too.

Although I’ll probably be reeling at this point, I need to press on and order my first dinner. I’ve never had a finer steak in North Texas than the 16-ounce New York strip served at Bob’s Steak & Chop House, and I’d want to savor that slab of meat — and the fantastic wedge salad, dressed with tangy blue cheese dressing — one last time.

Before staggering back to Fort Worth for the final installment, I’d pause for an old-fashioned at The People’s Last Stand and grab a slice of Emporium Pies’ “Cloud Nine” confection. With the day fading and my stomach threatening to explode, I’d settle in for late-night sashimi and hand rolls at Tokyo Cafe, which still stands as some of the best local sushi I’ve eaten.

Pass the Tums.

Teresa Gubbins, dining critic,

In 20-plus years of reviewing restaurants across Dallas-Fort Worth, the two things I’ve had to eat the most of were steak and Tex-Mex. For many, that would be a good thing. Locals turn weepy over a plate of enchiladas, and out-of-towners thrill at the prospect of a rare rib-eye, stuffed baked potato and big cab.

But if anything, those experiences in excess have made me crave the complete opposite — to seek out something austere, the simpler the better. The ideal breakfast can be nothing more than a latte at Avoca Coffee, expertly made. For lunch, a Big Texas salad at Spiral Diner feels virtuous yet lavish, with carrots, cucumber, corn, avocado, peas, black olives, tomato, raisins and spicy pecans. My favorite dinner consists of a meal made from the combination of a perfectly baked baguette by Empire Baking Company in Dallas, an avocado and some fancy gourmet greens.

These places fought against the tide to bring something new and revolutionary to our table. Their brave, independent spirit expanded the local dining scene and made it smarter. They’re the ones who bring a tear to my eye.

Malcolm Mayhew, dining critic,

Breakfast: My last day in Fort Worth would have to be on a Saturday or Sunday, so I could have one last plate of S.O.B. eggs — a tangle of tortilla strips, scrambled eggs and chili — from Jazz Cafe, served only on weekends.

Lunch: Fatty brisket and burnt ends at BBQ on the Brazos in Cresson.

Post-lunch dessert: El Rancho Grande’s margarita pie — that’s for Mom; it was her fave.

Dinner: Garlic and sage pizza at Fireside Pies.

Dessert: A slice of pecan pie, topped with butter, then nuked, then topped with vanilla ice cream, at Waffle House.

People you know

Dena Peterson, executive chef at the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth

For breakfast: BuzzBrews in Deep Ellum for a Mrs. C and a Yin & Yang (cocktail made with Holy Kombucha and Texas Vodka). For lunch: The Tavern on Hulen Street for grilled artichokes and the pastrami sandwich (one of the best sandwiches in town!). For a snack: egg rolls at Bistro B in Grand Prairie. For dinner: Benito’s for a Combo No. 1, then next door to The Usual for cocktails.

Jody Dean, morning-show host, KLUV/98.7 FM

“Tough call,” Dean says via email. “If I had to find a place near the airport, I’d say Hard Eight BBQ (the original), Coppell Deli for a burger, or Love & War In Texas. In Fort Worth, Lonesome Dove. In Dallas, Al Biernat’s. Overall, Al Biernat’s.”

Jane McGarry, special contributor to ‘Good Morning Texas,’ WFAA/Channel 8

Now here’s a down-to-earth response: “Whataburger with cheese and jalapeños, fries with six yummy Whataburger ketchups and a large Coke. Mmm.” We suspected that McGarry was trying to be diplomatic and not step on the toes (or toques) of any local chefs. “But it’s true!” she said. “And they do have the best ketchup.” Heck, our mouths are still watering over her burger choice.

Mark Cuban, Mavs owner

The response made us go hmmm …: “Three 7-Eleven hot dogs with a ton of chili and cheese and a Big Gulp.” Granted, his chosen eatery does have its corporate HQ in Dallas. But at first, we thought Cuban might’ve been sharing with us his “death row” meal, rather than his last meal in North Texas. But he stood firm and insisted that the convenience-store grub was indeed his choice. “Pigging out on hot dogs and a Big Gulp over going to a fancy restaurant any day of the week.”

