Anyone who has zoomed through Burleson via Interstate 35 has, no doubt, seen them: one chain restaurant after another.
But take the Wilshire or Renfro exits that cut through the heart of the city, and you’ll find a vibrant restaurant community, made up of family-run spots whose cuisines run the gamut from Thai street food to gourmet tacos to Jamaican food to good ol’ fashioned chicken-fried steaks.
The south Fort Worth suburb has experienced massive growth over the past decade, its population blossoming from 36,690 in 2010 to 49,192 in 2020. No surprise that Ol’ South Pancake House, Heim Barbecue, and Dough Boy Donuts chose Burleson to open new locations (Ol’ South is already open; Heim and Dough Boy are coming later this year).
For the third installment in our Neighborhood Eats series, a series devoted to exploring the independent restaurants in the nooks and crannies of our surrounding communities, we’re zeroing in on Burleson and, hopefully, debunking the myth that the town’s food scene is dominated by chains.
Please note: Some restaurants featured in this story require customers to wear masks; others do not. Call before you go. And now, dig in.
If a food truck lost control and careened into a sports bar, you’d have The Rim. That analogy is accurate in more ways than one. This slick restaurant, opened by the same family of restaurateurs behind Rio Mambo and whose kitchen is manned by former Buttons owner-chef Keith Hicks, has the ambience — not to mention surplus of TVs — of any sports bar. But there’s a cool little detail that makes it stand out from, well, anyone: There’s an actual Airstream food truck inside of the restaurant. Part of the kitchen is inside of the Airstream, and you can watch Hicks and other cooks whip up Hicks’ signature chicken and waffles, plus other hearty Southern dishes, such as a braised pork shank and dynamite pot roast. The extensive menu also includes burgers, brick-oven pizzas, salads, and cheffy bar bites. There are beers and cocktails galore, easy to enjoy on the restaurant’s cool wraparound bar. A second location of The Rim is slated to open soon in Fort Worth’s Waterside area in the old Taco Diner spot.
What to get: Beautifully presented, Hicks’ signature chicken and waffles is one of Fort Worth’s very best dishes. Can’t call yourself a Fort Worthian — or a Burlesonite, for that matter — if you haven’t had this yet.
295 E. Renfro St. • therimrestaurant.com
Just over a year old, American Revelry is one of the city’s newest restaurants, and it’s a real beauty, all clinking wine glasses, white-glove service, and top-notch food. In an attractive, industrial-chic space built from the ground up by local developer Timothy Windmiller and his business partner, Les Vernon, AR touts an unusual concept. The main menu is devoted to chef-inspired, thoughtfully sourced takes on American classics: salmon with an orange marmalade glaze, shrimp and grits in a white wine sauce, balls of cheesecake fried and served with plops of housemade whipped cream. Recently relaunched as the pandemic has started to subside, another menu is steeped in regional fare, encompassing food from one end of the coast to the other. “That portion of the menu changes constantly, depending on what’s in season and what region our chefs want to focus on,” Windmiller says. “As the name says, we are an American restaurant, so we want to shine the spotlight on different types of American cuisine, whether it’s New York or California or somewhere in between.”
The restaurant features a 30-foot bar, cut from quartz, and an attractive outdoor patio dotted with a bar area, fire pits, and misters. American Revelry’s come-as-you-are atmosphere belies its five-star service: Astute servers refill drinks with robotic precision and ask you to cut open your steak to see if it’s cooked as requested. But they also do something very Burleson: make small talk. Says Windmiller: “It’s fine dining, but we still want it to have a Texas feel.”
What to get: AR does a great steak — our 12-ounce rib-eye was expertly cooked medium rare. For an appetizer, the beet-infused deviled eggs, topped with specks of bacon and fried chicken skins, are outstanding. There’s a superb wine list, too.
279 W. Hidden Creek Parkway • americanrevelry.com
Rack Attack BBQ
The industrial strip center façade of this new barbecue joint may not look like much, but it masks a huge, nicely landscaped outdoor area filled with picnic tables and kiddo-friendly games, making it the ideal setting for families. Opened late last year on a slice of Highway 1187 that straddles Burleson and Fort Worth city limits, Rack Attack is manned by a tiny staff led by owner and pitmaster Brandon Anderson, who cut his teeth in the barbecue biz by hosting pop-up events in Mansfield, his hometown.
