Dining in Fort Worth has become a real treat over the past two decades. From the revitalization of Sundance Square in the early part of the century to the development of Seventh Street over the last few years, there's so much to do, see and eat! The area formally known as West 7th (bordered roughly by University, 7th, Foch, and Morton streets) shuts down street traffic periodically for fun events like pARTy on Crockett in June, and hosts a Farmer's Market every Thursday. There's a plethora of great eats between the Museum District and the 7th Street Bridge.
Here's a list of 12 places to stop in and nosh if you're strolling on 7th Street.
Starting with dessert first, the West 7th boutique chocolatier features an ever-rotating selection of fudge, truffles, bars, toffees and nut blends. The business is helmed by pastry chef Katherine Clapner, and you'll find unexpected taste combinations like blue cheese or porcini mushrooms in the mix. On the website, Clapner even offers some of her recipes, including the one for Tubby Elvis cookies.
Long before there was a West 7th development, there was the tiny one-room restaurant that was Fred's. Back in the day the space that the lovely covered patio now occupies became mud flats when it rained....but that was fine, because the beer was free when it rained. In addition to bringing a lot of local color to his side of town, "Outlaw Chef" Terry Chandler generously volunteers to cook for almost every charity event in town.
In the Montgomery Plaza shopping center, the area's original purveyors of Salvadoran cuisine are a real up-by-their-bootstraps success story (the Fort Worth location is one of 15 statewide). You'll find some Tex-Mex standards, but you'll also get pupusas, fried plantains, and delicious black bean Salvadoran soup. Generous happy hour pricing means that the $5 margaritas, sangria, and mojitos are served all day long Monday through Thursday, and until 6 p.m. on Friday night.
Chicken-fried pepperoni. An avocado bomb. And flights of moonshine. MASH'D has created a unique cross-cultural southern American dining experience. During brunch at the West 7th eatery, you can enjoy $2 mimosas and $5 Hillbilly Bloody Mary's with your MASH'D Tator Eggsplosion or your migas.
5. Rodeo Goat
On the edge of West 7th on Currie and Bledsoe streets, Rodeo Goat has become a go-to location for burgers. The restaurant beat Fred's Texas Café to win DFW.com's "Battle of the Burgers" Reader's choice last year. But the place is more than just beef and beer -- the tiny patio lit with sparkly lights brings to mind a dance hall in the Hill Country, right here in Fort Worth.
6. Salsa Limon
The food truck-turned-brick and mortar Museo location on University and Morton streets offers everything from breakfast tacos, burritos, and migas to late-night quesadillas and corn tortillas loaded with meats or veggies. You might consider ending your 7th Street stroll here, as the place is open until 11 p.m. weeknights and 3 a.m. Friday and Saturday nights.
Is there anything as giggle-inducing as popsicles? And Steel City's pops aren't standard ice cream truck fare, either. Fair warning if you're going into the little popsicle shop on Currie Street: Whether you opt for one of the fruity versions (including champagne white tea, lavender lemonade or strawberry) or one of the creamy pops (pina colada, coffee or buttermilk to name a few) - make sure what you get coordinates with the shirt you're wearing. Alternatively, get a lot of napkins.
As summer looms, our thoughts turn to cool treats, like ice cream. The bonus with Sweet Sammies: You get ice cream AND cookies! The family-owned ice cream cookie sandwich shop in West 7th provides catering for parties, a list of pre-made menu options, or the opportunity to build your own sammie with cookies or in a brownie bowl. If you're not in a cookie mood, you can also get a milkshake.
There's the buffet -- all the gyro meat and tzatziki sauce you want, along with too many other Mediterranean specialties to count. But there's also burgers, lamb chops, and a sea bass in an artichoke cream sauce on the regular menu. Located in West 7th, Terra's buffet is a great place to take people who aren't familiar with the cuisine of the Middle East.
10. Varsity Tavern
Also on the edge of West 7th, the newest bar/restaurant has a surprising amount of sophistication to its menu, including three kinds of Philly cheese steak sandwiches and some vegetarian/vegan options. Of course, there's typical bar food, like mac-and-cheese, wings and fried pickles. The elevated patio provides a great view of the whole area.
One of the original restaurants in the West 7th development, Bonnell's Waters is culinarily about as far from his original Bonnell's Fine Texas Cuisine as can be. But the dedication to immaculately fresh food (locally sourced when possible) and excellent service are the same at both restaurants. Waters kitchen features at least three fresh fish choices for lunch and five for dinner, along with practically every kind of oyster imaginable.
There are two new restaurants coming to West 7th soon, and they're both worth a mention. Restaurateur Felipe Armenta's dining empire includes The Tavern, Pacific Table, and his newest, Press Café. In June, he's adding another outpost of his west Texas-originated Cork & Pig Tavern, which will take over the space the dearly departed AF&B used to occupy. In addition to Armenta, the new casual restaurant is driven by John Nestor, a chef trained at the Le Cordon Bleu Academie d'Art Culinaire in Paris, and Virginia Dalbeck, whose training at culinary school in Santa Barbara, CA led to a stint on the Fox TV show "Hell's Kitchen," where she was the runner up on the second season.
Chef Jesus Garcia made magic with knives and raw fish at Little Lilly Sushi until he abruptly departed for the Pacific Northwest a couple of years ago. He's back, and his Oni Ramen restaurant is coming in July to the spot in West 7th where Kin Kin Urban Thai sat until recently. It was a lot of fun to watch Garcia work his magic at the sushi bar, and he was one of the few chefs in town to whom I had no hesitation in saying "Just make me whatever you think I'll like." According to the chef's social media, Oni Ramen will feature both fresh fish and customizable noodle bowls, where diners can choose their soup, protein and starches.