How this old-school eatery was named best burger in Fort Worth

A double burger from Hookers Grill, the winner of the 2022 Reader's Choice Best Burger in Fort Worth. The family-owned business offers classic and styled burgers with the option of a Native American twist.

A double burger from Hookers Grill, the winner of the 2022 Reader’s Choice Best Burger in Fort Worth. The family-owned business offers classic and styled burgers with the option of a Native American twist.

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Burgers are as prevalent in Fort Worth as the cattle that roam the Stockyards, and that’s something Ruth Hooker takes into account each and every time someone stops by.

Hooker is the owner and operator of Hooker’s Grill, a burger restaurant located in the Stockyards that is known for its fried onion burger. She knows that a customer can get a burger at another restaurant, fast food joint or even a gas station. So when they make their way to the family-run eatery, it’s special.

“If somebody’s coming here to have a burger, I know they have passed about 20 burger places to get here,” she said. “I do not take that lightly. We understand when someone comes here, it’s because they wanted to. ”

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Hookers Grill owner Ruth Hooker at her restaurant in downtown Fort Worth, Texas, on Friday, June 17, 2022. The family-owned business won the 2022 Reader’s Choice Best Burger in Fort Worth Madeleine Cook [email protected]

That special bond has landed Hooker’s Grill as the Star-Telegram Reader’s Choice Best Burger in Fort Worth in the restaurant category. The restaurant bested over a dozen other nominees over two rounds, with thousands casting their votes.

Hooker was surprised by the news and said she did not know the contest was happening until a few days before voting closed. Being voted in by the readers and fans of the restaurant is more special to her than any kind of food contest determined by judges.

“To me, this coming straight from the community, that’s why we’re here,” Hooker said. “We’re not here for five or six judges, we’re here for the community.”

Southern neighbors

Hooker, 51, opened the restaurant in 2017 with the goal to serve Fort Worth the burgers she grew up on in Oklahoma, the Sooner State favorite fried onion burger.

Having no prior service industry background, Hooker traveled to Oklahoma to learn the business basics from friends who had restaurant experience. There she learned everything from the ground up.

When it came to a location for Hooker’s Grill, she chose the Stockyards for its homage to Western culture and its historical significance to Fort Worth.

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A double burger from Hookers Grill, the winner of the 2022 Reader’s Choice Best Burger in Fort Worth on Friday, June 17, 2022. The family-owned business offers classic and styled burgers with the option of a Native American twist. Madeleine Cook [email protected]

“What better place than the Stockyards to have a really great hamburger?” Hooker said.

The restaurant was open for a few years before the COVID-19 pandemic shuttered businesses in early 2020, but Hooker said they were ready.

Hooker’s Grill never shut down during the pandemic due to its setup with an indoor kitchen, walk-up ordering window and outdoor seating. A piece of plexiglass was attached to the ordering window and the restaurant did plenty of solid business from to-go orders and customers looking to eat outside.

Aiming to help first responders, the elderly and anyone in her neighborhood, Hooker turned the restaurant into a grocery store for those who could not make it to a supermarket. She said the restaurant is more than just a place to eat, but a place for the community to come together.

“We just tried to find ways to be of service to our community during the pandemic,” she said.

Serving the classics

Hooker is hoping to take customers back in time with her food.

Food evokes memories and at the restaurant, Hooker wants it to bring people to a time where they shared a meal with their parents or grandparents. Before fast food, if someone wanted a burger they would have to go to a sale barn or cafe, she said.

“We want to be a time machine for taste buds,” Hooker said.

The flagship menu item at Hooker’s Grill is the fried onion burger. It is essentially a patty cooked on the flat top grill with plenty of onions on top. As the meat cooks and is flipped over, the onions get caramelized on the grill, adding to the full flavor of the burger.

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A double burger from Hookers Grill, the winner of the 2022 Reader’s Choice Best Burger in Fort Worth on Friday, June 17, 2022. The family-owned business offers classic and styled burgers with the option of a Native American twist. Madeleine Cook

Hooker’s flagship burger only comes with fried onions, mustard and pickles, but customers can add extras such as cheese or a fried egg. The burger is simply seasoned with salt and pepper, but its the quality of ingredients, such as Hereford beef used that keep customer’s coming back for more, she said.

They’re not trying to reinvent the culinary wheel, but instead serve high quality classic bites, Hooker said.

Other menu items include a chili dog, grilled peanut butter and jelly sandwich, hamburger steak and even a veggie burger, which Hooker said was added to make sure there was something for everyone on the menu.

Another notable item on the menu is the Indian taco, inspired by Hooker’s own Native American, Choctaw heritage.

The Indian taco is served on frybread, a Native American flatbread that is fried in oil, and is topped with meat, beans, cheese, lettuce, tomato, sour cream and green chili gravy. The item has quickly caught her customers’ fancy, with some asking to swap out frybread for the burger bun, Hooker said.

“Food brings people together and it introduces people to a different culture,” Hooker said. “I thought, we’re gonna put this on the menu and see how it goes. We laugh sometimes and say, ‘Are we going to become the Indian taco restaurant or the burger restaurant?’ Because the Indian tacos have really taken off. ”

A communal love

Hooker’s Grill has another location in Hudson Oaks and Hooker said she’s spoken with people about other locations, but right now she’s focused on providing the best food she can serve.

Even though the restaurant in the Stockyards sits in the middle of a tourist spot, Hooker considers the restaurant to be a neighborhood staple that welcomes new visitors, not the other way around.

But when they do get fresh faces, Hooker keeps a green journal with entries from customers who have visited from other countries. Patrons from Germany, Australia, Brazil and Japan, among others, have all stopped in to try the old-school American bites.

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A standard burger from Hookers Grill comes with mustard, pickles and fried onions cooked with the patty of Hereford beef, photographed at the restaurant in downtown Fort Worth on Friday, June 17, 2022. Madeleine Cook [email protected]

At the end of the day, Hooker aims to rekindle people nostalgia from eating with family from yesteryear. She herself can attest to that, working with her mother Kathryn, who has been with the restaurant from the beginning.

Everything from Bob Wills playing on the speakers to sharing a burger and fries with a loved one, it’s all about hitting what Hooker calls “the good times”.

They work in the “serve us” industry and get as much in return as they give out, Hooker said.

“It does not feel like you’re at a restaurant,” she said. “You feel like you’re part of something bigger.”

Hooker’s Grill is open Thursday from 11 am to 3 pm, Friday from 11 am to 10 pm, Saturday from 11 am to 2:30 am and Sunday from noon to 3 pm at 213 W. Exchange Ave.

This story was originally published June 24, 2022 12:00 AM.

Brayden Garcia is a service journalism reporter at the Star-Telegram. He gradated from the University of Texas at Arlington in 2020, where he worked at the student newspaper, The Shorthorn. He previously worked at The Dallas Morning News covering education.

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