What makes a restaurant hot? It’s a less-than-scientific formula, one that weighs variables such as cuisine, crowd size, fancy beer on tap and how many tweets it got last night. Its hotness doesn’t necessarily mean it’s one of the best restaurants in town (though sometimes the two blissfully overlap). Each year, our hot list clues you in to the Metroplex’s “of the moment” restaurants. So, from barbecue to seafood to pizza by the slice, it’s time for the 2013 list of Hot Restaurants in DFW.
The Bearded Lady
1229 Seventh Ave., Fort Worth. 817-938-2713; beardedladyfw.com.
The Bearded Lady knows that one route to guaranteed hotness is craft beer. It goes in whole hog with a wall of taps, many local (local craft beer is white-hot), and 100-plus varieties in bottles. The place has also nailed the location: the near south side, the hottest neighborhood in Fort Worth. The menu is filled with intrigue and surprise, from an appetizer of fried cactus strips to mini beer brat corn dogs to a house-made grilled cheese sandwich. ( Grilled cheese? Also hot.) Extra points for staying open late, serving grub until 2 a.m.
Zoli’s NY Pizza
202 W. Davis St., Dallas. 214-942-9654; zolispizza.com.
Restaurateur Jay Jerrier first changed the face of pizza in Dallas with Il Cane Rosso, where he does Neapolitan-style pizza, baked in a fiery-hot oven until the crust acquires a nice blackened char. With the original in Deep Ellum, a second near White Rock Lake and a third opening soon in Fort Worth, he could rest on his laurels. Instead, he tackled another pizza totem: the New York-style slice joint. Located in the hipster part of Oak Cliff, Zoli’s does pizza with thin crust and thick, so you can get a couple slices and mix-and-match. And just like in the Big Apple, the line’s out the door.
Sol de Luna
3005 S. University Drive, Fort Worth. 817-996-9492; www.facebook.com/soldelunarest.
A Venezuelan-Mexican restaurant might not be the obvious choice for the former Red Cactus space near TCU. But as a newly hatched TCU grad, young entrepreneur Frank Sigala knows the market firsthand. Along with tacos, burritos and quesadillas, the menu features espresso drinks and South American delicacies such as empanadas and arepas, a thick corn cake cracked open and stuffed with fillings like chicken, grilled onions and avocado. The menu reflects Sigala’s own heritage, giving Sol de Luna an incomparable personal touch.
1600 S. University Drive, No. 601, Fort Worth. 817-887-9995; www.pacifictableftworth.com.
Chef Felipe Armenta was already an established name in Fort Worth with The Tavern. But even so, it would have been hard to predict the unprecedented fabulousness of Pacific Table, his new casual seafood restaurant in the old La Piazza space. The menu runs from snappy sushi rolls to oysters on the half-shell, with sandwiches and salads on the low end offset by a $28 filet mignon. And the decor is divine, with lots of artsy woodwork and in the center, chic high stools that pull up to a white terrazzo bar (which is invariably thronged with beautiful people waiting for a table — reservations for big parties only, boo). Seafood was already looming as a big trend; with Pacific Table, Armenta has bumped it up.
115 E. Hickory St., Denton. 940-442-6834; queeniessteakhouse.com.
Credit the sharp wiles of chef Tim Love, who turned this one-time branch of his Love Shack burger joint chain into the much higher-end Queenie’s Steakhouse. Or maybe it’s just our enduring dedication to steakhouses. Either way, Queenie’s has become the place to go for Dentonites seeking a nice night out where they can find hits from Lonesome Dove and Woodshed Smokehouse, such as house-made sausages and the Tomahawk steak for two. Queenie’s started out with weekend hours only, but had to add hours to meet demand. It’s a Love-fest up there.
Mot Hai Ba
6047 Lewis St., Dallas. 972-638-7468; www.facebook.com/mothaibadallas.
Chefs Colleen O’Hare and Jeana Johnson, of Good 2 Go Taco fame, prove themselves again with this intensely authentic Vietnamese restaurant in the old York Street space in East Dallas. Mot Hai Ba — which means “1, 2, 3” in Vietnamese — specializes in dishes they learned to make while visiting Hanoi. Some menu items, such as the banana flower salad or pork meatballs with vermicelli, you won’t see at many other places in town. And at lunch, they serve one of the best banh mi sandwiches around. Prepare for an exotic culinary ride, paired with one-of-a-kind Vietnamese beers and unique French wines.
BBQ on the Brazos
9001 E. US 377, Cresson. 817-396-4758; www.bbqonthebrazos.com.
The name sounds grand, bringing to mind a lodge on a great plantation, when the reality is just the opposite. This barbecue outlet is situated inside a gas station, which means plastic forks and only a few tables. But as former owners of Sanford’s Fort Worth Barbecue, John Sanford and his wife, Kathryn Warren, are experienced hands. They do an extra-fatty brisket, plus sausage, ribs, pulled pork and turkey, as well as their signature sauce sold by the bottle. Don’t be late: The lines form early and the place usually runs out by 2 p.m. Fort Worth loves its gas-station restaurants, and BBQ on the Brazos fits squarely into that tradition.
929 University Drive, Fort worth. 817-820-0680; www.salsalimon.com.
Can there be a hotter path to restaurant-dom than getting there via food truck? Having made the grade with his fleet of trucks serving top-notch street tacos, owner Ramiro “Milo” Ramirez took over this sweet vintage building across from the Modern Art Museum for his first stand-alone restaurant. Nobody mixes up gringo and authentic tacos better than Salsa Limon, with a menu that encompasses fish and shrimp tacos as well as tongue and intestine. The audience extends from day laborers to TCU students, because everyone loves a taco.
2836 Bledsoe St., Fort Worth. 817-877-4628; www.rodeogoat.com.
Sam Wynne’s burger joint was already hopping before its inexorable climb to the top in our recent Burger Battle; now it reigns supreme as Best Burger in DFW. Eating at Rodeo Goat gives you the kind of problem anyone likes to have: so many good options, from the award-winning Caca Oaxaca infused with chorizo to the habanero-spiced Hot Bastard to the nubby veggie burger, made in-house. A fun, casual atmosphere and a superb selection of beers don’t hurt a bit. Please forgive us for the lines?
6440 N. MacArthur Blvd., No. 140, Irving. 469-359-2661; breadzeppelinsalads.com.
There’s only so many ways to make a salad or sandwich. So it catches your attention when a place like Bread Zeppelin, a newbie chain-in-the-making, comes along with something entirely new. Say hello to the zeppelin, a marvelous concoction that’s like a salad stuffed into a sandwich. But instead of a messy tortilla wrap or pita, the zeppelin uses a crusty baguette, hollowed out for maximum salad-filling. It can hold everything from basic mixed greens to an entree salad with chopped steak. The restaurant uses top-of-the-line ingredients prepared in-house. Why didn’t we think of this?