Westfork is our series exploring the dining culture of Fort Worth and its surroundings.
When I abandoned Dallas two years ago for the greener pastures of west Fort Worth, I swore I would not become one of "those" people: The ones who believe the 30 some-odd mile traverse between Dallas and Fort Worth requires a passport and an extended weekend, that residents of the other locale are (fill-in-the-blank) snobbish, rural, simplistic, or intense.
I had good reason for my hopes. While raised in Fort Worth, I had spent the better part of my professional career in Dallas and had learned to appreciate the finer points of both.
But I just couldn't handle it. The mythical trek to Dallas became frustratingly long within days of the completion of my move. Despite my long-standing restaurant loyalties, I quickly developed new ones and tried to forget my Big D favorites. Seems I had to become one or the other.
Yet visceral memories, particularly those of taste and texture, have a way of catching up to us and taunting with cravings for old favorites. Often I will sit with other former Dallasites reminiscing about our former haunts, despite a collective insistence that we all prefer the Fort Worth scene now.
Those without my two-pronged perspective have an even wider view of the divide. I realized this when a member of the Westfork Posse sent me an alarmed text from the patio of the new Love Shack location (817 Matisse St.) a couple weeks ago: "This place is full of Dallas folk! What's happening to our city?"
A similar message followed from the Capital Bar (3017 Morton St.) days later: "Where have all the pretty people come from? They are congregating!"
The alarm had been sounded on the near Westside and I had to investigate. While the area of concern appeared to be the mode of dress for the patrons (nary a cowboy boot or weathered t-shirt in sight), it was hard to deny the rapid development occurring around 7th Street and University. The verbal scapegoat was the coming invasion of the Dallas restaurants. While none have yet to open, in the coming weeks the Cultural District in Fort Worth is primed to receive outposts of Patrizios, Fireside Pies, and Tillmans Roadhouse, among others.
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For die hard Westoplexers, it appears to be an offensive attack from the east. Reluctant locals view the transformation of the relaxed nature of the city. Progressives are encouraged by the variety to come.
The restaurant landscape is changing. Yet, Fort Worth is prepared. After all, 8.0 and Ferre started in Dallas, but survived in Fort Worth. Restaurants with Dallas-seasoned chefs, such as Grace, have proven they have the chops to build a clientele in Cowtown. Additional westward migration has changed the collective palate of the locals, causing them to crave dishes beyond barbecue, fajitas, and well-done steaks.
A key to success for the newcomers will be introducing Fort Worth to eastward favorites while winning over a historically loyal restaurant crowd. New and different enough to build a following, but comforting enough to win over even the Westfork Posse. Perhaps a burger on the menu will ease the transition. A tolerance for t-shirts and boots. Or perhaps that first prickly pear margarita from Fireside Pies will do the trick.
I look forward to the day I get the message from the Westfork Posse: "Hey, I discovered this great new Italian joint... I think it's called Patrizios. Doesn't Fort Worth have the best food?"