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Barside Chat with Panther City BBQ

Panther City BBQ (201 E Hattie St, 682-499-5618) is famous for its traditional Texas-style barbecue, scrumptious tacos, and original dishes like the Southside Slammer — brisket, pulled pork, jalapeño cheese sausage, smoked bologna, and the fixins. Co-owners Chris Magallanes and Ernest Morales recently launched a popular school for aspiring barbecuers called BBQU, so we met up with the duo to talk smoked meats and new happenings at the Near Southside restaurant.

Our Favorite Spots to Get Barbecue for Breakfast Across North Texas

Panther City Barbecue

201 E. Hattie St., Fort Worth

The first time we visited Panther City, we were struck by how much good food you get for comparatively not a lot of money. In the three years since, Panther City has added a bigger trailer, an enclosed patio and runs a barbecue school to boot. Yet with all that expansion, Panther City’s stellar barbecue is still a bargain, and going for breakfast only highlights the value proposition. Take a look at the Panther Platter in the photo above. You get two over-easy eggs, a pile of breakfast potatoes, half a link of sausage, spicy beans, tortillas and a formidable slab of brisket. It’s on the menu board for $10. We were only charged $9, and we’d still be a buyer if it were $13 or $14. What a time to be alive.

When to go: Wednesday through Saturday, 7-10 a.m.

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Panther City BBQ to Launch School for Aspiring Barbecuers

So you want to ‘cue like a pro. Patience, young Padawan — the guys at Panther City BBQ want to help.

The Near Southside barbecue joint is turning a former home health building at 300 Pennsylvania Ave. into a barbecue school, BBQU. Panther City BBQ co-owners Chris Magallanes and Ernest Morales will teach classes out of the space and use their restaurant location at 201 E. Hattie St. as a “lab” where students can practice their newly acquired techniques. 

Classes will take place once a month, with attendees learning the whole process — the ins and outs of a smoker, wood selection, meat selection, trimming, seasoning, and more — for cooking brisket, ribs, and one other specialty meat. Students can also expect subject-matter experts — or “barbecue celebrities,” as Magallanes calls them — to make guest appearances.

“[Students are] going to see how we do it, and then we’ll actually tweak that according to what cooker they have at home,” Magallanes says. 

Additionally, BBQU will offer consulting for those looking to get into the barbecue business. The space will also include a retail area at the front, where barbecuers can purchase supplies (as well as Panther City BBQ merch). 

Panther City BBQ decided to pursue BBQU after hosting its first class last year at the restaurant. Forty-five slots were available, which Magallanes says sold out within about an hour and a half. Ever since, customers have continually asked when they’d host more. 

When BBQU begins, class sizes will be limited to 15 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Magallanes hopes to start the first BBQU class on Feb. 20, with other classes planned for March and April. He says all classes have sold out. 

“It’s just basically sharing the wealth of knowledge that we’ve learned over the past several years of barbecuing,” Magallanes says. 

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Where Tacos and Barbecue Come Together

In Texas it can be said that barbecue is king.

One thing that’s better than barbecue is a barbecue restaurant that has tacos on the menu.

In Dallas-Fort Worth, there are many choices when it comes to the barbecue, many of them on Texas Monthly’s Top 50 list. And since COVID-19 has taken over, more barbecue restaurants have added tacos to their menu, and we’re pleased about that. It’s a way for the businesses to incorporate the smoked meats and anything they might not sell into an item people can enjoy.

Here’s how some in the Dallas area are adding tacos to their concepts…

Panther City BBQ in Fort Worth was started by friends Chris Magallanes and Ernest Morales as a food truck in January 2018, and by October 2019, they expanded into a brick-and-mortar at the same location.

Magallanes said COVID has reduced business by about 30%, and they’ve worked to overcome and adapt by offering curbside and to-go service. La Pantera is the name they use for the taco side of the business (La Pantera has been put on hold since the bars were closed because bar-going customers were the primary audience.) Panther City has always offered brisket tacos accompanied by the barbacoa (beef cheek), an occasional special.

Magallanes says the popularity of those tacos along with the need to use the trimmings from the daily meats is what led toward a full late-night taco menu. As for La Pantera, it focuses on blending the smoked meats and flavor profiles with traditional street tacos that are a favorite in Southside Fort Worth. Since restrictions were changed, La Pantera will resume operations shortly.

If you can’t wait for late-night tacos, Pantera is blending the flavors into breakfast taco offerings 7 to 10 a.m. Wednesday through Saturday. From that, the popular “Flaco Taco” was recently born: the taco is a griddled corn tortilla stuffed with asadero cheese, cilantro, onion and your choice of brisket or barbacoa.

