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Boots ‘n’ Bernini

It’s time to meet the Fort Worth you never knew—culturally hot, cowboy cool and seriously laid-back.

Modern Museum of Fort Worth exterior

Cream-poached oysters at Ellerbe Fine Foods

Lobby, Omni Fort Worth

 

Firestone & Robertson

Perhaps you think you’ve been to Fort Worth lately—taken visitors to the Stockyards, shopped for custom boots, caught a museum exhibit, toured Sundance Square and West 7th. Worthy stomps indeed, but why limit yourself to familiar haunts? Our fraternal twin city has a refreshing new vibe that will remind you of some of Texas’ most endearing spots—Bishop Arts in Dallas, South Congress in Austin, the River Walk in San Antonio, Discovery Green in Houston. Yet it stays true to its big culture/big oil/big money swagger. Fort Worth is comfortable in its skin, yet creatively restless, an accessible urban getaway with a rustic soul. By all means, revisit old friends, but shake up the routine a bit. Spend a day or stay the weekend. Either way, you’ll fall in love with the feisty girl next door.

1. Fine art has long been Fort Worth’s calling card, and any itinerary must include a visit to the Cultural District. Fresh from last fall’s celebration of 10 years’ residence in the Tadao Ando-designed building, the beautiful Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth (themodern.org) enjoys the distinction of being Texas’ oldest museum, founded in 1892. Catch concurrent exhibits from the permanent collection as well as 10th anniversary acquisitions. Even if you don’t catch the waning days of the fascinating Bernini exhibit at the Kimbell Museum (kimbellart.org), plan a return visit to the expansion building designed by Renzo Piano, opening later this year. Two new exhibits at the Amon Carter Museum of American Art (cartermuseum.org) are a must-see for Texas art lovers—an installation of paintings by Texas regionalists (through April 2014) and “Hidden in Plain Site,” an 18-by-14-foot oil painting by Fort Worth artist Sedrick Huckaby in conjunction with Romare Bearden: A Black Odyssey, beginning May 14.

2. Think Bishop Arts with better parking. The Near Southside neighborhood, with West Magnolia Avenue as its heart, is the culinary hot spot. Chef Molly McCook’s Ellerbe Fine Foods (ellerbefinefoods.com), offers a deliciously understated dining experience in a converted gas station. From the amazing house bread imported from L.A.’s La Brea Bakery to the dulce de leche sandwich cookies, every bite is a delight, made even more so by terrific service. A favorite entrée on an early spring visit was a spicy veal shank (Texas osso buco) atop a creamy cushion of Homestead mascarpone grits. Lucky for us, the to-go box easily survived the drive back to Dallas! For a different take on West Magnolia, head to Brewed (brewedfw.com), a combo gastropub and coffee house with a lively patio and plenty of libations, be they more than 60 craft beers, dessert
coffees or sweet, steamed local milk concoctions.

3. Who’s that we see on the streets of downtown Fort Worth at night? People! Texas’ fifth-largest city may be smaller than its bigger-city sibs, but has a pleaseant, surprisingly walkable downtown, where you’ll see locals, tourists and conventioneers alike. Look for a new, 55,000-square-foot plaza with a stage and interactive fountain at Sundance Square (sundancesquare.com) this fall (shades of Klyde Warren Park!), which will at last create a true square in the heart of downtown.

4. Find luxe accommodations at the expansive Omni Fort Worth (omnihotels.com/fortworth), just across the street from the Water Gardens. Or, on a smaller scale, feel the arc of Fort Worth history at The Ashton (theashtonhotel.com), the Italianate building that previously housed the Fort Worth Club, jewelry store and saloon.

5. For an adventure in artisan whiskey, head to Firestone & Robertson (frdistilling.com), Texas’ only whiskey distillery. Tours of the painstakingly restored warehouse, complete with entertaining discourse on the distilling process, are offered Saturday afternoons, finished off by a tasting, naturally.

6. A wildly popular restaurant on the shores of the Trinity? The West Fork, that is. The place to be on Sunday mornings is the patio at The Woodshed Smokehouse (woodshedsmokehouse.com) by Fort Worth restaurateur Tim Love. Live music, smoked meats and happy revelers give Dallasites a reason to take I-30 west.

7. West Magnolia Avenue’s newest foodie destination is Ryan’s Fine Grocer (ryansfinegrocer.com) a
Bolsa Mercado-esque specialty grocer with a delectable menu of artisan sandwiches and salads, perfect for Saturday afternoon people-watching.

8. For a night on the town, head to Grace (gracefortworth.com), Blake Staniford’s modern American dining room with a hopping outdoor terrace. Chef Jon Bonnell has opened Waters (waterstexas.com), a fine seafood restaurant in the destination West 7th district.