Best of 2021: food and drink

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Vegging Out: Dine-In by Mariachi Reader’s Choice: Tex-Mex, Hole in the Wall | Very few Mexican restaurants in Fort Worth have bothered to target a growing audience: vegetarians.

One of the few is Mariachi’s Dine-In, which has been very successful in offering vegetarian and vegan Mexican and Tex-Mex dishes, as well as traditional non-vegetarian options.

People have gone crazy, in particular, for the restaurant’s burritos and bowls, stuffed with your choice of protein and veg. Their birria tacos are also hard to beat, especially the vegetarian versions, which are ingeniously made with jackfruit.

Until May, the restaurant operated from a gas station, east of downtown, in a dilapidated building that defines the hole in the wall with its faded signage and sketchy figures lurking in it.

It was this combo of excellent food and scruffy charm that won Mariachi Reader’s Choice trophy for best hole in the wall.

In May, the restaurant received a major upgrade: a new location on the west side of Fort Worth at the location of Locke Avenue where Mariposa’s Latin cuisine reigned for many years (and where FiVi’s kitchen opened and closed abruptly last year).

While the new location doesn’t have a hole-in-the-wall feel, its menu offers most of the gas station’s fare, says owner Ashley Miller. There are also a few new things, including salads and queso fundido. (Founding chef Angel Fuentes isn’t part of the new restaurant; he’s staying in the old Mariachi digs to start a taqueria called Guapo Taco).

In addition, there will be a bar, which was lacking in the location of the gas station. It opened in mid-May.


BEST BURGER: M&O Station Grill

If greasy burgers aren’t your thing – no doubt a curse with as much home cooking as Fort Worth has to offer – we recommend avoiding M&O Station Grill, where the grease is served with a side of beef patty. . And don’t sleep on their Chicken Fried Steak, one of the best meals in town.


BEST DESSERT: Islas Tropicales

This new joint on the west side of Magnolia Avenue, a new arm of Paco’s ever-expanding neighbor, serves fruit with Tajin, smoothies, mangonadas, paletas and other authentic Mexican delicacies. The presentation alone will blow your mind, and once you’ve eaten a bite of the tajin fruit, you’ll wonder how you ever survived without such a perfect combination of sweet, spicy, and salty.


Zeke Fish Fry: Fish and Chips Editor’s Pick: Best Fried Any

For more than five decades, fried cod at Zeke’s Fish & Chips has been the epitome of food in Fort Worth, along with fajitas at Joe T’s, a burger at Kincaid’s and a sliced ​​sandwich at Angelo’s.

Original owners Otto and Harriette Zurcher opened Zeke’s over half a century ago, in 1969, although it is not technically a restaurant. At this point, Zeke just had a walk-in window. In 1971, after the Zurcher’s decided to retire, young math major Craig Lidell acquired the restaurant, expanding it with a dining room, drive-through window, and patio.

“The dining room was once a main store,” says Craig’s brother and longtime owner Mark Lidell, who worked at Zeke’s in the 1970s before he and his wife, Diane, took over. . “And we used to throw sawdust on the ground to cover it; he was in such bad shape. We couldn’t afford to lay new ground.

For years he was a brother of The HOP, a longtime bohemian restaurant / concert venue also run by Craig. As a tribute, Zeke’s still serves the spaghetti sauce worthy of The HOP craving.

But most come for fried cod – planks of soft white fish coated in a dark batter that is crisp and light to the touch. Developed by the Zurcher family, the dough recipe is a well-kept secret.

Zeke’s also does wonders with vegetables, expertly frying mushrooms, eggplants, okra, zucchini and corn nuggets. Served in long wedges, the eggplant is particularly good; okra, a must.

After more than five decades as owners, the Lidells recently handed over the keys to a new owner, Danny R. Ghimire, a local entrepreneur and former owner and investor in Jimmy’s Big Burgers.

“My intention is to keep Mark’s legacy alive,” says Ghimire. “Everything will remain the same – the recipes, the signs. Everything is perfect like that. “

Ghimire also says he hopes to open up additional slots for Zeke.


Early bird: 5 a.m. Readers’ Choice: Best Vegan / Vegetarian

5AM Drip is, at its heart, a cafe. Housed in an 8×20 shipping container – one of many that make up the colorful Connex office park on Evans Avenue in East Fort Worth – 5AM Drip throws lattes and cappuccinos out of its staggered space since it just opened. ahead of COVID-19 closures in March 2020. And even then, the store continued to serve, giving back in the form of a forward payment program that offered free drinks to frontline workers.

While 5AM Drip could easily get ratings for coffee – seriously, the lemonade-espresso concoction known as Raspberry El Patron is a story in itself – 5AM Drip caught the attention of Best Of voters for its menu entirely. vegan. The owners of the shop, couple Ashley Davis and Miguel Hernandez, went vegan about five years ago for health reasons and have been perfecting their recipes ever since. Menu highlights include Off the Block, a barbecue sandwich made from grated jackfruit. There’s also El Cristo Rey – a toasted Monte Cristo sandwich dusted with powdered sugar, filled with tofu ham and melted vegan mozzarella cheese.

I bet you can’t even tell the difference.

“There’s a lot of people that will come, and they’ve been eating it for a while, and they’ll come back and say, ‘Wait a minute. I have been eating this for months and had no idea it was vegan! Davis said.

Davis and Hernandez initially launched 5AM Drip as a pop-up in 2015, selling coffee at farmers’ markets before moving to mobile via a food truck in 2019. When Carlo Capua, co-founder of the Incubator of Food companies Locavore, seized the opportunity to set up shop at Connex, Davis and Hernandez jumped on it; and thanks to their experience working in the small kitchen of a food truck, the shipping container was not too difficult a transition.

“After working hours, we stop and do all of our preparation,” says Davis. The couple make most of the “meat” themselves, smoking and seasoning jackfruit, chorizo ​​and plantain burgers. They also make breakfast tacos, toast, and baked goods that have become hits in the neighborhood.

“[We were] slowly just cut things off and then it turned into this, ”Davis says. “And then it turned into a love for making vegan food and wanting others to know you can have vegan food, and it tastes great.”


BEST NEW COFFEE SHOP: Lazy Daisy Coffee Bar

Anything but lazy, the staff at this new Camp Bowie hangout not only know how to get by behind the bar, but also take the time to get to know their regulars. In keeping with customer feedback, the store recently added a selection of gluten-free foods to accompany classic espresso drinks and inventive specialty drinks like the color-changing Holly Blue.


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