As I write, it’s fall weather in Fort Worth. I love the golden sunlight, cooler temperatures, colorful leaves, and a nice breeze while sitting on my favorite shady patio, enjoying small plates and a margarita. Fort Worth embodies its mottos: “Where the West Begins” and “Cowboys and Culture,” and is known for its twice-daily cattle drives and plenty of barbecue and Mexican food. But there is so much more. Let’s explore my favorite foodie finds (in no particular order) and imaginative adult beverages in a patio environment where we can practice plenty of social distancing and still enjoy a variety of Cowtown cuisine.
1. Reata On The Roof
Named for the majestic ranch in the 1950s epic movie Giant, starring James Dean, Elizabeth Taylor, and Rock Hudson, Reata is my favorite place to take out-of-towners for the full flavor of Fort Worth ambiance. Take in the wide-open spaces of downtown and Sundance Square from the rooftop bar and patio. You’ll find legendary Texas cuisine like my favorite Tenderloin Tamales, famous steaks like the Blackened Buffalo Rib Eye, or melt-in-your-mouth 16-ounce Cowboy Bone-In Rib Eye with Cook’s Butter. I recommend an old-fashioned made with local Firestone and Robertson whiskey or a Habanero Lime Margarita. Wrap it up with the best West Texas Pecan Pie, like Mama used to make, or Dessert Tacos with caramelized bananas and chocolate sauce.
2. Joe T. Garcia’s
You can’t visit Fort Worth and not spend an evening on the patio at Joe T. Garcia’s in the Stockyards. A Fort Worth tradition since 1935, you’ll find classic Tex-Mex food amid a garden of fountains, waterfalls, hibiscus, bougainvillea, and giant shady oak trees. You don’t need a menu because it’s simple -- beef or chicken fajitas or cheese enchiladas and beef tacos with the works. We enjoy both; I order the fajitas, and my husband gets the enchiladas and tacos. The pitcher of margaritas is infamous at Joe T’s. Let’s just say, “Take it easy.”
3. Heim Barbecue
In the last five years, award-winning Heim Barbecue has grown from backyard meat club parties and then a food truck to the Magnolia Avenue location and their newest site with a spacious patio and more picnic tables on the grounds along the Trinity River. Pitmaster Travis’s “farm-to-smoker” barbecue is cooked slowly over post oak fires with all his accumulated secrets. Get the lean brisket sandwich with a side of bacon burnt ends and green chile mac ’n’ cheese. Savor your favorite frosty cold beer with Travis’s Heimburger and wrap it up with his wife Emma’s homemade banana pudding. He also makes breakfast tacos from 9 to 11 a.m. daily.
In Sundance Square, Waters Restaurant, led by chef-owner John Bonnell and executive chef Anthony Felli, combines Louisiana flavors with a Southwest hint. Diver scallops from Maine get a Tex-Mex golden-seared touch while my favorite jumbo crab cakes are a product of massive lump crab meat. You’ll love the fresh halibut flown in from Alaska as well as the ranch-to-table Wagyu beef. Enjoy happy hour drinks from 4 to 6 p.m. Tuesday to Saturday on the shady patio featuring small plates like Maine lobster macaroni and cheese, oyster mushrooms, or The Dirty Dozen, a flight of premium oysters.
5. Tia’s On The Bluff
Offering authentic homemade Mexican cuisine in their renovated family home, Tia’s on the Bluff offers a relaxing home patio experience. My favorite is the Skillet Fajita Plate with a choice of chicken or steak with grilled onions and peppers, refried beans, Spanish rice, guacamole, and pico de gallo. Try appetizers like the freshest guacamole, Queso Supreme with ground beef, guacamole, pico de gallo, or specialty items like chicken mole, the enchilada plate, carne guisada, or fish tacos. You must save room for Tres Leches Chocolate Cheesecake. Check the website for special hours.
6. Shinjuku Station
Named after a train station in Tokyo, Shinjuku Station is a Japanese izakaya, or informal Japanese bar, on West Magnolia offering spacious outdoor dining, sake, Japanese whiskeys, savory cocktails, and tasty snacks. Here you’ll find an inventive sushi menu, with my favorite tidbits: the peppercorn tuna and, if you’re brave, the seared octopus. Try the individually priced, by-the-piece tempura with black tiger shrimp and red snapper. The build-your-own bento box makes a great lunch. Reservations recommended.
