In the August 2013 issue of Texas Highways, writer Margaret Shakespeare explores Fort Worth’s culinary scene, which as evolved in recent years—like the dining scene in other major cities—to focus more on locally sourced ingredients and global influences. Fort Worth, once (and still!) a great place to find high-quality steaks—now offers diners a range of dining options.
Fort Worth’s new Woodshed Smokehouse takes wood-fired fare to the next level
By June Naylor
In a town where iconic rib joints such as Angelo’s and Railhead have waiting lines as long as the West Texas sunset, did Fort Worth really need another marquee smokehouse? After a recent visit to celebrity chef Tim Love’s new Woodshed Smokehouse, I can assure you the answer is: you bet.
One step inside the new hotspot perched on the banks of the Trinity River, in shouting distance of TCU and the Fort Worth Zoo, and I realized this wasn’t my grandpa’s barbecue hangout. Spreading over 14,000 square feet and unfolding onto a sprawling deck and patio, the open-air restaurant and bar starts the day with espresso, breakfast tacos stuffed with the smoked meat of the day, and flaky, buttery French pastries. It begins the party at noon with live music, offers thirsty folks a stunning craft-beer assortment and wines on tap, and feeds hungry hordes a heretofore unheard-of feast of smoked meats and vegetables.
Within moments of opening in late January, the Woodshed was overrun with patrons curious about Love’s worldly menu of wood-fired foods. The fourth Fort Worth restaurant opened by Love, whose Lonesome Dove Western Bistro serves everything from rattlesnake sausage to wild boar in the historic Stockyards district, the Woodshed welcomes as many as 1,600 guests per day on busy weekends.
As it turns out, adventurous palates find flavorful gratification in smoked artichoke hearts, kale salad topped with guanciale (pig-jowl bacon), redfish en papillote, pulled goat tacos, and much more.
Out front, beside the entrance, an orange flag bears an image of the meat you’ll see on the spit. Beef, pork, goat, lamb, venison, or game bird show up in varied preparations, but the purest experience remains eating the meat of the day doused with fresh salsas and tucked inside warm, handmade tortillas, which are crafted on-site as you watch through the kitchen window.
Stacks of pecan, hickory, mesquite, and oak supply the smokers, stoves, and—in cool weather—the heaters scattered over the grounds. On a recent visit, servers darted between kitchen and tables, inside and out, bearing trays laden with sharing plates of brisket-stuffed piquillo peppers and a dip of smoked Lake Michigan whitefish. Jaw-dropping sights included Love emerging from the kitchen manhandling a massive butcher block from which rose a mammoth beef shin that had been braised overnight and then smoked for 16 hours. Enough to feed an army, the tender meat fell away from the giant bone as my group sliced it at the table and then folded it up into those exquisite tortillas, along with a spoonful of borracho beans, fresh ricotta, and the tart kale salad.
Familiar choices appear on the menu as well, with the burger one of the most popular. Love calls it his triple threat, made with chopped beef brisket and prime steak blended with the sausage of the day, topped with watercress, smoked cheddar, and housemade pickles. The kitchen goes through as many as 18 briskets daily, probably because crowds gather on any day that the sun is shining. And when the weather doesn’t cooperate? The staff just pulls down the steel-and-glass garage doors that line the entire south side of the restaurant.
With lively crowds in attendance at nearly all hours, the atmosphere feels much like someone’s backyard cookout, exactly as Love intends. “I like to call it my back-porch food, because it’s stuff I’ve been doing at home for family and friends for a long time,” he says.
What appear to be fleets of cars park via valet in front, but many patrons enter the Woodshed through a gate that opens right onto the running/biking trail that lines the Trinity. Guests pop in for a beer and a bite to eat, and wind up staying for hours. On frequent Saturday mornings, there’s a five-mile charity-benefit run between the Woodshed and the Love Shack (Love’s
burger joint closer to downtown), culminating with free beer and tacos. On other Saturday mornings, a yoga or Pilates class wraps up just in time for a smoked bloody mary. (Love’s version includes three smoked ingredients: tomatoes, olives, and ice.)
Fellow restaurateur Tristan Simon notes that, of all Love’s restaurants, the Woodshed is his favorite. “It’s because of its social spirit and the fact that he has completely updated the smokehouse genre,” he says. “The light and energy of the place are seductive. On a beautiful weekend day, there is not another restaurant in DFW where I would rather be.”
Early on, clientele built easily, with customers returning frequently. Marcelle LeBlanc, who lives nearby and confesses to eating at Woodshed every week since its opening, says, “I love the sophisticat-ed food in a casual environment. And the Woodshed serves a mean cappuccino in the morning.”
Another plus: Love aims to make the Woodshed the most earth-friendly restaurant in town. Utensils and cups are biodegradable, and no beverages come in glass bottles. Perhaps most astounding, no air conditioners will be employed at the Woodshed. Instead, an impressive collection of giant fans and misters take the place of manufactured, refrigerated air. You can trust that the stylishly outfitted Woodshed will keep its customers cool in warm weather—and happily fed year round.
Like most Texans, I’m no stranger to Big “D.” However, until recently, the “FW” of the DFW Metroplex was an uncharted frontier. So I set out to spend the day in Dallas’ rustic “cow”-nterpart—Fort Worth.
My grandson Garrett, 11, climbs onto Pecos Bill, a surprisingly docile, brown-and-white Longhorn stationed in front of the Livestock Exchange Building in Fort Worth, just long enough for a wave and a photo. He jumps off and rushes down the sidewalk to watch cowhands driving a herd of some 15 other Longhorns down the brick-paved Exchange Avenue. Later, he rides a kid-friendly mechanical bull in the same block for 25 seconds!
