FORT WORTH CHEF JON BONNELL DISHES ON HIS FAVORITE RESTAURANTS AND THE CITY’S BEST-KEPT SECRETS.
The fascinating dichotomy of Fort Worth star chef, Jon Bonnell is apparent in both his personality and cuisine. Bonnell who is known for transforming wild game like quail and elk into a unique fine dining experience is an authentic representation of his beloved hometown. He is proud of his Cowtown heritage and yet discerning in palate and taste. Bonnell, like many Texan boys grew up hunting and fishing. His namesake signature restaurant Bonnell’s Fine Texas Cuisine and Waters Restaurant showcases his culinary mastery, inspired by these childhood pastimes.
What are some of your favorite restaurants in Fort Worth?
We love to support the locally-owned, independent restaurants. Ellerbe Fine Foods, Piatello Italian Kitchen, Aventino’s and Fixture Kitchen and Social Lounge are a few of our favorites. The smaller mom and pop shops are what we look for. It is always hard to pass up Railhead BBQ as well. Not that we don’t have plenty of great BBQ joints in this city. It’s just that the flavors of Railhead remind me of the BBQ from my childhood. Certain flavors just get engrained in your soul. I also try to make sure my kids learn to love all types of food. Little Lilly Sushi, Hanabi Ramen and La Playa Maya are all regular stopping spots for our family.
If you have out-of-towners visiting, where’s the first place you take them?
Reata Restaurant and Billy Bob’s Texas are so Fort Worth and so iconic that they make the perfect spot for first timers. Reata has a cool Fort Worth feel. It is cowboy but fancy. That atmosphere alone at the rooftop bar is worth it. Of course include a night at Billy Bob’s, the world’s largest Honky Tonk to see live bull riding. Nobody believes we really do that stuff! (laughs)
What makes Fort Worth cuisine unique from other cities?
We manage to put Texas flavors on the plate in an upscale way here in Cowtown. Dean Fearing really led the charge years ago, allowing us to make Southwestern in an upscale way, but others like Stephan Pyles have influenced our cuisine as well. In Fort Worth, we can be cowboy, we can be casual, and we can be fancy all at the same time. “Fort Worth Fancy” is a term we like to use when describing our cuisine and dress code.
Any tips for first-time visitors to Fort Worth?
I think the Cowtown reputation is fun. You’re hanging onto your heritage but it’s a still a very modern city. Where else can you see live bull riding for sport and literally turn around and visit some of the best museums in the world? Don’t overlook the culture in this great city. Cowboys, culture, and cuisine are the holy trinity of Cowtown.
Must try: the Oysters Texasfeller at Bonnell’s Waters Restaurant, recently opened in downtown Sundance Square.
Images Courtesy: Bonnell’s Fine Texas Cuisine