Married with two kids, Anderson saw a need for a family-friendly ’cue joint, envisioning parents mowing through brisket, sausage, and ribs while kids run themselves silly in a big open play space. “I built it with my kids in mind,” he says. “Barbecue is all about family anyway — big plates of food and everybody grabbing what they want.” There’s plenty here to grab, from barbecue basics such as brisket and turkey to sides that include hatch pepper mac and cheese and loaded baked potatoes. There are a few inside tables, but most vie for seats along the 3,000-square-foot outdoor area, which also includes a stage for live music.
What to get: The St. Louis-style ribs, swiped with a chipotle glaze, best show off Anderson’s cooking chops. Instead of the usual wood-burning smoker, Anderson uses a less conventional pellet smoker, fueled by wood pellets. He uses a variety of pellets, including cherry, which gives his ribs a mahogany glow, he says.
6620 Storm Cat Lane, Suite 101 • rackattackbarbecue.com
Pandan Thai Street Eats
Old Town Burleson, a hip, burgeoning retail and restaurant district carved out of antique buildings near downtown, is dominated by Mexican and American food — burgers and tacos and fajitas and chicken-fried steaks. This two-story, fast-casual restaurant offers some tasty respite. Opened by Pook Thothong and her family, the restaurant serves simple and flavorful Thai food to those in the area burned on burgers and barbecue. Choice dishes include kai soi noodles, chicken with yellow curry and egg noodles; stewed pork belly with ginger, shallots, and garlic; and steamed dumplings submerged in a hot chili oil. Pandan also serves Thai tea and Thai coffee, along with seasonal desserts and boba drinks.
There’s also a location in nearby Crowley, and last year, Thothong opened a new concept in east Burleson called Burly Bird, which serves chicken wings, freshly made waffles, and iced teas.
What to get: Loaded basil fries are as addicting as they are filling. Pineapple fried rice is another good choice. Wash it all down with a freshly made orange raspberry tea.
114 S. Main St. • pandanthai.com
Perched atop the Alsbury exit on the east side of Interstate 35, Our Place is a classic American eatery, the kind of restaurant that used to rule the country’s roadsides. Open for breakfast and lunch only, the restaurant serves American food at its simplest and finest: big plates of eggs and housemade pancakes and grilled sausage and waffles cut in the shape of Texas for breakfast, burgers and jalapeño pork chops and plate-engulfing chicken-fried steak for lunch, and freshly made pie for dessert, all served with sass and smiles from fun and attentive servers. “When we opened here, there wasn’t anything else like it around here,” says Otto Arslanovski, who moved the restaurant in 2012 from downtown Burleson to its current home on the highway. “And even with all the other restaurants around us now, there still isn’t.”
Our Place has been an integral part of Burleson’s restaurant community since it opened — where Sammy’s Italian Bistro is now — in the mid-’80s. In the restaurant world, surviving that long is nothing short of a miracle. “We have the highway traffic for sure. That’s been an immense help,” says Otto, who runs the restaurant with his wife, Monica. “But it’s the regulars from Burleson, the people who’ve been with us from day one, who’ve kept this place going. That’s why the name ‘Our Place’ is so fitting. It really is their place.”
What to get: The blackened sirloin steak sandwich is a smoky wonder. For dessert, try a slice of peanut butter and banana pie, and we bet you’ll love us forever.
950 N. Burleson Blvd. • ourplacerestaurants.com
Jamaican Summers Eatery
It’s impossible to miss, the charmingly ramshackle building sitting, practically, in the middle of Renfro Street, wearing a coat of bright yellow paint loud enough to stop traffic. You can’t help but wonder what it’s like inside. Turns out, it’s a lot like the outside, colorful and vivid and unforgettable — much like the food that owner Richard Williams has been serving here since 2016.
A native of Jamaica, he moved to New Jersey, then Texas, hoping to bring his homeland’s recipes to a wide audience. “I thought, Let’s have the most colorful building and colorful culture in this town,” he says. Rehabbing an old coffee shop, he opened one of the only Jamaican restaurants in the area, attracting a small but feverishly devoted crowd. He and his daughter, Kimberly, serve staples of Jamaican cuisine, including jerk chicken, oxtail, and curried goat, along with fresh veggies such as turnip greens, collard greens, and cabbage. Roti, a soft and flaky flat bread, is the perfect accompaniment.
