Best of 2012

We asked our readers to send their suggestions in a variety of new and returning categories for our annual Best Of list. The response was overwhelming as usual. Our decisions for the winners were mostly based on votes, but in a few categories the staff made the final call.

Here are the highly anticipated results pertaining to the area's quickly evolving dining and entertainment scene, shopping and services, as well as best places to play.

Story by Celestina Blok • Photography by Jason Kindig • Painting by Spray Gleaves

After Church w/the Kids
Babe’s Chicken Dinner House
It’s the simple menu and family-style dining that makes this Roanoke-based chicken dinner house a winner here. Babe’s serves uncomplicated home cooking like fried chicken, mashed potatoes, green beans and creamed corn — all easily passable by the platter. There’s little for the little ones to complain about because they’re too busy cleaning their plates. Multiple locations.
Joe T. Garcia’s
2201 N. Commerce St., Fort Worth, 817.626.4356,
Fort Worth Food Park
2509 Weisenberger St., Fort Worth, 817.862.7289,

Sweet Tooth
J. Rae’s
Primarily known for its scratch-made cupcakes, J. Rae’s also creates fresh cheesecakes daily, dense and delish, along with sugar cookies that crumble then melt in your mouth. Cheesecake flavors include strawberry, vanilla and white chocolate, and cookies range from snickerdoodle to peanut butter. 935 Foch St., Fort Worth, 817.332.0090,
McKinley’s Bakery & Café
1616 S. University Drive, Fort Worth, 817.332.3242,
Blue Bonnet Bakery
4705 Camp Bowie Blvd., Fort Worth, 817.731.4233,

Beer Pub w/Good Grub
Flying Saucer
Did you know Sundance Square is home to the very first Flying Saucer? It opened in 1995 and more than 15 others eventually followed. Shannon Wynne created the concept along with 8.0 and the Flying Fish. Wynne is moving his original Flying Saucer out of its historic home into the former 8.0 space at 111 E. 3rd St. (He said it was like choosing between children.) But now there’s more room for more brew and good grub. 111 E. 4th St., Fort Worth, 817.336.7470, (Moving to 111 E. 3rd St. when construction is completed.)
The Ginger Man
3716 Camp Bowie Blvd., Fort Worth, 817.886.2327,
Baker Street Pub & Grill
6333 Camp Bowie Blvd., Fort Worth, 817.377.9772,

Taco Heads  Yes! Taco  Bacon Wagon

After-Work Cocktails
Blue Mesa Grill
It seems Fort Worth folks require free appetizers to enjoy a good cocktail. Despite the countless bars, patios and restaurants that have opened in recent years touting a mess of happy hour specials, Blue Mesa still wins this one. We’ve got to believe the complimentary made-to-order quesadillas have something to do with it. 1600 S. University Drive, Fort Worth, 817.332.6372,
Bar Louie
2973 W. 7th St., Fort Worth, 817.566.9933,
Winslow’s Wine Café
4101 Camp Bowie Blvd., Fort Worth, 817.546.6843,

Carnivorous Indulgence (hamburger or steak)
Fred’s Texas Café
If you’re going to indulge in a meaty mess of a burger, do it in an atmosphere that promotes all things carnivorous. There’s taxidermy on the walls, branding symbols and photos of hunted game. The Fredburgers are huge and juicy, as are the rib-eye steaks, which are served as a dry erase-board special along with cheese enchiladas, rice and beans. Two Fort Worth locations,
Del Frisco’s Double Eagle Steakhouse
812 Main St., Fort Worth, 817.877.3999,
Fire Oak Grill
114 Austin Ave., Weatherford, 1.817.598.0400,

Carb Overload
Mama’s Pizza
Mama’s has held strong in this category for a few years now with its doughy East Coast-style pies made fresh daily in brick ovens. Long-time patrons might remember the real “Mama” behind the pizzeria’s name, Elizabeth Biggs, who worked at the original location along East Rosedale for nearly two decades. Multiple locations.

