What barbecue joints are doing across the state, from to-go orders to shipping smoked meats.
Cities across Texas are shutting down restaurant dining rooms as the coronavirus pandemic intensifies: Austin, Dallas, Fort Worth, Houston, and Waco have all done so this week; San Antonio has restricted gatherings of fifty people or more, but hasn’t closed dining rooms. The profit margins in running a restaurant are low as it is, so when the pandemic swept in, some barbecue joint owners decided on their own to bite the bullet and close for a time. Many joints with dining rooms are switching to a takeout and delivery business model, and some have put a greater emphasis on shipping their smoked meats across the country.
We’ve compiled a list of those barbecue joints, organized by city, that are making it easy to enjoy your dinner at home while still supporting the barbecue community—please note that this list doesn’t include barbecue food trucks whose service model already meets the new requirements. We’re also keeping you informed of any barbecue joint closures—hopefully none of them permanent—as well as event cancellations and postponements, and which places are shipping their meats. We’ll continue to update our list, so please comment below if you know a joint that should be added.
The owners of Panther City BBQ have now launched La Pantera Tacos y Mas for the after-hours crowds.
FORT WORTH, Texas — There’s no denying how sweet it is to take a risk and have it pay off. Or, in this case, less sweet; more smoky.
“We didn’t have any expectation, but we do know we put our heart and soul into our food,” said Chris Magallanes, one of the owners of Panther City BBQ.
WFAA first met the guys behind the popular Fort Worth BBQ joint back in July 2019. They’d left their corporate jobs and were slingin’ cue from a smoking-hot trailer outside the Republic Street Bar on Hattie Street.
Since then, the bar owners built them a permanent space and things have been great, as they serve BBQ from 11 a.m. until 7 p.m., or whenever they run out.
But Magallanes said he and his co-owner Ernie Morales quickly noticed something when they’d head into work to start cooking.
“We were coming in at 3 in the morning, just after the bar closes for the night,” he said, “seeing pizza boxes in the trash, Uber Eats boxes.”
Magallanes said he saw a business opportunity.
“That’s where La Pantera Tacos was born.”
That’s right; late-night street tacos, to be offered from the very same space as Panther City BBQ.
But, here’s the rub.
“Other than eating a lot of tacos, none of us really had a lot of taco experience,” Magallanes said.
But they knew they had great smoked meats and sauces. So along with Ernie’s brother Stephan Morales, their appointed “taquero,” they tasted tacos all over the Dallas-Fort Worth area while perfecting their own recipes. This year, they launched “La Pantera Tacos y Mas,” which opens shortly after Panther City closes, from 8 p.m. to 1 a.m.
They’ve already been written up in Texas Monthly.
“It’s kind of crazy to me, you know,” said Morales, who’d previously worked for a company that built police cars.
Now, people line up for late-night al pastor, tri-tip tacos and more. All the meat is smoked, just as you’d find it during the day.
But there is one thing that is disappearing.
“A lot fewer pizza boxes,” Magallanes said, laughing.
When I first wrote about Panther City BBQ in 2018, owners Chris Magallanes and Ernest Morales were still holding onto their old day jobs while trying to run a part-time barbecue truck. A few months later, they worked out a deal with their landlord, Brian Reising, who owns Republic Street Bar and the lot around it where the food truck was parked. He offered to construct a building for them if they’d sign a long-term lease. The pair agreed and made barbecue their full-time jobs.
Magallanes and Morales suffered through the long, hot summer of 2019 inside the sweltering food truck—their only brief moments of relief coming when the fireboxes in the smokers outside needed feeding. The shell of the building rose across the parking lot, but it seemed to taunt them as construction delays mounted. They were finally able to move in just before Halloween last year, at last granted temperature control.
The new building is divvied into three parts. There’s a covered dining area that seats about 64 at long picnic tables. Roll-down plastic sheeting encloses the sides when necessary. Two windows, one to place orders and another to retrieve them, look into the ample kitchen. Behind that is a screened-in pit room with three five-hundred-gallon smokers. Marcus Lopez, a recent hire with plenty of barbecue experience, keeps the smokers humming. It’s important work, especially now that this pit room produces barbecue for two restaurants.
