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Cattlemen's Steak house
2458 North Main Street, Fort Worth
It's said that Fort Worth is where the West begins, and that sense is always keenly felt as you approach the Cattlemen's Steakhouse, located smack in the middle of Fort Worth's still-bustling stockyards. The restaurant that Jesse E. Roach opened on a whim in 1947 has become internationally renowned for its aged beef and massive steaks. These days, it's a clamorous riot of a restaurant that's so proud of its charcoal-broiled steaks it refuses to recognize the validity of "medium-well" or "well done" as serious options. Although Roach passed away in 1988 and Cattlemen's was bought out in 1994, it remains a Fort Worth favorite and a monument to Texas's Wild West sensibilities.
1601 McKinney, Dallas
There were cries of foul when El Fenix was sold in 2008 to an investment group after 90 years as a family-owned business, but the legacy of the Dallas-based restaurant chain remains intact. El Fenix perfected the Tex-Mex combo plate and helped popularize the food throughout the state and eventually the nation as chains popped up in other cities and emulated the El Fenix model. Generations of families have dined at El Fenix since it was first opened in 1918 by Mike Martinez, and return regularly for heart-melting portions of cheese enchiladas and tortilla chips that are perfectly crunchy down to the last crumb.
2121 McKinney, Dallas
Kentucky-born Dean Fearing is credited as the Father of Southwestern Cuisine thanks to his 20-year tenure at the glitzy Mansion on Turtle Creek, a Dallas institution. In 2007, however, Fearing moved away from his signature cuisine and the Mansion to open the equally glamorous Fearing's inside the imposing Ritz-Carlton hotel. The lavish eight-roomed restaurant quickly secured itself a spot in the Dallas culinary firmament with Fearing's upscale Texan fare and earned plenty of national accolades along the way. Want to splash out like a modern-day oil baron? Fearing's is the place to do it.
Joe T. Garcia's
2201 North Commerce Street, Fort Worth
Although it's hard to imagine today when you're seated inside the enormous gardens and grounds of Joe T. Garcia's in Fort Worth, there was a time when the restaurant seated only 16 people instead of 1,000. That was when Joe T. Garcia himself established one of the state's most famous Tex-Mex restaurants with his wife on Independence Day in 1935. Nearly 80 years later, it's still family-owned and run and the lush, pool-centric patio that the Garcias installed in the 1970s is just as popular as the restaurant's chile rellenos and fajitas. In 1998, an America's Classics award from the prestigious James Beard Foundation all but solidified its standing as one of Texas' truest institutions — even if it still doesn't accept credit cards. "Bring cash, reverence," notes Kearney. "It's considered a holy place by many."
Louie Mueller BBQ
206 West 2nd Street, Taylor
Louie Mueller has a history in Taylor that extends beyond his barbecue joint, first arriving in the little town to manage its newly opened Safeway grocery store. But it's his barbecue he's famous for, cooked the same way since 1949. Although Louie himself passed away in 1992, his son Bobby has carried on the family tradition in such fine form that Louie Mueller BBQ was awarded an America's Classic award by the James Beard Foundation in 2006. The black pepper-rubbed fatty brisket and pork ribs fall apart before they reach your mouth, and melt on your tongue once there.
The Mansion on Turtle Creek
2821 Turtle Creek Boulevard, Dallas
Even if its full name is "Rosewood Mansion on Turtle Creek," true Texans will always refer to this timeless restaurant as simply "The Mansion." This is where Dean Fearing established New Southwestern cuisine during the high-spirited '80s in an estate-like setting that — to this day — oozes class. What was originally built in 1925 by cotton magnate Sheppard King as a sophisticated Italian Renaissance-style residence remains, according to Bill Addison, formerly the food critic at the Dallas Morning News and now at Atlanta Magazine, "a classic that keeps reinventing itself brilliantly." And although new chef Bruno Davaillon promised to remove The Mansion's famous tortilla soup after taking over in 2010, it remains on the menu to this day.
