Does Lonesome Dove Still Live up to the Hype?

Lonesome Dove Western Bistro, opened by Chef Tim Love more than 15 years ago in the historic Stockyards, still soars with its inventive fare and rustic elegance.

| photography by Alex Lepe |

Along the brick-laden North Main Street sits a passage back in time to the Old West. Upon entering the unassuming façade, the main dining space oozes the charm of an old saloon with displayed Stetsons, mounted stuffed animal heads and the markings of Texas cattle brands. It is divided with a cozy dining room on one side and a lively, sometimes downright rowdy, bar on the other. A large painted Texas flag acts as a backdrop for the energized open kitchen. Guests won’t find distractions such as big-screen TVs or picture windows for people-watching; the focus is on the present company and the fine food.

Large Western paintings hang on exposed brick walls, and the rustic hardwoods and tin ceiling tiles look as if they are original to the building. “R.I.P. Gus” is emblazoned above the bar, an endearing reference to the restaurant’s namesake. Pillar candles centered on white-tableclothed tables create a warm glow. Past the main dining room and through the swinging doors, Lonesome Dove offers a lovely patio with a view of Marine Creek.

The wine list is arguably one of the most extensive in the city. After conferring with the wine steward, our server returned with two suggestions, one priced heftily and the other gentler on the wallet. After decanting for a bit, we were pleased with the recommendation.

Service at Lonesome Dove is impeccable, not surprising with Love’s lofty standards. Courses were timed like clockwork, and old silverware was replaced with new without fail.

Our selections for dinner were somewhat determined by the fact that menu items at Lonesome Dove just can’t be found anywhere else.

Warm Jalapeño Cornbread, more sweet than spicy, and Rosemary Garlic Baguette arrived at the table prior to the first course. Both were freshly made in house and served with whipped butter.

Since I’d already tried Love’s Rabbit-Rattlesnake Sausage on a few other occasions, I ordered the Seared Lamb Lollipops ($14). Yuzu aioli cream acted as a tangy complement to the heaviness of the lamb. Served two to an order, the dish wowed with an intense fresh herbiness and a dusting of microgreens for balance. With enough meat on the bone for three or four bites, I was left wanting for more.

A Shaved Veggie Salad ($12) consisted of raw carrots, zucchinis, beets, walnuts, Maytag blue cheese and overly ripe grape tomatoes. Unfortunately, this was the low point of the meal with a lack of flavor and not enough of the smoked walnut vinaigrette. It was enough to make vegetarian guests order a ribeye.

Touted by our server as their signature dish, the Roasted Garlic Stuffed Beef Tenderloin ($41) bathed with a Syrah demi-glace was excellent. Cooked just as ordered and well-seasoned, the filet sat atop a sweet pickled cabbage that was supported by a layer of airy, crispy pommes frites. Tender asparagus spears created a triangle around the star components.

Grateful that I ventured outside of the normal steak offerings, the Rocky Mountain Elk Loin ($42) stood out from any other dish I’ve tried around the world. Love’s creative display of elk, Hen-of-the-Woods, candied grapes and Swiss chard is brilliant. The mushrooms stood their ground against the gamey protein, and the candied grapes completed the sweet earthy balance. A slight foundation of creamy mashed potatoes acted as a blank canvas for the other ingredients.

Giddy to try some of the new desserts Lonesome Dove is rolling out, we ordered the Authentic Mexican Churros ($10) and the Tuaca Cappuccino Ice Cream Pie ($10). If you don’t know the name Shelly Blevins, then you should. She is the rock-star pastry chef at Lonesome Dove who is in charge of the out-of-this-world desserts and creative breads.

The Churros were presented with three dipping sauces: raspberry, chocolate and caramel. Perfectly crisp and sugary on the outside, the inside of the churros were warm and cakey. The raspberry sauce was my favorite, adding a touch of tartness to the bite, but the fried pastries are just as good on their own.

As a public service, I almost don’t want to share what happened next. My first bite of the Tuaca Cappuccino Ice Cream Pie began a new obsession. Be warned that it will happen to you too. Shaved shards of 68-percent cacao chocolate top the freshly whipped cream and melt instantly once they hit your tongue. The Tuaca punches you with a shot of sweetness balanced by the bold cappuccino flavor from the ice cream. A crushed chocolate cookie crust sends it over the edge with an absolutely harmonious bite.

Our server didn’t rush us, even though the crowd had dissipated, as we took our time savoring every last morsel. With his imaginative focus on big flavors and wild game and his willingness to take risks, Love has produced and nurtured a truly timeless Fort Worth classic.

Location: Lonesome Dove Western Bistro, 2406 N. Main St.
For Info: 817.740.8810,
Hours: Tue.-Sat. 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.; Mon.-Thu. 5 to 10 p.m.; Fri.-Sat. 5 to 11 p.m.
Price Range: $$$ - $$$$
What We Liked: Lonesome Dove has impeccable service, perfectly executed wild game dishes with bold flavors and stellar house-made desserts.
What We Didn’t: The Shaved Vegetable Salad was lackluster.
Our Recommendation: The Rocky Mountain Elk Loin main course and the Tuaca Cappuccino Ice Cream Pie dessert were some of the most innovative and best-tasting dishes in town.