After Panther City BBQ closes for the evening, the large barbecue menu is taken down and replaced with the small A-frame chalkboard for La Pantera Tacos y Mas. “Pantera” is Spanish for “panther,” which might be obvious to some, but I smacked my own forehead after finally making the connection. The late-night barbecue taco shop serves from 8 p.m. until 1 a.m. Magallanes said it will soon open earlier on Wednesdays and maybe Thursdays too. The name may be different, but everyone working at La Pantera is employed by Panther City BBQ, and all the barbecue for its tacos come out of the same smokers.
Late in the evening after a recent road trip, I detoured into Fort Worth for some of those tacos. I grabbed a beer inside the Republic Street bar and brought it out to the new dining area. Barbecue and tacos are also welcome inside the bar if you’d rather eat there. Stephan Morales, who started working for his brother Ernest in July, has run La Pantera since it launched a few weeks ago. He brought out one of every taco, all on corn tortillas made fresh daily by El Rancho Supermercado in Fort Worth. They were doubled up, as you’ll often find with street tacos, but a single tortilla was stout enough to hold the generous toppings. Just the salsa verde was available on the side, but Stephan Morales said more salsa recipes are in the works. A special tri-tip taco was topped with a lively chimichurri and cotija. The rest came with raw onions and cilantro.
Brisket may seem like the obvious choice here, but I loved the richness of the smoked beef cheek barbacoa. There are three different options for pork. I didn’t try the carnitas, but the pork belly was smoky, peppery, and decadently fatty. Chunks of pork steak, in al pastor marinade, brought a different texture and flavor, but it was hard to choose a favorite. At just $8 for four tacos, it’s easy enough to explore.
The most dangerous thing on the La Pantera menu is made by Stephan’s wife, Yasaira Zamora Morales. She fills empanadas with cheesecake. They are deep-fried to order and topped with cinnamon and sugar. I swore I’d only eat one of the three that came in a paper boat, but the crisp exterior and rich cheesecake had me going back for more.
When asked what prompted them to open a second concept when a barbecue operation alone already takes up so much time, Stephan said they saw an opportunity because of Republic Street Bar’s late hours. In the trash cans outside, they noticed “all kinds of Uber Eats packages and pizza boxes,” when they’d come in to cook barbecue, he said, so they figured why not offer the bar patrons a late-night food option. Magallanes said they considered using the old trailer as a taco truck, but then thought, “If we’re going to do the taco thing, let’s talk about doing it out of the building we have, instead of paying maintenance on a building and a food truck.” They put the truck up for sale, and it was gone in a week. They don’t miss it. Panther City BBQ does much of the prep for La Pantera by smoking the meats, while La Pantera employees prep sides and sauces for Panther City BBQ during any lulls during the evening.
I wanted to see the new building in the daylight, so I stopped by last Saturday for a tray of barbecue just as Panther City BBQ opened. A cup of elotes topped with chunks of smoked brisket, cotija, lime, and cilantro was pure Tex-Mex barbecue comfort food. It’s one of the few crossover items that appear on both Panther City’s and La Pantera’s menus. The rest of the tray was stunning. Pork belly burnt ends, spare ribs, and sliced brisket were all smoked beautifully and perfectly tender. The jalapeño poppers stuffed with the same pork belly burnt ends are just $10 for three. I already knew that Panther City BBQ was one of Fort Worth’s best, but it was amazing to see how their quality has increased just since opening this new building. And that’s despite producing nearly triple the amount of barbecue they were doing over the summer.
Now, with the sudden popularity of La Pantera, they already need more pit space. Magallanes said they’re talking with the landlord about expanding the pit room to allow for thousand-gallon smokers. Stephan said he expects the taqueria to get even busier once word gets out. “We’re actually in our own lane,” he said, because where else are you gonna get late-night barbecue tacos in Fort Worth? Luckily the only option is still a great one.