A few blocks north of the Fort Worth Convention Center and its supporting cast of restaurants, wine bars, and plush hotels, the railroad still rolls into town much as it did in 1876, when the city became a major shipping point for livestock headed to northern markets. There are no cattle today, but freight cars carrying everything from auto parts and coal to orange juice rumble through every few hours, the full-throated whistles lending a note of nostalgia to the downtown streetscape. Periodically, blue-and-silver passenger trains, operated by Amtrak these days, arrive at the new Intermodal Transportation Center from points north and south.
Texas Highways readers are like our field reporters, so find out what these readers recommend.
Texas Highways readers are like our field reporters, so find out what these readers recommend.
While driving around Bulverde, we found a great restaurant (with great views) called Cowcatchers Steaks. The food is delicious (especially the rib-eye), pricing is reasonable, and the service and venue outstanding. Kids will enjoy the Longhorns and horses in the front and the space to run around. This is the perfect place to take your family for a special occasion that calls for steak.
MARCO BARROS, San Antonio
Cowcatchers Steaks is at 1100 Bulverde Rd.; 830/980-6080.
Ginger Brown’s Old Tyme Restaurant and Bakery
TH readers will want to know about Ginger Brown’s Old Tyme Restaurant and Bakery in Lake Worth. They have the most delicious home-style meals ever—real chicken-fried steak, meatloaf, chicken and dumplings, pot roast, and chicken potpie (to name a few)—served with traditional vegetables
and from-scratch mashed potatoes and rolls. You will also be served one of Ginger’s “made daily” cinnamon rolls with your meal, or you might want to try one of the scrumptious homemade pies (coconut, chocolate, and many more). They have old-time prices, enjoyable décor, and a staff that goes above and beyond to make you feel welcome.
JOYCE BELL, Fort Worth
Ginger Brown’s Old Tyme Restaurant and Bakery is at 6312 Jacksboro Hwy.; 817/237-2114.
Doc’s Fish Camp & Grill
Doc’s Fish Camp & Grill in Marble Falls should be recognized as one of the best steak and seafood restaurants in the Hill Country, if not the state. The restaurant has been around for 15 years and has an interesting story about its conception and rebirth.
Doc’s Fish Camp & Grill is at 900 FM 1431 West; 830/693-2245.
Two Amigos Taqueria
Two Amigos Taqueria is a little café two blocks west of the Waxahachie courthouse. The authentic Mexican food is fabulous! Try the nachos with everything on them or a
soft taco made with corn tortillas, seasoned chicken, grilled onions, and cilantro. Need more? The tortilla soup is to-die-for and served in generous portions. Prices are reasonable, and the menu has something for everyone. Some days the café observes a lunch schedule only, but later in the week they stay open through the evening. It’s a real treat!
TANA DIXON, Odessa
Two Amigos Taqueria is at 212 W. Jefferson St.; 972/923-3305
The Moosehead Cafe
I recommend The Moosehead Cafe in Crockett. Not only is the food great, the people there are the nicest!
JESSICA and BILLY McRAE, Crockett
The Moosehead Cafe (think burgers, Philly cheese steaks, chicken-fried steaks, and rib-eye sandwiches) is at 412 E. Houston Ave..
Longhorn Ranch Store and Grill
We stopped at the Longhorn Ranch Store and Grill in Whitesboro for lunch. It was a great experience. Best rib-eye sandwiches that we ever had. Great food and nice Western furnishings and accessories!
OTTIS AND BARBARA MURDOCK, Benbrook
Longhorn Ranch Store and Grill is at 12265 E. US 82.
For lifelong cowgirl and trailblazer Connie Douglas Reeves, living life to the fullest meant you had to “saddle your own horse.” Reeves was born in Eagle Pass in 1901. At age five, she received her first horse from her maternal grandfather and quickly became a devoted rider.
By Reggie Ugwu
In the 1950s and 1960s, when most jazz artists were producing smooth and danceable tunes that entered the mainstream, pioneer saxophonist Ornette Coleman revitalized and challenged the genre with an innovative and improvisational approach known as free jazz.
He was born in
The budding musician soon began playing in local rhythm and blues bands, and he developed an unorthodox style early on, so much so that he had difficulty finding like-minded musicians who were comfortable with his loose treatment of harmony and chord progression.
It was his six-week gig at the legendary Five Spot nightclub in
Coleman’s 1960 release Free Jazz: A Collective Improvisation, made his most lasting impact on jazz culture. Ornette fortified a new genre that would adopt the album title as its own. At nearly 40 minutes long, the Free Jazz session was the longest recorded continuous session by any ensemble to date.
Coleman and his band continue to tour today. See Ornette Coleman online for tour dates, a discography, and more information.
If you want to see people making real money, head to northernmost Fort Worth and the Bureau of Engraving and Printing’s Western Currency Facility (WCF), which now prints more than half of all U.S. paper currency—more than 18 million notes, or $85.4 million worth, per workday. The Tour and Visitor Center of this money factory—the only place other than Washington, D.C., where U.S. notes are printed—offers free guided tours that put you within eyeball distance of billions of bucks-in-the-making.
For a relaxing break from city hustle, venture down the following urban trails…and learn about nature along the way. Regulations vary, but everywhere, follow the hiker's credo: Take only photographs and leave only footprints. Stay on marked trails to prevent erosion. Wear sturdy walking or hiking shoes. Carry insect repellent, sunscreen, and plenty of water, plus a camera and binoculars.