Panther City BBQ, 201 E. Hattie St., Fort Worth. Open 7 to 10 a.m. and 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday.

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Why not brisket for breakfast? This Fort Worth barbecue stand beefs up your morning

For one very brief moment Saturday, there was no line at Panther City BBQ.

But it didn’t last long.

With the sun still rising over South Main Village, customers began turning from Interstate 35W for owners Chris Magallanes’ and Ernest Morales’ Central Texas-style oak-smoked brisket, sausage and morning breakfast sandwiches or tacos.

By lunchtime, the line grew past the front gate of Panther City, a patio restaurant at 201 E. Pennsylvania Ave. in the same landmark location where Heim Barbecue began five years ago.

Every day when the coronavirus cases stay down, the lines grow longer for Panther City, with its safe open-air dining area and lots of breeze and sunshine.

“We’ve still been doing the carryout [business] all along, but we’re just now starting to see more sit-down diners come back,” said Magallanes, co-founder of Panther City six years ago as a caterer and then as a food truck.

“Any news story can change our business in a single day — case numbers, new orders, a new mandate,” he said.

This weekend, the news story that can change business is the return of a half-full college and pro football schedule.

“When sports went out, that affected us, so we’re anxious to see what happens,” Magallanes said.

Panther City BBQ opens at 11 a.m. on Sunday, so it gets plenty of pregame orders and the Sunday barbecue crowd.

It also opens at 7 a.m. Wednesday through Saturday for brisket breakfast sandwiches with sausage and egg ($10.50), carne guisada tacos ($8.50) or “Flaco’s tacos,” griddle-fried corn tacos with brisket or barbacoa (three/$10).

“People were looking for breakfast tacos, so we decided to work up a menu,” said Magallanes, a southwest Fort Worth product who grew up eating chopped beef at Cousin’s Bar-B-Q.

Morning customers can buy pounds of brisket, sausage or anything else that’s ready that day.

Then comes lunch.

Panther City is known for its black-peppery Central Texas brisket, either at lunch ($17.50 plate, $10.50 sandwich) or on the breakfast sandwich.

That sliced beef might be even more popular in a cup as “brisket elote,” with slices layered atop creamy Mexican grilled corn ($10.50).

The other smoked meats include ribs, pulled pork, turkey, pork belly “burnt ends,” bologna and either cracked-pepper or jalapeno-cheese sausage, all $17.50 as a plate or $21.50 for a three-meat combo platter.

Panther City’s barbecue style is very Tex, with a bit of Mex.

For example, the menu includes not only the typical smoked meats and sides, but also brisket tacos (three/$12), borracho beans and the breakfast carne guisada.

On an episode of the Eats Beat podcast last year, Magallanes said Panther City relies on a craft-barbecue style with an offset-smoked, “100% post oak” smoker.

“We don’t use any other smoker,” he said. When each day’s batch is sold out, they hang up the “closed” sign.

Two years ago, when Panther City filled Heim’s old location, Main Street Village near the hospital district was still a dream and the cross street was still named East Hattie.

The stand opened first as a food truck, then moved alongside Republic Street Bar.

Now, South Main Village is busy, the street has been renamed East Pennsylvania Avenue and Panther City is a small craft barbecue restaurant.

The La Pantera late-night taco menu will resume when restaurants and bars fully reopen, Magallanes said.

It’s open for breakfast and lunch Wednesday through Saturday, lunch Sunday; 682-499-5618,

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Brisket Distancing in Texas

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: AustinDallasFort WorthHouston, 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.

Fort Worth

Panther City BBQ is offering curbside delivery for to-go orders and free delivery within a five-mile radius with orders over $100. Their sister restaurant, La Pantera Tacos, is operating during the day alongside Panther City BBQ.

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Popular Fort Worth BBQ joint turns into late-night street taco destination

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. 

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La Pantera Tacos y Mas Makes Tex-Mex Comfort Food From Panther City BBQ

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.

Barbecue tacos and cheesecake empanadas from La Pantera Tacos y Mas.

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.

La Pantera BBQ Tacos
An impressive barbecue spread from Panther City BBQ.

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.

La Pantera Tacos Y Mas
201 E Hattie St.
Fort Worth, TX 76104
Open W-Sun 8pm-1am

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Who Smokes the Best Barbecue in Fort Worth? Vote Now!

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.

Vote for Panther City here:

Panther City BBQ spinoff combines 2 glorious things: barbecue & tacos

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.”

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