The Wild Mushroom
1917 Martin Drive, Weatherford, 1.817.599.4935,
Nonna Tata
1400 W. Magnolia Ave., Fort Worth, 817.332.0250

Avoca Coffee
  Java Coast Coffee at Gaylord Texan Resort  Buon Giorno Coffee

Restaurant/Gourmet Market
Central Market

Are you really into groceries? I mean really into groceries? Then Central Market is your hub for all things food.  We mean food you can’t wait to tear into and relish, whether it’s three-layer cheese or Chinese Five Spice. Visit the newly renovated dining area and enjoy sushi, quinoa or made-to-order pizza on the patio. 4651 W. Freeway, Fort Worth, 817.989.4700,
Ellerbe Fine Foods
1501 W. Magnolia Ave., Fort Worth, 817.926.3663,
Oliver’s Fine Foods
415 Throckmorton St., Fort Worth, 817.744.7980,

First Date

A five-star menu, killer cocktails and trendy “be-seen” patio with comfy couches combine for an impressive first date destination. Guys: mention the fact the owner named the restaurant after his wife, and your date will swoon over your sweet attention to detail. 777 Main St., Fort Worth, 817.877.3388,
3617 W. 7th St., Fort Worth, 817.737.2781,
Fire Oak Grill
114 Austin Ave., Weatherford, 1.817.598.0400,

Girls’ Night Out
Glass Cactus Nightclub at Gaylord Texan Resort

If you’re going to go out, why not stay out? Because the Glass Cactus is located inside the Gaylord Texan, overnight accommodations are an option if the party goes longer than planned. Live music, scenic lake views and a hotel spa make the Gaylord the go-to spot for girls’ night, which often becomes girls’ weekend out. 1501 Gaylord Trail, Grapevine, 817.778.3000,
Winslow’s Wine Café
4104 Camp Bowie Blvd., Fort Worth, 817.546.6843,
777 Main St., Fort Worth, 817.877.3388,

Guys’ Night Out
Fire Oak Grill

The bar features leather couches and a flat screen TV hanging over a fireplace. Guys will feel like they’ve never left their living room. Located on the square in downtown Weatherford (and home to Eric Hunter, a Top Chef finalist last year), Fire Oak Grill offers bacon-wrapped tenderloin, animal heads on the walls and plenty of cold beer — all things guys like. 114 Austin Ave., Weatherford, 1.817.598.0400,
Railhead Bar-B-Q
2900 Montgomery St., Fort Worth, 817.738.9808,
Pour House
2725 W. 7th St., Fort Worth, 817.335.2575,

Late Night Bite
Ol’ South Pancake House

Fort Worth’s favorite 24-hour dive turns 50 this year. The smoke is gone, but the nostalgia remains. Word is even renowned pianist Van Cliburn dines at this pancake palace. With its close proximity to downtown, Seventh Street and TCU, Ol’ South is the late-night hangout for bar-hoppers and test-crammers alike. 1509 S. University Drive, Fort Worth, 817.336.0311,
Fuzzy’s Taco Shop
Multiple locations.
Cafe Brazil
2880 W. Berry St., Fort Worth, 817.923.7777,

Restaurant Row
West 7th Street, Fort Worth

For a while there, we could hardly keep up. It seemed a new restaurant was opening every week along West Seventh Street. While some haven’t made it, most have, and the area’s become a hub for drinks and dining out. There are a few Dallas transplants like Patrizio, Bailey’s and Fireside Pies, but we like the Fort Worth versions of these along with hometown favorites like Love Shack, La Familia and Fred’s.
Magnolia Avenue, Fort Worth
Main Street, Downtown Fort Worth

