Fort Worth: Cowboys, Culture ... and Food!, Take II - Fort Worth Stockyards National Historic District

By Tom Burke, www.armedforcesbowl.com

"Take I" featured Sundance Square where the Air Force and Cal teams are headquartered for the 13th annual Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl.  Here is "Take II"!

Fort Worth Stockyards National Historic District: Cowboys, cowgirls, cattle, horses, saloons, good grub and western heritage are abundant in the Fort Worth Stockyards, located just north of downtown Fort Worth. In fact, you can catch a cattle drive, affectionately known as the Fort Worth Herd, at 11:30 am and 4 pm daily. The Old West comes to life. Genuine Texas cowhands drive a herd of Texas longhorns down Exchange Avenue. Every detail of the cattle drive, from the saddles and chaps to the boots and hats, is authentic and historically true.

Stockyards Station, in the heart of the Stockyards, provides an exciting blend of old and new with historic walking tours, over 25 shops, including a winery and art gallery, and restaurants that offer everything from ribs to enchiladas.

Billy Bob's Texas is in the Stockyards. The building now known as Billy Bob’s Texas was built in 1910 and was once an open-air barn used to house prize cattle for the Fort Worth Stock Show. Billy Bob’s Texas opened April 1, 1981. With 100,000 square feet of interior space, Billy Bob’s features 30 individual bar stations, live music with country music’s biggest stars and a Texas-size dance floor. There's also Live Pro Bull Riding, sanctioned by Championship Bull Riding (CBR). Contestants compete every Friday and Saturday night. We’re talking real bulls, not mechanical! Billy Bob’s also offers guests a chance to be a rodeo star by providing an authentic stuffed bull photo opportunity as if they were part of the live action. Billy Bob's also features some of the best cowboy cuisine in the Stockyards. Billy Bob’s can accommodate up to 6,000 people and is open daily, with entertainment nightly.

Other entertainment options in the Stockyards include: the Stockyards Championship Rodeo, every Friday and Saturday night, at 8 pm; the Cowtown Cattlepen Maze is a unique form of entertainment, with over 5,400 square feet of frequently changed wooden pathways, resembling the cattlepens of the old west; Segway Fort Worth; Stockyards Gunfighter provides a Wild West Shootout and a realistic, safe, fun experience for tourists; the Stockyards Adventure Pass, which is a self-guided adventure that includes a guided Stockyards historic walking tour, a souvenir photo taken on the bull at Billy Bob’s Texas, admission to the Texas Cowboy Hall of Fame and Stockyards Museum, and a screening of the “Spirit of the West” video; the Stockyards Museum, located in the classic 1902 Livestock Exchange building, is a highly respected resource for writers, academics, historians, restoration specialists and genealogists; Fort Worth Stockyards Stables provides Trinity River trail tides, arena rides and Trinity River carriage rides; the Texas Cowboy Hall of Fame pays tribute to over 70 cowboys and cowgirls who have excelled in the sports of rodeo and cutting. Also included are the Sterquell Wagon Collection and the John Justin Trail of Fame. The Sterquell is billed as “the world’s largest lifestyle wagon collection” and features more than 60 antique wagons, carriages and sleighs; authentic stagecoach rides; the Texas Rodeo Cowboy Hall of Fame, dedicated to the sport of rodeo and the recognition of Texas' contribution to that sport, located in the Cowtown Coliseum; the Grapevine Vintage Railroad, which travels along the historic Cotton Belt Route between Grapevine and the Stockyards. The Railroad is serviced by two vintage locomotives, which include "Puffy," the 1896 steam locomotive and oldest continuously operating steam engine in the South, and a 1953 GP-7 diesel locomotive. Passengers ride in authentic 1920s and 1930s Victorian-style coaches; the Texas Trail of Fame, which was established in 1997 to honor those who have made a significant contribution to the Western way of life. Throughout the walkways of the Fort Worth Stockyards National Historic District, bronze inlaid markers have been placed in honor of their achievements. Trail Guides are available at the Stockyards Visitor's information Center. 

Hungry? Just about every corner in the Stockyards has a worthy restaurant, with probably none more visited and revered than Joe T. Garcia's. Founded in 1935, and still run by the founding family, this Fort Worth institution has grown from a tiny dining room in the Garcia family home to a sprawling series of rooms and gardens that can seat up to 1,000 at a time. Known primarily for combination dinners of enchiladas, tacos, guacamole and rice and beans, as well as sizzling fajitas platters, Joe T’s also serves up potent margaritas made with silver tequila and real lime juice.

Around the corner from Joe T's is a related restaurant, Esperanza's, which is a bakery and cafe. It has a varied menu, including breakfast. Just a few blocks from Joe T’s is El Rancho Grande. This neighborhood favorite dates to 1948 and is known for making corn tortillas daily. Try the tacos al carbon or the carne asada, topped with a cheese enchilada. Huevos rancheros always are available.

Lonesome Dove Western Bistro, Cattlemen's, and H3 Ranch provide upscale dining in a western setting.

Lonesome Dove is celebrity Chef Tim Love's award-winning western bistro. Sample prime hand-cut steaks, wild game and seafood in one of Fort Worth's most celebrated dining rooms. Chef Love's Love Shack features burgers, hot dogs, shakes, homemade fries, cold beer and live music.

Since 1947, Cattlemen's Internationally Famous Steak House has served quality cuts of meat, BBQ ribs, shrimp, chicken, daily lunch specials, sandwiches, salads and other items in an authentic western environment. Steaks are cooked on a charcoal broiler.

Each day, spit-roasted pig and chicken turn on the open rotisserie at H3 Ranch. There's also delicious trout, lip-smackin’ ribs and hearty steaks. Be sure to save room for dessert. Homemade pies and cobblers are baked fresh daily. The Jack Daniels ice cream with a brownie and chocolate sauce is what legends are made of. 

The Cisneros family welcomes you to Los Vaqueros, housed in a restored 1915 Packing-house. Mexican food is prepared without using preservatives or MSG. The fajitas are hand-trimmed, tenderized and marinated without the use of enzymes.

Cooper's BBQ, located just a stone's throw from Billy Bob's, is the home of the original, world-famous "Big Chop" (a barbecued pork chop that's at least an inch thick). Cooper's is a 26,000-square-foot restaurant. The main dining area and an indoor/outdoor patio provide a view of the Fort Worth skyline. Choose your barbecued meats from the mesquite coals and giant pits that sit at the entrance to the restaurant. A word of caution: your eyes usually are bigger than your stomach!

The Star Cafe was built in the early 1900s. From the tin ceiling to the counter-tops, the Star Cafe offers a nostalgic trip back to days long ago. Family-owned and operated with pride, the Star Cafe is dedicated to old-fashioned service and quality and serves half-pound burgers, steaks, pork chops and chicken-fried steak with home-style gravy.

Chicken-fried steak king Grady Spears recently opened Horseshoe Hill Cafe, a simple cowboy cafe. Gargantuan chicken-fried steaks come with a choice of gravies. There's a dry-aged rib-eye steak, roasted chicken with green chile cheese grits, cabrito tacos, Rocky Mountain Oysters and much more. 

Riscky’s Steakhouse is known for its Texas-size steaks and is the oldest operating restaurant in Tarrant County. The barbecue at Riscky's BBQ is hand-rubbed with "Riscky Dust" and slow-smoked for hours. 

Additional Fort Worth Stockyards information: http://www.fortworthstockyards.org/