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Book note: ‘Food Lovers’ Guide to Dallas & Fort Worth’

Posted 5:16pm on Wednesday, Jan. 15, 2014

Remember a time before Yelp and Urban Spoon (and — ahem, DFW.com), when we looked to guide books to help us figure out where to eat? Since then, our Insta-Twitter-Facebook culture has created an army of foodies — all in-the-know and quick to pounce on the latest openings in DFW, which guarantee long waits for the new kid on the restaurant block. (Talkin’ to you, Velvet Taco Fort Worth and AF+B.)

But what if you want an overview of the dining scene in the Metroplex? And maybe you’re new to town, or just happen to love the tactile feel of your fingers riffling through pages.

Enter the Food Lovers’ Guide to Dallas & Fort Worth: The Best Restaurants, Markets & Local Culinary Offerings. The book, one in a series of Food Lovers’ guides, was released Tuesday.

Its author is Fort Worth-based food and travel writer June Naylor, a sixth-generation Texan. You may recognize Naylor’s name from her years working for the Star-Telegram and DFW.com, or her current job as food and travel writer for 360 West luxury magazine. (Naylor also co-runs the Fort Worth-based culinary events company, Texas Toast.)

The book is a compilation arranged first by geography — Dallas (arranged by neighborhood), Fort Worth, and Fort Worth suburbs. Within those categories, the regions are further broken down into “Foodie Faves” (think Mot Hai Ba and Buttons), then “Landmarks” (The Mansion, Joe T. Garcia’s), and finally, “Specialty Stores, Markets and Producers” (Dallas Farmers Market, Artisan Baking Company).

So, clearly, Naylor knows her way around the DFW dining scene. Still, a compilation like this — even if it’s selective, not comprehensive — had to be daunting.

“Once I started getting into it, I thought: ‘Have I lost my mind?’” Naylor laughed. “It’s not only covering a big area, but the ever-changing nature of the restaurant business. That’s the one thing about it that’s a little nerve-wracking.”

Indeed, with the fleeting nature of restaurants, we had to wonder how many had closed in the process of the book’s publication.

In the year that Naylor was working on the book, she estimates that probably a dozen closed. “And I thought: How many are gonna close a month after this book is in stores? But that’s the way the business works.”

But some of the closures really threw her. “Some places that I felt really confident about, being around. If I didn’t feel like a place had a good chance for longevity, I just didn’t include it. For instance, Primo’s closed after the book went to printer. That was stunning to me. That place had a lot of loyal customers, and was in such a good location.”

Naylor says the series’ publisher realizes that people today are always going to whip out their smartphones to hunt for restaurants.

“But if you want a little background on a place,” she says, “I think the book serves that purpose. I think the book probably really appeals to people who are either new to the area, and trying to learn the geography of the North Texas dining scene,” or, she said, maybe people who know the area, but maybe are just hopping back into the dining-out world again and trying to navigate where things are.

Her biggest surprise in researching the book was watching the evolution of the Dallas dining scene, in black and white before her eyes.

“I grew up in Dallas, but all of my career has been as a Fort Worth resident. But having grown up in Dallas and having family there, it’s been fun to watch how areas have evolved in ways I couldn’t have predicted 20 years ago.”

“For instance, Oak Cliff — specifically Bishop Arts — and the Design District. Both of those areas were so, so dead when I started writing about food in the Dallas dining scene in the late ’80s. To see it evolve was remarkable. So many new things going on there all the time. I’ve appreciated how Dallas has evolved in very cosmopolitan ways.

“But also in Fort Worth, seeing the numbers getting bigger and bigger than I anticipated for this book. I had to keep going back [to the publisher] and say: ‘I’m going to have more for Fort Worth than I had originally anticipated.’”

Considering the temporal nature of the biz, will there be plans to update the book in a few years?

“Possibly,” Naylor says. “It depends on how well it does. Some of the books in the series have gone into second editions.”

The book ($16.95) is available online through Amazon, or through the publisher, Globe Pequot Press, and locally at Barnes and Noble, Costco, and Whole Earth Provisions.

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