Tony Zazza, morning show co-host, KVIL/103.7 FM

“I would be on the beautiful patio of Joe T. Garcia’s with the best enchilada dinner in Texas. Growing up in San Diego, I tend to be a Mexican food snob, and hands down, Joe T. Garcia’s is the best I have ever had in Texas — and I’ve eaten plenty of Mexican food since moving to Texas in 1993 to attend college. Oh, and I would wash down the nachos, enchiladas, tacos, rice and beans with a delicious margarita … or two.”

Tammy Dombeck, traffic reporter, KTVT/Channel 11

“This is easy for me,” says Dombeck, who grew up in Tarrant County. “I’d have Sunday brunch at Lucile’s on Camp Bowie. I’d have a mimosa and the amazing lump crab eggs Benedict with their delicious hollandaise sauce and hash browns. Then [I’d] watch the sunset from the rooftop of Reata, where my husband proposed.”

Alice Rios, co-anchor, KRLD/1080 AM

“Hands down Reata!” says Rios, also Tarrant County-bred. “I would start with the jalapeño cheese and quail grits, then their tenderloin/pecan mash tamales. Next, I’d move on to the blackened buffalo rib-eye and potatoes. I would be sipping on a cherry lemonade — or two — all the while. Divine.”

Adrienne Bankert, co-anchor, KTVT/Channel 11

Bankert, who came to DFW in 2012, has proved to be a quick study. “At The Tavern: ahi tuna salad, honey jalapeño cornbread and mac ’n’ cheese. Or, if I can have a tie, Enchiladas Ole, and get every flavor they make, including Hatch chile, chicken mole and street-style enchiladas.”

Newy Scruggs, sports anchor, KXAS/Channel 5

“I’d go to AJ’s on Main in Grapevine. He has the best pulled-pork BBQ since I’ve left North Carolina. It’s so good it doesn’t need sauce, even though he makes a killer sauce. Of course I can’t forget the brisket he serves. AJ has two smokers in the back of his place and he makes it perfect every time. Nothing says Texas like AJ’s BBQ. I’d put his up against Franklin’s down in Austin.”

Sal Espino, Fort Worth City Council

Espino represents District 2, which includes some great eateries on the north side. “Breakfast at Champions, entomatados at Nuevo Leon for lunch, steak dinner at H3 and the best BBQ sandwich at Riscky’s.”

Readers and Facebook friends

Ashley Ciccarello Breakfast @ Main Street Cafe in Plano (Croque Madame), Lunch @ Cafe Medi in Hurst, Dinner @ Fort Worth Food Truck Park followed by ice cream sandwiches at Sweet Sammie’s off 7th and a fancy nightcap at The Usual in Magnolia in Near Southside, FW! Yummm!!

Robert C Rangel Breakfast at Ginger Browns with some cinnamon rolls to go. A WHATABURGER for a picnic lunch at the Botanical Gardens with my honey. And chicken enchiladas at Los Vaqueros for supper. Whew, I will need a gym membership eating like that!

Michelle Munro Robinson Okay, would start the day in Ft Worth @Old South Pancake, big ol’ omelet and a side of pancakes! then head over to Arlington for some Prince Lebanese, order the Mashwi Shish, then back to Ft Worth to Dutch’s hamburger for of course a yummy burger and before calling it a night head up the street to Torchy’s for breakfast tacos and a bloody Mary!

Georgette Lopez-Aguado Definitely breakfast at Ol South Pancake House (German Pancakes), Lunch at Charley’s Old Fashioned Hamburger’s (Project X Burger), Dinner at Buffalo West on Camp Bowie West (Prime Rib) and a stop at Feastivities on Vickery for Corn Bisque Soup and a scone from Sweet Savour Bakery to end the day.

Karen Sanders Brunch at the museum, dinner at del friscos and late night snack and drinks at reunion tower to see a last view from the ball!

Melissa Ramos Breakfast- Las Pericas mexican restaurant, Lunch- Spiral Diner and Bakery, and then finish with dinner and drinks at Cattlemans Fort Worth Steak House in the good ole stockyards!!

Alex Branch Breakfast: Two fried eggs, bacon, hash browns at Montgomery Street Cafe (Booth not a table). Lunch: Enchiladas Verdes at Los Asaderos (table not a booth — booths are too small there) Dinner: Any homemade pasta at Nonna Tata. Late night snack: a Martin House Brewing Company product on my couch.

So, if you haven’t told us already: Where would you go? Tell us in the comments below, or on our Facebook page.