If you have an out-of-town food lover visiting for the first time, we have bad news: You're going to gain weight hanging out with them this visit. The good news is that you'll be able to rediscover the marvelous range of food that Texas offers, from dirt-cheap barbecue to celebrity chef-created haute cuisine.
Stay: If money is no object, we'd suggest booking the visitors into a room at Dallas' Ritz-Carlton (2121 McKinney Ave.; 214-922-0200; $379-$3,000 per night). The place is gorgeous and staying there will give you a leg up on securing a reservation at Fearing's (see below). On the west side of the Trinity, our vote goes to the Omni Fort Worth (300 Houston St.; 817-535-6664), where the in-hotel eating options include the excellent Bob's Steak and Chop House.
Breakfast: When in Texas, you must start the day as all Texans do, and embrace the pleasures of the Mexican breakfast. Plenty of places can mix you up a tasty plate of migas, including Esperanza's (2122 N. Main St., Fort Worth; 817-626-5770). But for our buck, you'd be hard-pressed to top the chorizo, egg and cheese burrito at Fuzzy's Taco Shop (2917 W. Berry St., Fort Worth; 817-924-7943), one of our favorite local haunts that's turned into a statewide chain. Dont forget the Butt-Burnin hot sauce! If youre more a of a traditional breakfast eater, look no further than the Paris Coffee Shop in Fort Worth (704 W. Magnolia Ave., 817-335-2041) Its a Fort Worth original with a charming old-school authenticity. If youre traveling with a mix of Tex-Mex lovers and traditionalists, go for one of the Metroplexs many Cafe Brazil locations, the funky little spot whose breakfast grub ranges from a killer stack of pancakes to breakfast chilaquiles and empanadas.
Lunch: The Texas barbecue experience is an essential one for any newcomer, and while there are many claimants to the throne, our feeling is the 52-year-old legendary Angelo's Barbecue (2533 White Settlement Road., Fort Worth; 817-332-0357) has long been the ruler in this category. Located just west of downtown, in a rambling, wood-paneled space that makes you feel as if you have stepped back 50 years in time, Angelo's serves up all the classics -- brisket, sausage, pulled pork -- with exquisite simplicity. In Dallas, the it spot for barbecue is Pecan Lodge (1010 S Pearl Expy, Dallas, 214-748-8900), which operates inside the Dallas Farmers Market (Shed No. 2). That is, until it relocates to the Deep Ellum neighborhood, likely sometime in May 2014. Whether you want fatty brisket or burnt ends, youll find it here, at lunch Wednesdays through Sundays from 11 a.m. until they run out, typically around 3 p.m.
Dinner: The Metroplex offers no shortage of rock-star chefs who have been lauded by the likes of Top Chef and the Food Network, including Stephan Pyles (Stampede 66, Stephan Pyles), and Tim Love (Fort Worth's Woodshed Smokehouse, Lonesome Dove, Love Shack). But there's another beloved Fort Worth chef who -- despite his relatively new high-end seafood restaurant, Waters -- has been doing marvelous things with game like elk, buffalo and quail for years at Bonnell's Fine Texas Cuisine (4259 Bryant Irvin Rd, Fort Worth, 817-738-5489). One of the hottest Dallas chefs of the moment is Matt McCallister of FT33 (1617 Hi Line Dr., Dallas, 214-741-2629): on April 1, he was just named one of the 2014 Best New Chefs in America by Food and Wine Magazine. Another established Dallas dining star is Southwestern cuisine legend Dean Fearing of Fearing's, inside the Ritz-Carlton (121 McKinney Ave., Dallas; 214-922-4848). Try Dean's tortilla soup, followed by chicken-fried lobster. Oh, heck, try anything -- it's all masterfully made and exquisitely presented. Just be warned: Such delights don't come cheap and, with drinks, a night at Fearing's is apt to set you back $100 per person or more.
Shopping: Surely your visitors will want to bring a taste of Texas home with them. In which case, plan a detour to Chocolate Secrets, (3926 Oak Lawn Ave., Dallas; 214-252-9801), a sinfully luxurious shop in Dallas, which sells wine, candy and a dazzling array of sweet confections. There's even a small sitting area, where you sip a glass of wine and recharge after a long afternoon on the town.
Attractions: OK, so it's not exactly Napa Valley, but Grapevine has a number of surprisingly accomplished wineries that turn out a range of locally produced wines. The best way to experience what the city has to offer -- and not have to worry about drinking and driving? Sign up for a tour with Grapevine Wine Tours (817-259-9463). You'll make stops at the tasting rooms of three local places, and learn about the history of winemaking in the region.
Nightlife & cocktails: Hard-core foodies are usually just as serious about their cocktails. You'll find excellent options at two Dallas hot spots, The Porch (2912 N. Henderson Ave., Dallas; 214-828-2916) and The Cedars Social (1326 S. Lamar St., Dallas; 214-928-7700). In Fort Worth, there's an impressive drinks menu at The Usual (1408 W. Magnolia Ave., Fort Worth; 817-810-0114) , where owner/mixologist Brad Hensarling serves up an array of old-school, Jazz Era delights. The gorgeously decorated lounge is the ideal place to unwind and get in touch with your inner F. Scott Fitzgerald. If you want a fun, lively view with your beverage, check out Bird Cafe (155 E 4th St, 817-332-2473) in Sundance Square, which has a unique cocktail menu, delicious noshes and a perfect vantage point for activities on the Square.