7. Railhead Smokehouse On Montgomery
“Life’s too short to live in Dallas!” That’s the motto at the Railhead Smokehouse. My standing order here is the sliced beef brisket sandwich plate with beans, potato salad, and a Shiner draft beer. My husband gets his brisket sandwich with hand-cut fries and a beer. They are famous for the meaty, tender ribs piled high, barbecued turkey, bologna, cheddar peppers, the coldest beer in Fort Worth, and tart, flavorful barbecue sauce. Watch for the daily specials to enjoy on the outdoor patio and the partially enclosed patio when temperatures get colder.
8. Snooze A.M. Eatery
Snooze A.M. Eatery has a large wraparound patio with lots of tables to seat guests with a craving for a twist on breakfast and brunch. You’ll find Bravacado Toast, rustic bread toasted with garlic oil, smashed avocado, red onion honey jam, and roasted tomato, topped with two cage-free sunny-side-up eggs with citronette and parmesan-dressed greens. Or try the Chili Verde Benedict consisting of green chile-sauced tortillas and melted cheese with your choice of slow-cooked pulled pork or barbacoa beef topped with poached cage-free eggs, green chile hollandaise, pico de gallo, and cotija cheese. Or choose your favorite French toast, pancakes, classic omelets or scrambles, tacos, burritos, shrimp and grits, or their Sammies. Get your favorite java, Bloody Mary, Michelada, bubbles, mimosas, morning margarita, or cold-pressed juices. Snooze stands for sustainable food resources, giving back to the community, recycling nearly 90 percent of their waste, and working to be the best of the best.
Grace, a New American restaurant at 777 Main Street, features prime steaks and creative cuisine paired with fine wines and elegant contemporary decor. Order champagne and a house charcuterie board, or enjoy small plates, happy hour food, and seasonal cocktails on the comfy outdoor terrace or cozy up to the spectacular bar. Chef Blaine Staniford offers a seven-course tasting menu with wine pairings. Partake in selections of oysters, blue prawns, or bacon-wrapped stuffed filet. My favorite is the Maine lobster mac ’n’ cheese.
10. The Bearded Lady
This near-Southside ’20s-era cottage and patio with plenty of umbrella picnic tables is home to the LUST Burger, Fort Worth’s top burger. Try to wrap your mouth around this half-pound, hand-formed prime Angus chuck loaded with feta and chopped roasted poblano, topped with melted gouda, avocado, and caramelized onion strips. Yes, you get the lettuce, tomato, and pickle on the side. Don’t pass up an ice-cold brew on tap at this most popular craft beer bar in town.
11. Press Cafe
There is plenty of patio room here with umbrella tables and gas fire pits at the Press Cafe, located at the Clear Fork trailhead off Edwards Ranch Road. The Cafe Burger combines a thick hand-formed and house-ground Angus patty with an English blend of sharp double Gloucester cheese striped with Stilton, caramelized onion, with deli-sliced pickles, fresh, crisp watercress, romesco aioli, and topped with a poppy seed bun. You’ll get hand-made chips with this prize-winning burger. Choose from crunchy salads, sandwiches, and cafe specialties like the crab mac ’n’ cheese. Then top it off with a creative cocktail, brew, wine, or a Japanese whiskey flight. Don’t miss the tiramisu for dessert.
12. Flying Saucer Draught Emporium
The Flying Saucer has the most extensive list of beers and the largest covered beer garden and patio downtown. Keep up with the newest beer arrivals and earn your plate on the wall. The salads, pizzas, sandwiches, and brats with German potato salad and kraut are hard to beat.
13. Taco Diner At Sundance Square
Taco Diner extends the dine-in to the outdoor patio right on Sundance Square for plenty of people watching. Start with queso, guacamole, nachos, quesadillas, or shrimp ceviche, then add the tacos made every way you can think of, plus enchilada combo plates. My standing order is the flan for dessert.
14. Nonna Tata
It’s like eating in your Italian grandmother’s kitchen. Nonna Tata is a small space in the hospital district with room outside to enjoy your pasta ai gamberi and tiramisu. Come early; no reservations available. Bring your own wine, bottle opener, and wine glasses. The restaurant is cash only.
15. Branch And Bird Patio
This outdoor patio terrace with an extraordinary view is now open with contemporary shared plates and cocktails atop the 12th-floor Sky Lobby Level of Frost Tower downtown. Enjoy a $12 lunch special Monday through Friday. For dinner, order from their Farm, Sea, or Ranch collections. On Wine Wednesday, get half-price bottles of wine with dinner. Counter service, curbside pick-up, or to-go dishes only; there’s no wait staff at present.
Hungry for more? While you’re in Fort Worth, here are some of our recommendations.