Fort Worth, Texas, has cowboys and culture galore, but it also boasts loud music, fast cars and fabulous food. Here’s your to-do list.
Loud music: There’s music everywhere here, starting at Chief Records in the Stockyards. I caught ticketed shows at Billy Bob’s Texas and the Live Oak Music Hall & Lounge. I stumbled into free shows at restaurants — Woodshed Smokehouse and Fred’s Texas Café. I’ll be back when the weather’s warmer to float in the Trinity River and catch something at the Panther Island Pavilion’s Rockin’ the River series at its waterfront stage.
Fast cars: It wasn’t NASCAR or IndyCar race day when I visited the mammoth Texas Motor Speedway complex. But I checked out the gift shop and took a track tour with gift shop assistant manager Jesse Richardson. Factoids: There are 72,000 parking spots and camping spots for up to 10,000 major league auto racing fans. The track boasts the world’s largest high-definition video board nicknamed Big Hoss.
Walking tour: Fort Worth native Charles Norton of Authentic Fort Worth Tours took me on a private walking tour of downtown. I snapped pix of Sundance Square Plaza’s mural and huge Teflon umbrellas, marvelled at the Bass Performance Hall and saw the tribute to John F. Kennedy who made his last public speech here. The Fort Worth Water Gardens were surprisingly stunning.
Whiskey tour:Firestone & Robertson Distilling Co. is the passion project of Leonard Firestone and Troy Robertson. The city’s first craft distillery is in a rehabbed Prohibition-era warehouse in the Near Southside area south of downtown. It offers select Saturday tours for $15 (U.S.) Right now F&R sells TX Blended Whiskey and is aging bourbon in charred oak barrels. This local-minded distillery developed a proprietary yeast off a Texas pecan and handmade bottle tops personalized with scrap leather.
Cowgirl moment: I like my museums small, specialized and quirky, so the National Cowgirl Museum and Hall of Fame was my favorite spot in the Cultural District. The district is small, walkable and park-like so there’s no excuse not to pop into the Kimbell Art Museum (with the only Michelangelo in the Americas), Amon Carter Museum of American Art, Fort Worth Museum of Science and History, Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth and others.
Eat here, part 1: Texas barbecue revolves around beef, preferably brisket. You can find this and more at Cooper’s Old Time Pit Bar-B-Que, where you point to what you want and pay by weight, and ultra old school Angelo’s. I was wowed by chef Tim Love’sWoodshed Smokehouse where “new Q” means lamb brisket by the ounce, smoked Texas peanuts with chili salt, “today’s animal,” and brisket-stuffed piquillo peppers with bone broth. The menu even tells you whether your dish has been smoked over mesquite, pecan, hickory or oak.
Eat here, part 2: Speaking of beef, Grady Spears makes a mean, modern chicken fried steak at Horseshoe Hill in the Stockyards, but get this as sliders and splurge on the dry-aged rib eye that was probably the best steak I’ve eaten. The family-run Joe T. Garcia’sis beloved for its Mexican food. Paris Coffee Shop offers homemade pie and your retro diner fix. Righteous Foods bills itself as Fort Worth’s healthiest restaurant. Pearl Snap Kolaches celebrates a Czech filled pastry that’s a Texas favorite.