This past weekend we hosted a group of ten made up of some our old Indiana University friends and their families, which included a couple of guys looking forward to some Texas meat, one anemic friend in need of extra iron, and two vegetarians. Probably our best dining out experience was actually a picnic at the Botanic Garden—all food made at home, of course, with sandwiches (Swiss cheese, tomato, and lettuce on baguette); watermelon; a homemade corn, pepper, and bean salsa with corn chips; and chocolate chip brownies. Bring a Frisbee and a blanket and find a shady spot under a tree; the Botanic Garden is among our very favorite destinations in Fort Worth—it’s beautiful, kid-friendly, and free. But, of course, that’s not really dining out. Here’s what we tried: Central Market. The Hulen location’s prepared foods/made-to-order market is a great place for lunch, with many, many meatless choices that can be enjoyed in the small cafeteria-like dining room, or outside (parents take note: there’s a playground at the far end). We had the Pad Thai with tofu; it was kind of soupy and sweet, not the best version I’ve had. Next time I’d split a portion with a friend or two (it’s way too much food for one person) and grab some fresh fruit to go with it. The made-to-order pizzas are very good, and go really well with a bottle of red wine from the store (last time we got the Gnarly Head Old Vine Zinfandel. Yum).
Ferré. I’ve blogged about this spot before, and as promised, I went back and tried the green garlic ravioli. It was very good, if a tad oily, but our service was not so good this time around. I’ll forgive them that because I still like Ferré for its solid food, meatless choices, and proximity to Bass Hall, and we’ll go back on concert nights. The bruschetta starter and Caprese salad we ordered for the table were both great.
H3 Ranch. You should never, ever go here specifically for a vegetarian meal (there’s even a sign in the bar that says “No sprouts.”), but even so you won’t go hungry at this steakhouse in the Stockyards if you feel compelled to show visiting meat-eaters the old timey Western side of Fort Worth. General manager Bo came to the table to help me decipher the menu from a meatless perspective, and while he didn’t come up with a whole lot, he was very good natured about it, and I had a decent cheese and salsa quesadilla, house salad, and Shiner in a huge goblet, and left feeling very satisfied. The freshly made (at tableside) guacamole that we started with helped, too. They also have corn on the cob, rice, seasonal vegetables, and baked potatoes, so you can put together your own vegetable plate in a pinch.
Love Shack (cash only). We heard a great set of music at this hamburger stand (from Tim Love, one of Cowtown’s favorite chefs) in a Stockyards alley; fortunately we didn’t go there to eat, because there’s nothing on the menu for the meatless—other than fries and onion rings, of course. But who doesn’t love beer and live music, especially from the vantage point of a network of decks—cooled by misters—perched above the stage? I might just e-mail Mr. Love to suggest that he keep a stash of Gardenburgers in the freezer, because then this would really be my kind of place. And how hard would that be?