Outdoor Dining
Joe T. Garcia’s

The smash hit Woodshed Smokehouse might give Joe T’s a run for its money in this category down the road, but it’s hard to beat the longtime Mexican restaurant’s expansive, beautifully-shaded patio. You’ll almost always run into someone you know, and even if there is a line, an icy margarita is close at hand. 2201 N. Commerce St., Fort Worth, 817.626.4356,
Woodshed Smokehouse
3201 Riverfront Drive, Fort Worth, 817.877.4545,
310 Houston St., Fort Worth, 817.336.1009,

Freshest Catch
Blue Sushi Sake Grill

When it comes to sashimi (raw fish), there’s no shortcutting around freshness. It’s absolutely required. Blue Sushi touts an expansive sashimi menu, from mackerel and yellowtail to sea urchin and eel, allowing land-locked Fort Worthians to have a taste of the sea. 3131 W. 7th St., Fort Worth, 817.332.2583,
Daddy Jack’s
353 Throckmorton St., Fort Worth, 817.332.2477,
Piranha Killer Sushi
335 W. 3rd St., Fort Worth, 817.348.0200,

Signature Drink
Rio Mambo: Stone Dyer

At Charlie’s Bar inside Rio Mambo Tex Mex y Mas in Southwest Fort Worth, the Stone Dyer margarita can help ease a bad day or kick off a great night. With raspberry liqueur and Grand Marnier, the potent party drink is also available by the pitcher. 6125 S.W. Loop 820, Fort Worth, 817.423.3124,
Del Frisco’s: Barrel Aged Manhattan
812 Main St., Fort Worth, 817.877.3999,
Blue Sushi Sake Grill: Blue’s Bellini
3131 W. 7th St., Fort Worth, 817.332.2583,

Place to Be Seen
Del Frisco’s Double Eagle Steakhouse

The Japanese media visited just to catch a glimpse of the seat Rangers’ pitcher Yu Darvish sat in during a meeting with Nolan Ryan. When Warren Buffet closed the Burlington Northern Santa Fe deal, it was here, and Bill Gates was his dinner guest. Since 1996, Del Frisco’s has been Fort Worth’s prime destination for special occasions and celebrity entertaining. Folks are so excited to be seen here, they even send photos of their visits for the staff to frame for the wall. 812 Main St., Fort Worth, 817.877.3999,
Ray’s Prime Steak & Seafood
3206 Winthrop Ave., Fort Worth, 817.732.1614
Bailey’s Prime Plus
2901 Crockett St., Fort Worth, 817.870.1100,

Wine Selection
JR’s Steakhouse

The wine list spans nine pages (albeit double-spaced) and offers everything from Chilean meritage to a 40-year tawny from Portugal. There are much longer wine lists in town with even more selection, but it seems the folks at J.R.’s know what winos want. 5400 Highway 121, Colleyville, 817.355.1414,
Del Frisco’s Double Eagle Steakhouse
812 Main St., Fort Worth, 817.877.3999,
Bonnell’s Fine Texas Cuisine
4259 Bryant Irvin Road, Fort Worth, 817.738.5489,

Best Place Worth the Drive
The Wild Mushroom

At the very least, visit for the chicken fried steak. It’s a savory masterpiece and served atop Yukon Gold garlic mashed potatoes and smothered with homemade gravy. Voted as best CFS in our 2010 Culinary Awards, the dish alone is worth the drive.
1917 Martin Drive, Weatherford, 1.817.599.4935,
Mary’s Café
119 Grant Ave., Strawn, 1.254.672.5741
Del Norte Tacos
101 E. Hwy 171, Godley, 817.389.2451,

Restaurant Cookbook
Jon Bonnell’s Fine Texas Cuisine, Jon Bonnell

Jon Bonnell’s first cookbook takes an upscale look at the foods of Texas. Recipes feature high-end appetizers, mains and sides using wild game, Gulf seafood and organic pasture-raised beef. It’s your go-to guide for delighting any dinner guests.
Reata: Legendary Texas Cooking, Mike Micallef
Cooking the Cowboy Way: Recipes Inspired by Campfires, Chuck Wagons, and Ranch Kitchens, Grady Spears

NEXT: Shopping