It wouldn’t be a visit to Dallas without a little Tex-Mex cuisine. Or a lot of it. Locals are passionate about their favourites and visitors are often amazed at the variety of options and generous portions from appetisers to entrées, all of which should be paired with a perfect margarita or an ice-cold Mexican beer. Here are 10 can’t-miss places to try Tex-Mex in Dallas.
El Fenix was started by Miguel Martinez in 1918, when he started incorporating Mexican ingredients and techniques into Anglo-American dishes. This, they claim at El Fenix, is where Tex-Mex was officially born and the restaurant has become a Dallas institution with a vast menu of tacos, enchiladas and dozens of other favourites served in always-busy locations all over the city.
Taqueria La Ventana
Next door to the original El Fenix downtown is Taqueria La Ventana, an outdoor eatery with a small walk-up window for ordering and patio seating for enjoying eight different varieties of street tacos, plus beans, rice and elotes (corn taken off the cob and served with Mexican cream, cheese and spices). A new location opened this year in Addison with indoor seating and more menu options.
Another Dallas Tex-Mex icon, El Chico can trace its roots back to 1926 when Adelaida Cuellar’s homemade tamales became a crowd favourite at a county fair. In 1940, five of her twelve children opened the first El Chico after her small cafe proved popular. Cheese enchiladas are a staple on the menu, but combination plates are a great way to sample several items at once.
The Cuellar family is also behind El Corazon, a popular Tex-Mex joint in the same Oak Cliff location that dates back to 1955 as an El Chico. Like nearly every Tex-Mex restaurant in the city, meals begin with fried tortilla chips and spicy salsa. Many spots also offer combination platters, but here you can choose your own two, three or four item dinner that includes enchiladas, tamales and chimichangas (deep fried burritos).
Another hugely popular local chain is Mi Cocina, which offers a slightly more upscale dining experience. The Mambo Taxi (a swirl of margarita and sangria) is sweet, tart and potent. Brisket tacos are a big draw and 10 different side sauces can be ordered individually to enhance the flavours even further.
Manny’s Uptown Tex-Mex Restaurante
Celebrating a decade in business, Manny’s Uptown Tex-Mex Restaurante is a cosy restaurant situated in a quirky old house. Start with an order of creamy guacamole, the ideal accompaniment to the complimentary salsa and chips. Brisket tacos here are a must-order, too.
Chile con queso is a staple of Tex-Mex in Dallas and every restaurant has their own variation, available as an appetiser dip to share and often as a sauce on enchiladas. Cantina Laredo offers three varieties. Traditional is simply melted cheese studded with peppers, but Queso Laredo comes fully loaded with ground beef and pico de gallo (a fresh mixture of tomatoes, onions, jalapeos and coriander). Their Queso Blanco is a white cheese dip with poblano peppers, spinach and artichokes. There are several locations throughout the city.
Fajitas are a great way to build your own taco at the table and Uncle Julio’s, which has a handful of area locations, has some of the best. Many restaurants offer grilled steak or chicken with bell peppers and onions on a sizzling platter, but Uncle Julio’s takes it up a few notches with fajita offerings that include Ahi tuna, red snapper, pork ribs, bacon-wrapped shrimp and filet mignon.
Fernando’s Mexican Cuisine
Another upscale Tex-Mex restaurant in Dallas is Fernando’s Mexican Cuisine. There are two area locations, with the Midway Road outlet known as a favourite of former President George W. Bush and his wife, Laura. Sunday brunch is popular here for Tex-Mex egg dishes, but you’re just as likely to find a crowd on the patio savouring tacos or grilled meats and seafood.
Deep in the heart of the Dallas Arts District, Jorge’s Tex-Mex brings a taste of West Texas to the city. Most restaurants fry their chicken flautas (rolled chicken tacos), but the grilled versions are a specialty here. Just as crispy and filled with flavourful pulled chicken, they can be ordered as a meal or as part of a botanas (appetiser) platter that comes with quesadillas and nachos, too.
You can’t claim to have tried Tex-Mex in Dallas without enjoying a refreshing frozen margarita, so you might as well head to the birthplace of the frozen margarita machine. Mariano’s Hacienda has a Dallas and Arlington location, as well as four additional locations of sister restaurant La Hacienda Ranch. Their margarita menu is extensive, but the original is a superb place to start.
Visiting Dallas? Our codeshare arrangement with Delta makes it simple for you to travel all over North America, bringing these Tex-Mex favourites closer to home.
Have you tried Tex-Mex in Dallas? Where are your favourite foodie spots in the city? Let us know in the comments section below.
Written by Steven Lindsey