1722 Routh Street, Dallas<
"This is my favorite restaurant in Dallas," recalls Addison, "and certainly one of the finest Japanese restaurants in Texas, if not the country. Owner Teiichi Sakurai is a chef who keeps his head down and concentrates more on his cooking than his national reputation. He studied the craft of making soba in Tokyo and blesses Texas with his seasonal riffs on hot and cold noodle dishes. His omakase — ever changing, frequently surprising with unusual ingredients — is an immersion course in Japanese cuisine."HILL COUNTRY
This precious diner only a few blocks away from a limestone cliff that tumbles into the Colorado River below (or, as it's called in these parts, Lake Marble Falls) is the epitome of a small-town restaurant. This means you can't leave without ordering a piece of pie, which has been Blue Bonnet's claim to fame — along with breakfasts that will keep you full for days — since 1929. There's even a daily happy hour that features pie and a drink during the week. Breakfast is served all day, which means you can have a piece of German chocolate or peanut butter pie for dessert. Just remember to bring cash.
Gaido's is WAY overrated. Maybe it was the place to be 80 years ago, but not today. It's expensive and not that good.
This is a damn fine list with one glaring absence. ALADDINS mediterranean grill.
Its is by far the best Mediterranean in Houston and instead you choose like 7 different beef / steak places. Granted I don't eat red meat so I'm not the fairest of judges but I will say its by far the best Mediterranean restaurant in Houston. It should be in there. Go there. Now.
Tei-An is nice. Really.
But Tei-Tei Robata bar kills it. Sit at the bar and order a whole fish. Fish Charcoal Salt. That's it. I never got Japanese food until I had a scorpion fish there. http://www.voiceplaces.com/tei-tei-robata-bar-dallas-fort-worth-2317991-l/
Patillo's on 11th Street in Beaumont was torn down a year and a half ago and replaced with a Jack in the Box.
Well, I can see by this list ( and the comments section ) I'll have a few road trips to make this Spring. Thanks !!!
Great article, thanks for putting this together. Question: did you snub Alison or did she not respond?
I've been to 24 of 30 on this interesting list. I would find a place for Houston's America's, Indika, This Is It, and Kim Son in place of Hugo's, Pappas Bros, and Underbelly. This Is It and Kim Son aren't the best of their genre, but they are legendary and have had huge impact on Texas--Vietnamese and soul food have to be somewhere, as should Cajun--B&B's or Crawfish Shack in Crosby, perhaps! I would also love a place for El Real in Houston. I just ate at Perini Ranch a few weeks ago, and their standards have fallen considerably since prior visits. I've loved Campisi's in Dallas since I was a kid and would include them in place of Tei An. El Paso's H&H Car Wash and/or Chico's Tacos should have a place as should Cotulla Style Pit BBQ in Laredo. And Frenchy's Chicken and Lankford Grocery! Alright, pretty impossible task.
You've got the wrong cut of meat for Ninfa's fajitas.
Per your newspaper and Robb Walsh, it is USDA Choice Outside Skirt: http://blogs.houstonpress.com/eating/2010/07/robb_walshs_100_favorite_houst_96.php
I would have liked to see some West Texas entries, but that's ok. We're always forgotten out there. BTW, West Texas (Big Spring to El Paso).
Very good list - I was pleasantly surprised by how well it lined up with mine. Key missing entries were Royer's in Round Top and Hudson on the Bend.
@spenser.harrisonThis is a Texas list, not a Houston list.
@Joshua Justice I lived in Austin for 20 years, and was never impressed with Texas Chili Parlor. I think it was last good in the 70's.
@Nathan Augh, fat fingers over here messed it up. Thanks for pointing that out. We'll get it fixed.
@kcothroll Funny you should mention that; here's an answer for you (along with addressing East and South Texas too). http://blogs.houstonpress.com/eating/2013/01/the_30_essential_texas_restaur_1.php
@Jalapeno Touche haha. Well I stand corrected, but also stand by the belief that Aladdins should still be on the list.