Restaurants / Openings

Celebrity Chef Is Bringing His Michelin Stars to Fort Worth For Felipe Armenta’s High-Profile New Steakhouse — Graham Elliot Embraces Cowtown

A Growing Restaurant Empire Pulls Off a Major Chef Coup

BY // 10.28.22

It seems Chef Felipe Armenta is rolling out restaurants in all directions. The biggest news is that Armenta now has not two but three new restaurants opening in Fort Worth alone and he’s bringing a powerhouse chef on to join his growing North Texas empire.

Graham Elliot is heading South from Chicago to Fort Worth soon to helm Armenta’s new Fort Worth steakhouse.

“Yes, he’ll be a part of all restaurants, and in charge of the culinary department,” Armenta tells PaperCity Fort Worth. “We have so many new restaurant openings. I thought it was time to bring on someone to oversee it all.

“Graham starts next week. Of course, I’m not leaving the kitchen. We’ll be cooking together and designing menus together.”

Armenta promises more details will come soon, but for now, he tells PaperCity exclusively that the new steakhouse Graham Elliot will helm in Fort Worth will be called The Duke. It will be located in Mule Alley next to the Hyatt hotel on Exchange Avenue.

To say Elliot is a celebrity chef is beyond an understatement. He was the co-host and judge on Fox’s MasterChef and MasterChef Jr. franchises for a decade. He’s also well known for his two seasons on Bravo’s Top Chef Masters as well as several shows on Food Network, most notably Iron Chef America. The music-loving chef is also a singer and guitarist who currently serves as the culinary director of Chicago’s famous Lollapalooza music festival.

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Elliot also has something no Texas-based chef can even earn ― two Michelin stars for his Graham Elliot Restaurant. The highly coveted Michelin Guide does not recognize any Texas chefs or restaurants ― unthinkable as that is. So the only Michelin-rated chefs in the state are those who have been recognized for work in cities that the guide does recognize (like New York, Chicago, Los Angeles and Miami).

Dallas only has two Michelin-rated chefs — Bruno Davaillon and as of June of this year, Jon Tesar who was awarded one star for his Knife & Spoon restaurant in Orlando. Now, chef Graham Elliot is relocating his Michelin stars from Chicago to Fort Worth, adding a bit of glitter to the Texas food scene.

A quick scan of Elliot’s recent Instagram posts confirms a growing interest in cowboy culture. Both posts by the chef dated October 20 mention DFW. One features the chef himself dressed in cowboy fashion with a hearty, “YEEEEE HAW!” The other asks a simple question: “If you were relocating to DFW, where would you choose or suggest living: Dallas vs. Fort Worth?”

Since you are taking a poll, chef — my personal recommendation is Fort Worth.

Graham Elliot on the set of MasterChef.
Graham Elliot on the set of MasterChef.

Felipe Armenta On Growing a Restaurant Empire

Armenta is the owner of The Tavern, Press Cafe and Pacific Table (just to name a few) who introduced Maria’s Mexican along Fort Worth’s University Boulevard last summer. Armenta has been spinning plates and plating some of the best dishes in North Texas since he opened The Tavern in 2011.

His Cork & Pig Tavern, which falls under the heading of his partnership with chef Virginia Dalbeck and company, added a fifth location in the Shops of Southlake last summer. And a sixth Cork & Pig Tavern restaurant is on the way soon too. Armenta tells PaperCity Fort Worth that will open in just two weeks.

In other Armenta news ― his first French restaurant Cafe Margot will be located at 3150 S. Hulen Street, in the space that used to house the Corner Bakery in the Trinity Commons Shopping Center. The name Margot has a double meaning for Armenta. On the one hand, it means “pearl” which is pretty in and of itself, but Margot is also the given name of one of the chef’s daughters.

Armenta first told PaperCity about plans for his new French bistro last March. Cafe Margot will serve classic French salads, French onion soup, breads and pastries, and a collection of martinis. There also will be shellfish, egg dishes and fresh pastas on the menu.

Tavern Bar & Grill got the Maven treatment when its interiors were completely refreshed recently.
Tavern Bar & Grill got the Maven treatment when its interiors were completely refreshed recently.

The design will be done by Kellye Raughton of Fort Worth’s Maven Interior Design Studio. She was behind the dramatic interiors of Maria’s Mexican and a complete refresh of The Tavern on Hulen as well.

“Kellye is doing all of our interiors for all of our restaurants going forward,” Armenta says. “It’s been a great collaboration. We understand each other so well, we often finish each other’s sentences.”

Armenta says he’s targeting a February debut for Café Margot.

F-1 Smokehouse and Press Cafe Expansions Plus Graham Elliot’s Arrival

After floating a trial balloon with a pop-up barbecue trailer along the Trinity Trails, near Press Cafe in the spring of 2021, the perfect location for a new barbecue restaurant presented itself to Armenta at 501 University Drive when Austin City Taco’s shuttered in the space.

The first brick-and-mortar for F-1 Smokehouse is set to open in that space in the next five to six weeks, Armenta tells PaperCity. Along with standard smoked meats like brisket, carnitas, chicken and ribs, diners can also enjoy house-made pickles and peanut coleslaw. There will be signature tacos and breakfast tacos on the menu too. Additional F-1 Smokehouse locations have always been in the plan, though he wants to get the first one up and running.

Felipe Armenta Restaurant Group (which is in the process of transitioning into Far Out Hospitality) is also currently staffing its first steakhouse called Cowboy Prime Steakhouse, which will open ahead of The Duke steakhouse helmed by Graham Elliot. Cowboy Prime Steakhouse is located in Ally Village in Midland.

But Armenta isn’t stopping there. He’s planning to open an unnamed Italian restaurant in Fort Worth’s Montserrat neighborhood and additional Press Cafes in both Southlake and Midland.

That should give any Fort Worth foodie enough to chew on for now.

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