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.
A Daytrip to North Texas Highlights German Food and Culture
By Randy Mallory
A north Texas restaurateur once told me, “Those Muenster women sure know how to cook!” Turns out he was only half right.
The men of Muenster also know a thing or two about hearty eating, as my wife, Sallie Evans, and I discovered on a recent exploration of this German-flavored town. Fortunately for our waistlines, Muenster also offers a diverse mix of shops and museums dedicated to local history.
We start our Muenster adventure with breakfast at Rohmer’s Restaurant, a family-owned eatery that for 50 years has tempted diners with German bratwurst, schnitzel, and Reuben sandwiches, plus made-from-scratch pies. Rohmer’s housemade apricot jam, slathered on toast, nicely tops off our substantial breakfast of eggs, bacon, ham, and hashbrowns. I pledge to pace myself but can’t resist a buttery cinnamon roll, with no regrets.
We walk off breakfast along Main Street to Muenster’s culinary claim to fame, Fischer’s Meat Market and Grocery, which opened in 1927. Our jaws drop at meat and cheese counters spanning half the building. More than 30 kinds of sausages—smoked German sausage (top seller), knackwurst, Polish links, and kiel-basa—snuggle by slabs of sugar-cured bacon and hams. We ogle two dozen or so cheeses, some flavored with spices and peppers and smoked on site.
The adjacent specialty department boasts at least 100 kinds of dressings and pickles, preserves and syrups, relishes and sauces, mixes and marinades. “We’re sort of a giant picnic basket,” says manager Steve Taylor. We pack up smoked German sausage and peppered cheddar to enjoy later with French bread and fruit. As we leave, the market’s Glockenspiel chimes the hour with animated characters—including a milkmaid, butcher, and cow—rotating from a 45-foot-tall clock tower outside.
We fill the morning exploring nearby shops. At The Bird Nest, housed in a former 1910 dry goods store, fresh flowers and garden supplies complement a collection of eclectic antiques. “Plants and antiques, that’s what I love,” says owner Cindy Bartush, “so I put them all into one place.” We love her funky bench on the sidewalk out front—two bears made out of cedar holding a bench seat between them. “A fellow came by a couple of years ago looking for work and pulled out a chainsaw to carve this and a few other pieces around town,” Bartush explains.
Later we run across another of the artisan’s works, a totem-like sculpture behind Fischer’s that turns a dead cedar tree into an owl habitat.
In Muenster’s oldest business—Gehrig’s Hardware, which dates to the 1890s—proprietor Jim Gehrig walks me through his jumble of sporting goods, cookware, hardware, and oddities such as a working treadle-powered stitching machine once used to repair harnesses.
Down the street, a clutter of model trains, toys, tools, and a lapidary collection draws me, improbably, into the front room of Bob’s Automotive.
My favorite surprise: a copper whiskey still that owner Bob Walterscheid’s grandfather employed a century ago.
We heed a local recommendation and have lunch at Doc’s Bar & Grill, a tavern-style restaurant with a biergarten out back and an upstairs bar and gameroom. Sallie picks a garden salad and a bowl of brothy chicken-tortilla soup, and I grab a grilled Reuben sandwich. Re-energized, we share a colossal slice of moist, nutty carrot cake, and we once again hit the streets.
Doc’s building housed Muenster’s medical clinic in the 1940s, a fact we confirm at the Muenster Museum. A period hospital bed, medical equipment, and nurse uniforms recall the old clinic. We marvel at a working 1870s pump organ from Sacred Heart Catholic Church, and we tour the museum’s re-creation of a 1940s kitchen, complete with a wood-burning stove, sausage stuffers, and blackened waffle irons.
We chance upon a convenience store on US 82 to find a busy bakery called Bayer’s Kolonialwaren und Backerei (German for grocery wares and bakery), where customers line up to purchase donuts, kolaches, and decorated cookies, plus seven styles of German bread and 11 flavors of Viennese strudel. In fact, owners John and Darla Pollard deliver strudels to 14 restaurants within a 75-mile radius. We pick the most popular flavor, apple and Danish cream cheese, and revel in its cinnamon-rich taste and flaky crust.
Next, we browse the collections at the nearby Muenster Antique Mall. Jeannine Flusche operates the 50-vendor emporium in a former grocery built by her father in 1956. We enjoy sifting through toys, tools, and cookware items, some cleverly displayed in former meat lockers. Several booths offer German items such as beer steins, wooden nutcrackers, and lead crystal vases.
A few blocks west, we slip into the tasting room of Weinhof Winery, which also offers a tasting room at the nearby town of Forestburg. Larry Thompson touts his sweet fruit wines—pear, plum, and blackberry—and small-batch grape wines made from traditional German recipes. Our favorite is an exotic-sounding blend of blackberry wine and Merlot, called Muenster Red, which we find surprisingly dry and refreshing.
We finish our Muenster excursion at The Center Restaurant, which has specialized in homestyle German fare since 1988. We settle into the eatery’s wood-paneled tavern overlooking the biergarten, and Sallie chooses a wienerschnitzel (think German chicken-fried steak) topped with grilled onions and bell peppers. I go for the sausage platter, served with warm German potato salad and tangy red cabbage. Our waiter delivers a glass of Chardonnay for Sallie and a yeasty German beer for me, and we raise a toast to our successful day. “Prosit!”
We’ve adapted some recipes from a delightful little book called Texas Morning Glory: Memorable Breakfast Recipes from Lone Star Bed and Breakfast Inns. The recipes were compiled by Barry Shlachter, the publisher of Cordon Bubba Texas Cuisine, Texas Braggin’ Rights, Tex Mex 101, and several other cookbooks. Barry is a business writer for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram and also writes a weekly beer column.
Louis Charles Henley is the jocular pit boss at this ramshackle East Texas-style joint. (Ruthie is his mom.) Louis’ ribs are excellent, his Elgin sausage is smoked for several hours until it gets really dense, and his pork shoulder is sublime. The restaurant is an old house—you can pick a magazine from the rack to read while you wait for your meal. Mutton ribs are served on Saturday afternoon, but you’ll be lucky to get any—there’s a waiting list for them. Serves 4 to 6.
You can make dumpling dough from scratch, but according to Fran Gerling, our recipe tester, the process proves sticky, at best. It's far simpler to purchase wrappers in the frozen food or produce department of your supermarket. For steamed dumplings, look for "shoo-mai" wrappers. They should be about 3 to 3 1/2 inches in diameter, paper-thin, and nearly white. Can't find shao-mai wrappers? Use square won ton skins, and cut the corners off. Unsteamed dumplings-and dumpling wrappers - freeze well. Yield: About 46 dumplings.
Toni Turner, executive director of The University of Texas Law School Foundation in Austin, is a cooking historian who specializes in the foods of the Anglo pioneers and Native Americans of the 1850s. Note: The following recipe was designed for fresh cactus. Most canned or other commercially prepared cactus is pickled in brine or vinegar, so adjust your recipe accordingly.Serves 4 to 6.