When out-of-town friends and family visit Fort Worth for the first time, I always insist on a trip to the grocery store. That’s not just because that we need to stock the fridge with food for all the extra people in our house.
The fact is that Fort Worth has any number of specialty markets that are tourist spots in their own right – places unlike any our out-of-town guests will find back at home.
The first stop on our food shopping expeditions, of course, is usually Central Market, the sprawling, upscale grocery located on Hulen Street and Interstate 30 – one of only nine locations of a Texas-based chain that might very well be the best grocery chain in the entire country. The store features copious fruits and vegetables, much of it locally sourced; a broad selection of meats and fish; fresh-baked breads and desserts; a beautifully curated wine, cheese and deli departments, and pretty much any offbeat ingredient you can think of. On top of all that, Central Market functions as a terrific community gathering space – with cooking classes and demonstrations, food festivals and live music on its patio on the weekends.
If we’re looking for a more modestly-scaled, but equally sophisticated grocery, though, two other stores command out attention: Oliver’s Fine Foods, located in downtown Fort Worth, offers thoroughly stocked butcher counter, along with a large selection of wines. It’s also an excellent spot to grab breakfast or lunch, with a menu that features any number of inventive, flavorful omelets, sandwiches, salads and wraps.
Meanwhile, on the west side of Fort Worth, just off Camp Bowie Blvd., is the venerable Roy Pope Grocery – which anticipated our current craze for locally sourced meats and fresh vegetables by, oh, about sixty years. (It first opened its doors in 1943.) For those looking to cook something more exotic, it’s also one of the few places around where you can regularly find fresh game, with the likes of buffalo, quail, rabbit and even alligator occasionally on offer in their meat cases.
And to this embarrassment of riches, Fort Worth is about to add two more spots: In early 2015, The Fresh Market will open in the new West Bend development, across from University Park Village. Based in North Carolina, The Fresh Market has earned favorable comparisons to Central Market; according to its web site, it, too places a strong emphasis on community, with regular cooking demonstrations and special events at its stores. (The Fort Worth location is one of four announced Fresh Market locations that will be sited in the North Texas area; the other Tarrant County location will be in Southlake.)
And last but not least is the long-overdue arrival in Fort Worth of Whole Foods Market – the Austin-based chain which is especially beloved for its excellent prepared foods. The Fort Worth location, set to open in spring 2016, will be located in southwest Fort Worth, on the site previously occupied by the Lockheed Martin Recreation Association. (2016 sounds like a long ways away, but as Whole Foods aficionados can tell you: It’s worth the wait.)
So home chefs now have even more to love about Fort Worth shopping. And visitors who have already tackled the other major Fort Worth attractions, like the Zoo, Sundance Square Plaza, the Cultural District and the Stockyards, now have even more options to explore. Indeed, Fort Worth’s upscale groceries are my favorite kind of tourist destinations – sites for the eyes and the stomach.