Due to the pandemic, his hours are limited, and the restaurant itself is only open for to-go orders.
What to get: The must-try dish here is escovitch, lightly fried, bone-in red snapper served with bell peppers and onions.
217 W. Renfro St. • jamaicansummers.weebly.com
Burleson Bakery 1836
Every neighborhood should have a bakery. Burleson is lucky enough to have a few, including this charming spot near downtown, opened last year by sisters Amy Roberts and Staci Clark. The two previously worked in the dental field, then decided, almost on a whim, to open this shop, which also serves snow cones. “We just got burned out on our jobs,” says Roberts. “I had already quit my job and had opened a snow cone stand. My sister has always been a wonderful baker. I just told her one day, ‘Let’s do something together. Let’s open a bakery.’”
Roberts says the recipes for the bakery’s cookies, brownies, johnnycakes, cheesecakes, and pies come from both Clark and the sisters’ ancestors. “Some of the recipes are from our great-grandmother, which would put them in the 19th century,” she says. History is a big deal here: The 1836 portion of the bakery’s name is a reference to the year Texas won its independence from Mexico. Order a box of sweets, and when you reach the bottom, you’ll find more Texas trivia. “I love, love, love Texas history,” Roberts says. “Since history plays such a role in our recipes and lives — we’re fifth generation Texans — we thought it’d be something unique and fun to put a bit of Texas history in the bottom of each box. It’s a good way to remember us, too.”
What to get: Try the pavlova, a pastry named after Russian ballerina Anna Pavlova. Its thin, sweet crust is topped with fresh strawberries and housemade whipped cream.
102 NW Renfro St. • facebook.com/BurlesonBakery1836
Sammy’s Italian Bistro
Celebrating its 26th anniversary this year, Sammy’s Italian Bistro is one of the oldest and most popular restaurants in Burleson. If you live in Burleson and you go to Sammy’s on a Friday night, you are going to see people from work, church, school, and next door, laughing and visiting over big plates of spaghetti, spinach ravioli, and baskets of bread. Everybody in Burleson, sooner or later, becomes a regular at this old-school, red sauce Italian spot. “I have cooks and waitresses who’ve been here since the day we opened,” says owner Steve Salihu, who took over the store after his brother Sammy moved on to other endeavors. “I have customers who came in as kids 25 years ago, and now they bring in their families.” Steve runs the restaurant with his brother, Benji. Over the years, the two have done very little to the menu and décor, leaving things the way they’ve always been. “People love it the way it is,” he says. “The food’s good and fresh; the service is good. So many restaurants are struggling, especially in the pandemic. So, I know we’re doing something right.”
What to get: The piping hot lasagna, filled with beef and gooey cheese; fantastic New York-style pizzas; and freshly made rolls, which ooze steam when you pull them apart.
225 Exchange St. • sammysitalianbistro.com
Stone Soup Cafe
One of Burleson’s best restaurants is this soup and sandwich kitchen, found in a strip mall on Wilshire Boulevard, the main drag that cuts through Burleson. Its homey atmosphere is a good sign of what’s to come: unpretentious food, made with skill and care. Owner Ginger Eccles is adamant about using fresh ingredients — freshly made bread comes in daily from Fort Worth’s Metro Bakery Co., and veggies and meats are hand-cut daily, the old-fashioned way. “Nothing’s pre-made or pre-sliced,” she says. “We start from scratch daily.” Soups rotate daily and include corn chowder, chicken enchilada, and mushroom beer cheese. There are more than a dozen hot and cold sandwiches, and each comes with your choice of cole slaw, pasta salad, or potato salad. At a time when no one blinks at an eye at paying $14 for a BLT, and getting nothing but the BLT, Stone Soup’s prices are an absolute steal; nothing’s over $10.
What to get: Go on Wednesday for the fantastic mushroom beer cheese soup; go anytime for an excellent hot pastrami sammy.
333 SW Wilshire Blvd. • stonesouptexas.com
Burleson’s independent restaurant game is strong. Check out some of these other B-town mom and pop spots.