It’s no secret that Texas dishes out some of the best barbecue in the country (and quite frankly, the world). Plenty of out-of-staters have attempted to cook up our famous beef brisket, juicy pork sausage, and tender pork ribs, but they just can’t measure up to our own in-state smoked meats. If there’s one place that knows that best, it’s Fort Worth. The city has so many award-winning, down-home barbecue joints, it’s almost unfair. But which one is best? Check out our list of Cowtown’s top ten barbecue hot-spots, and vote for your favorite in PaperCity‘s Best Barbecue in Fort Worth Challenge. You can vote once per day, so finish up your ‘cue and get voting.
late-night taqueria specializing in barbecue-beef tacos will soon open in a space already known for expertly smoked meats.
Panther City BBQ — one of Fort Worth’s most well-known barbecue joints — will open a new taqueria concept in the same space as its barbecue restaurant. Called La Pantera Tacos Y Mas, it’ll be run by husband-wife team Stephan and Yasaira Morales and will serve tacos during some very specific hours: 8 pm-1 am Thursday through Saturday.
They’ll do street-style tacos, all made with Panther City’s smoked meats.
“There will be about five or six different tacos,” says Chris Magallanes, one of Panther City’s two owners. “Al pastor, brisket, barbacoa, asada, maybe tri-tip. There will be a few tacos always on the menu, while others will rotate on and off.”
Sides will include Panther City’s well-known brisket elote, a pile of creamed corn topped with freshly chopped brisket, queso fresco, and fresh jalapeños. Other items include brisket nachos and housemade agua fresca.
“It’s not going to be a huge menu,” Magallanes says. “Tacos, brisket elote, something to drink, maybe a dessert like sopapapilla cheesecake. We want to keep it simple.”
As for tortillas, Magallanes says they’ve found some amazing tortilla makers with whom they’re working on just the right offering. “We haven’t landed on the one we’re going to use yet, but they’ll be good,” he says. “We’re big on using really good tortillas.”
Panther City recently expanded its footprint, graduating from a food truck to a more conventional restaurant space. The expansion included a bigger kitchen. “We have a lot more room now, enough room to basically run two different restaurants,” he says.
The concept is a group effort between the two families associated with Panther City BBQ. Stephan Morales is the brother of Panther City co-owner Ernest Morales.
“Stephan’s a real tacohead,” Magallanes says. “He’s been going around town, trying out various tacos, studying tacos, deciding what he likes, what he doesn’t like. We’ll cook the meats, but everything else will be their decision. We’re basically handing the keys to them and saying, ‘Serve the kind of food you want to serve.'”
The taqueria’s primary audience will be the bar crowd in and around the Near Southside area. Panther City, which is only open during lunch hours, is located in the same parking lot as the Republic Street Bar, at 201 E. Hattie St.
“We get here at 3 am to start smoking meat, and we see all the UberEats bags from people ordering food from the bar,” Magallanes says. “So we know the demand is there. The area needs some good late-night options.”
Spiritually, South Main is a soul sister to Austin’s SoCo and Dallas’ Bishop Arts, minus the nerve-wracking traffic and crowds – for now.
Panther City BBQ co-pitmasters Ernie Morales and Chris Magallanes prepared a Southside Slammer sandwich comprised of (from bottom) smoked bologna, brisket, pulled pork, jalape–o cheese sausage and topped with pork belly.(Tom Fox / Staff Photographer)
Fort Worth has seen its share of neighborhood dining explosions. In the past decade, Cowtowners watched Magnolia Avenue, in the heart of the Fairmount Historic District just south of downtown, blow up with local restaurants. We’ve checked out the recent boom in restaurants — often Dallas exports, many well received — along Seventh Street, in the shadows of the Cultural District.
But just in the past year or two, Fort Worth has witnessed a fire spreading along South Main Street like no other before it. The Near Southside’s main drag — the heart of what’s now called South Main Village, taking in a few blocks on either side of the thoroughfare — is unrecognizable to anyone who looked away for a moment. Savvy investor-developers began snapping up property, many of them solid 1920s buildings that held everything from pharmacies and light industry shops to offices and corner grocers, and renovating so quickly it made your head spin.
