Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth Photo by Kevin Brown

Fort Worth Day Trip: Cultural District & West 7th

Powered by the shale boom, the area near the city's acclaimed museums keeps getting better.

On its way through the Mid Cities, the Trinity Railway Express snakes behind warehouses before finding its way up a small berm that offers unobstructed views to the south. The bone-white curve of AT&T Stadium sits off toward the horizon, a reminder of the usual monotonous drive to Fort Worth along I-30. On the TRE, the ride from Dallas really does feel like a journey, which helps underscore the cultural distance that exists between these two sister cities. 

Fort Worth Botanic Garden
Perhaps there is no better illustration of Fort Worth’s distinctive character than its Cultural District. Sitting on a slope that overlooks Trinity Park (Fort Worth has long managed to have a park on the Trinity River), the subtle, graceful architecture of Philip Johnson’s Amon Carter Museum of American Art, Louis Kahn’s Kimbell Art Museum (with its new Renzo Piano-designed addition), and Tadao Ando’s Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth make for an unfussy, unpretentious cultural neighborhood. They also happen to be the three best-designed and best-programmed museums in North Texas.

My traveling companion and I began the day with lunch at Cafe Modern. Floor-to-ceiling windows look out from the retro, midcentury dining room toward Ando’s museum, which floats on a shallow pool of water. A cup of Chinese mushroom soup followed by steak and beet salad and a glass of Nielson Pinot Noir fortify me for an afternoon in the galleries. 

Chef Lanny Lancarte of Righteous Foods Photo by Kevin Marple
Where else in the world can you slip so easily between Matisse and Monet, Richter and Ruscha, Remington and Russell—and then stumble out onto a boulevard that runs past the carnival-esque hoopla swirling around a stock show at the neighboring Will Rogers Auditorium? It was too cold that day to explore the beautiful Japanese Garden at the Fort Worth Botanic Garden just a skip up the road, so after the museums we decided to wander down toward West 7th. 

Five or six years ago, this neighborhood didn’t exist. Its emergence is a testament to Fort Worth’s shale-fueled boom. West 7th is now a mini-city of cookie-cutter apartment buildings. It can feel over-branded (“Movies Never Tasted So Good” brags the marquee at Movie Tavern), and many of the new shops and restaurants are chains. Still, the antiseptic, corporate vibe is undone by anachronistic holdouts and new spots that capture the city’s laid-back, nonchalant Western vibe. 

Righteous Foods Photo by Kevin Marple
Rodeo Goat serves imaginative hamburgers on the neighborhood’s best patio. Magnolia Motor Lounge offers live music and above-par bar food. Foch Street boasts boutiques like Onslow’s and ReVint Boutique, upscale pet store Wag, and J. Rae’s bakery. Then there’s Fred’s Texas Cafe, a diner located in what looks like a broken-down motor home. Antlers and cattle brands cover the ceiling, and men in cowboy hats sit with their dates in glittering gold vinyl booths, drinking chalices of Shiner Bock and eating calf fries. 

After quaffing beer at Fred’s, we crossed 7th and found our way to Revolver Taco Lounge, a modern Mexican taqueria located in an old storefront. Two older women worked busily in an open kitchen, producing plates of duck tacos, Michoacán-style roasted goat, and Chile en Nogada served alongside handmade corn tortillas on plastic floral tablecloths. Despite the trendy new apartments across the street, Revolver is chic but subdued, striking the perfect balance between sophisticated style and homespun authenticity. I liked Revolver Taco so much I told my traveling companion that I wished we could strap it to the back of the TRE and drag it back to Dallas.

But then it would be in Dallas, she said. It wouldn’t be the same.

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