Antonio’s Mexican Restaurant: Locals pour into long-running Antonio’s for sizzling fajitas, $8 lunch specials, grilled rib-eyes and all-day breakfast; the migas are outtasite. antoniosmex.com
Asian Café: The Alsbury area is one chain after another, with a handful of exceptions, including this tiny Asian bistro, which serves a mix of Thai, Japanese, and Chinese. A good time to go is during lunch when nothing’s over $9. asiancafeburleson.com
Bennett’s Grocery & Deli: Found on a twisting backroad east of downtown, this gas station and grocery store, whose roots date back nearly five decades, serves the best burgers in Burleson. Some may argue the world. 817.295.8831
Burleson Brunch House: No need to wait for the weekend here. Similar to Snooze, this 2-year-old spot on the far west tip of Burleson serves breakfast and brunch seven days a week. Nutella-banana pancakes will keep you stuffed for a good day or so. facebook.com/burleson-brunch-house
Busy B’s Bakery: Freshly made kolaches and cream cheese cinnamon rolls are the stars at Busy B’s, open for more than three decades. It’s a fave of hometown hero Kelly Clarkson. facebook.com/busy-bs-bakery
Dwell Coffee & Biscuits: Opened by husband-and-wife team Jeff and Stephanie Brannon, this craft coffeehouse in Old Town is as popular for its brews as it is for its buttermilk biscuits, which are made fresh daily in flavors such as sweet potato and cranberry orange. There are also Dwell locations in Fort Worth and a new store in the HEB in Burleson. dwellcoffeeandbiscuits.com
Fresco’s: Along with nearby Babe’s Chicken Dinner House, this upbeat Mexican restaurant helped revitalize Burleson’s Old Town area. Good tableside guac and chicken fajita enchiladas. frescosmexicanfood.com
Grumps Burgers: Burleson outpost of family-run chain serves gourmet burgers in a cool old building. grumpsburgers.com
House of Pho: Hidden among the retail shops in the Alsbury area is this gem, which serves hearty bowls of pho in nearly a dozen varieties. facebook.com/house-of-pho-burleson
Miranda’s Mexican Restaurant: No-frills Mexican restaurant offers all the usual Tex-Mex standards, plus curveballs like fried catfish. Weekend brunch includes breakfast tostadas — flat, round corn chips topped with refried beans, over-easy eggs, and a spicy green chile salsa. facebook.com/mirandas-mexican-restaurant
Mojo’s Tex Mex Smokehouse & Grill: Not many restaurants cook flour tortillas, right before your eyes, the second you order tacos. That’s just one of the many charms of this long-running, fast-casual Mexican-barbecue joint, opened nearly a decade ago by the same family that owns the nearby Stone Soup and Hickory Tree in Joshua. You can get those tacos filled with a variety of proteins — expertly smoked by pitmaster cousins Terry and Barry Hodges — but brisket should be choice No. 1. The restaurant offers more than a half-dozen salsas, all made in-house, and they’re all terrific. getsomemojos.com
Moontower Pizza Bar: Named after the party locale in Richard Linklater’s hit film, “Dazed and Confused,” this far-out pizza joint serves subs, wings, and excellent pizza pies; the jerk chicken pizza is all right, all right, all right. moon-tower.com
Murry Bakery: Quaint bakery, opened last year by Burlesonites Ruthie and Jarod Murry, sells top-notch sweets, made daily by Ruthie, a professional pastry chef. Pray you’re there when she’s whipped up her chocolate chip oatmeal bread pudding. murrybakery.com
Ol’ South Pancake House: Yes, Ol’ South’s German pancakes are available at this newly opened spinoff of the TCU-area original. So’s just about everything else, like the French crepes, egg skillets, and killer coffee. Burleson never had it so good. olsouthpancakehouse.com
Old Texas Brewing Co.: Big with the biker crowd, this Old Town bar and restaurant specializes in Southern classics. Cool sidewalk patio and rooftop bar. oldtexasbrewing.com
Roscoe’s Smokehouse: Huge — and hugely popular — barbecue joint with excellent slow-smoked burgers. roscoessmokehouse.com
Spice Rack Tapas Bar & Grill: Another restaurant that helped revitalize the Old Town area of Burleson, Spice Rack shines the spotlight on cheffed-up bar food, like mac and cheese topped with smoked pork, poblano peppers, and housemade barbecue sauce. spicerackgrill.com