Mixed in with a host of new medical practices, apartments and boutiques, an entirely new homegrown restaurant row has arisen. While it’s just around the corner from Magnolia Avenue, South Main’s indie vibe is just a little more funky and low-key, with murals aplenty and other great street art. Spiritually, it’s a soul sister to Austin’s SoCo and Dallas’ Bishop Arts, minus the nerve-wracking traffic and crowds.
Here’s a snapshot of eating along the route, much of it walkable from one end to the other (just wear the right shoes). Bicycling is especially popular (Fort Worth’s BCycle sharing program has four stations right in the district), and parking is rarely an issue — so far. With growth still underway, that may change.
Panther City BBQ
The vibe: A truck that grew into a brick-and-mortar joint next to the hospitable Republic Street Bar, this smokehouse offers seating inside said bar, inside the new ‘cue pavilion and on a covered patio. Simple and comfortable, it’s a place to hang with others who love smelling like wood smoke.
What to order: Pork belly burnt ends are sweet, salty and sinful, and there’s little chance you can find a more tender brisket with a better spicy smoke ring. Massive beef ribs are a thing of beauty, and the chopped brisket-topped elote cup is pure genius. Note that it’s only open Wednesday through Sunday from lunch till the meat runs out.
Fort Worth BBQ & Brews Tour The guided bus tour will highlight Cowtown’s growing craft barbecue and brewery scene. Stops are secret, but the tour begins and ends at South Fort Worth’s Panther City BBQ. The $65 ticket price includes barbecue samples and three craft beverages. The tour begins at 1 pm and ends at 4 pm.
Panther City BBQ One of the city’s best barbecue spots has made the jump from trailer to brick-and-mortar. Owners Ernest Morales and Chris Magallanes will officially unveil their new open-air digs, nearly a year in the works, on Saturday, October 12 at 201 E. Hattie St. Designed by Near Southside architecture firm Studio 97W, the new building features an outdoor seating area that’ll hold up to 100 people. Magallanes says eventually they’ll add vinyl curtains to heat and cool the dining area. With the new building comes a new smoker — their third — and new menu items, including cheesy grits, cornbread pudding, and collard greens.
There are not enough words to describe our love of Panther City’s brisket elote. Sure, Panther City was serving up bread pudding and tasty jalapeño poppers, but it’s their creamy and savory take on Mexican street corn that we craved the most.
Looking to sample the finest barbecue around town?
Hoodline crunched the numbers to find the most excellent barbecue destinations in Fort Worth, using both Yelp data and our own secret sauce to produce a ranked list of the best places to make your smoked brisket and pulled pork dreams a reality.
1. Heim Barbecue
Topping the list is Heim Barbecue. Located at 1109 W. Magnolia Ave. in Fairmount, this food truck turned restaurant is the most popular barbecue spot in Fort Worth, boasting 4.5 stars out of 1,357 reviews on Yelp.
2. Lone Star Bar-B-Que
Next up is Summerfields’ Lone Star Bar-B-Que, situated at 3665 Western Center Blvd. With four stars out of 114 reviews on Yelp, the barbecue joint has proven to be a local favorite.
3. Panther City BBQ
Panther City BBQ, a catering service and barbecue outlet, is another much-loved go-to, with five stars out of 52 Yelp reviews. Head over to 201 E. Hattie St. to experience it for yourself.
4. Cowtown Brewing
Over in Downtown, check out Cowtown Brewing, which has earned 4.5 stars out of 70 reviews on Yelp. You can find the brewpub that serves barbecue at 1301 E. Belknap St.
5. Angelos Barbecue
Finally, there’s Angelos Barbecue, a local favorite with four stars out of 324 reviews. Stop by 2533 White Settlement Road to hit up the barbecue restaurant next time you’re looking to satisfy your cravings.