When I went to high school in Dallas, we felt superior to kids from Fort Worth, a city we derisively referred to as Cow Town. It wasn’t of much use to us, except for the occasional trip to the Amon Carter Museum to check out Remington bronzes, or to the Tarrant Convention Center to see the Stones. The words “gourmet” and “Fort Worth” were never uttered in the same sentence, though everyone acknowledged that the city’s beanless chili was the best in the state.
Something must have changed in the intervening years, because Fort Worth has gone haute cuisine. Evidence is Lonesome Dove, an ambitious restaurant named after a Larry McMurtry novel, where chef Tim Love melds chuckwagon meats with art culinaire techniques. The original Cow Town location opened in 2000, and—in case you wondered—entrees there top out at a whopping $34, same as at the new Manhattan branch. Love’s towering masterpiece is an appetizer, a buffalo femur bone split down the middle and roasted with a salty herbal coating that reins in the gelatinous, greasy, and glorious marrow. Spread it on the accompanying grilled strips of “camp flatbread,” which is really just homemade pita, and then gnaw on the well-roasted flesh still clinging to the bone.
“I’m from Dallas, too,” confided our waiter, who’d been shooting the shit with a bunch of Texans at the next table. He was wearing a black cowboy shirt, and through the kitchen door we could see the chef and line cooks bobbing around in straw cowboy hats. There was a painting of pointy-toed cowboy boots on one bare brick wall (“That’s high school art,” my date sniffed disdainfully), while a buckhorn chandelier loomed overhead. The menu is long, verbose, and relentlessly meaty; instead of the usual chicken and fish, it’s loaded down with game like quail, red deer, rabbit, and kangaroo.
The food is at once playful and substantial, with some of the wittier ideas found among the appetizers. Lobster and jalapeño ravioli in orange truffle sauce sounds just plain weird, but turns out to be great, and so do buffalo corn dogs ($12), moist hunks of meat suspended in a gooey cornmeal matrix clinging to three short sticks. Go for the more conservative apps at your own peril—the safe-sounding wild salmon on pumpkin squash puree is dull in the extreme, the fish so well-done and dry that it might work better as an orange paperweight. In a menu that’s in a state of flux, I can’t predict what will remain when you dine there, but I’m not unhappy that the foie gras shooters and kangaroo nachos dabbed with boursin cheese are gone.
Gone too is one of my fave entrees: the wild boar foreshank, a stumpy bone with plenty of meat that had to be picked up, caveman-style. It came with stubby fries bombed with fried garlic. Luckily, pork loin rubbed with coffee and cocoa ($26) persists, and it comes with lumpy mashed potatoes surmounted by amazing onion rings. The waiters tout the garlic-stuffed beef tenderloin, and I guess it’s OK, but I was not amused by the so-called “Western plaid hash.” Finally, there’s the pair of excellent New Zealand red deer chops sided with white truffle mac and cheese ($31). My date’s blasé response: “They’re going to murder as many exotic animals as possible, aren’t they?”