North Texas is a melting pot of cultures and traditions. This is understood well by one restaurateur whose establishment sits atop a hill on the west side of the Fort Worth Stockyards. She is always glad to share her heritage over a meal while searching for the recipe of what we all have in common.
The Fort Worth Stockyards is seen as a place for all things western, but at the corner of West Exchange Avenue and North Houston Street, a dining experience and a conversation with Ruth Hooker can be had as well.
Ruth’s walk-up dining location is famous for its fried onion burgers and Indian tacos. Adding to its allure, the building’s two-story facade got a makeover after being used for the filming of the Yellowstone prequel 1883.
The restaurant also features a mural of a Native American woman who sits on a crescent moon while aiming an arrow at her dreams. “That’s my spirit girl,” Ruth laughingly told ABC 8.
“I love the Stockyards. That’s why we’re here,” she continued while seated at one of her outdoor picnic tables.
Ruth, who runs the business with her mom, Kathryn, believes that Hooker’s Grill is more than just a restaurant. It is a place where she can celebrate who she is and where she came from.
“You can’t really do anything that matters in your future if you don’t have some acknowledgment of the past,” Ruth explained.
Ruth and her mom are Choctaw, a heritage laced with a forced relocation from Mississippi via the Trail of Tears to southeast Oklahoma.
Ruth told ABC 8 that her Native ancestry is a big part of her identity and how she sees herself. Her great-grandfather, George Davenport, was an original code talker during World War I. Afterward, he became convinced that was now living in a white man’s world and did not want to speak Choctaw.
“He really denied a very important part of not just his past, but the past of our country. He denied the language that was his own but also helped his entire country to win a war,” Ruth said. “Isn’t that really something that he felt that way about it?”
This has prompted Ruth, on the contrary, to always be talking about and sharing the pride she feels in her heritage and connecting with the pride you might feel in your own.
“I wear this every day as a gentle reminder,” she said, showing the Native American medallions she wears around her neck. “We all have a struggle. We all have to overcome. And you have to have some way to remind yourself. And this is my way.”
Ruth also sees the food at her restaurant as a vector for communicating with her customers.
“The restaurant, and the Indian tacos, and just fry bread, is really an introduction into conversation, with people that may not know otherwise,” she said. “It’s a thing that continues to give us a sense of pride to celebrate our culture that way. And it’s really beautiful to watch and I love that I get to see it first-hand.”
The food is considered some of the best in Fort Worth. Hooker’s Grill even appeared in the book 100 Things To Do In Fort Worth Before You Die, sitting comfortably at the top of the list at number 3.
Ruth hopes that you come for the food and stay for the conversation about her culture and yours.
“When you’re here, I don’t think anybody cares what you are. And that’s my point,” she said. “I think when you’re down here, I think you’re just you. Whatever that is.”