If you're in the mood for Mexican cuisine - and we don't mean Tex-Mex - you're in luck because Dallas has some of the best Mexican spots on this side of the border! The truth is that most people (including Texans!) mistake Tex-Mex dishes like nachos, crispy tacos and fajitas for Mexican food. Mexican cuisine is a whole world away from these types of foods, as it features some of the most gourmet dishes in the world.
This type of cuisine is comprised of fresh seafood, vegetables, grilled meats and delicious sauces, such as mole, made from chiles and chocolate. Mexican cuisine is actually light, refreshing and healthy. Some of the best Dallas spots to find traditional Mexican seafood - think grilled red snapper and cool ceviche (raw fish and seafood marinated and cooked in lime juice), are La Calle Doce - a reader favorite - Cafe Veracruz or Mesa.
If you're more in the mood for Mexican tacos, go to Taco Diner or Torteria Insurgentes, which also has delicious Mexico City-style tortas. If you want an elevated gourmet Mexican dinner, go to Javier's Gourmet Mexicano's which has a solid track record and consistently great dishes. You'll find these places - and any of the restaurants on our list - to be fantastic options for Mexican cuisine, and if you're looking to concentrate your efforts, start with the vibrant Bishop Arts District area.
Iron Cactus - Dallas
Located in the heart of Downtown Dallas, Iron Cactus is a sleek, trendy Mexican restaurant that's perfect for a night out on the town. This three-story building features outdoor patios with skyline views ideal for pleasant Dallas weather. The decor is modern and upscale, and the menu features a wide variety of Mexican dishes not found in regular Tex-Mex establishments. Some of the most popular menu items there include stacked enchiladas, chicken stuffed avocados, and fish or lobster tacos. There's a great botanas (appetizers) menu perfect to go along with the delicious cocktails, such as the Mexican Martini. Visitors on a gluten-free diet will be pleased that Iron Cactus has a special gluten-free menu with items like Chipotle Salmon. There's also a brunch menu on the weekends. (214-749-4766)
This cozy, family-run spot has been satisfying Dallas's craving for authentic Mexican food for over 25 years. The restaurant is newly renovated but Anita & Octavio Avila's recipes haven't changed a bit. Only the freshest ingredients are used that are prized for specials like chicken mole (featuring a near-perfect blend of chocolate and chile) or favorites like brisket gorditas, chalupas, nachos, and tacos. Choose a glass from the small but well-crafted wine list, which is designed with meal pairings in mind. If you leave room for dessert, try delectable, custard-y flan. Avila's also offers drop-off catering requests, and for special occasions, small or large, full-service off-site catering is available. (214-520-2700)
The hot, delicious fare found at so many corner taco stands in Mexico goes upscale at this much-loved local chain. The McKinney Avenue offshoot has added appeal thanks to a West Village location among trendy shops and restaurants. Grab a coveted sidewalk seat and tuck into citrus-tinged fish tacos or soft tacos with pork, chicken, or beef. Mexican standards -- enchiladas, fajitas, and the like -- can also be had. Fresh salsas and ingredients fill the menu, a welcome change from the grease and cheese you'll find at some lesser venues. The restaurant is modern and casual, so you can dress up or down. (214-521-3669)
Located in the trendy Uptown neighborhood, Komali delivers a cool scene and authentic Mexican cuisine. In fact, its tamarind margarita was voted the Best Margarita in Dallas for the past two years, and it certainly earned the top spot as it's concocted of Casa Noble Resposado, Cointreau, tamarind puree, spiced rum and fresh lime. If that doesn't make your mouth water, order the deliciously unique Komali margarita, made with Herradura Reposado tequila, Cointreau, prickly pear puree, mango and freshly-squeezed lime juice. And those are just the drinks! The most popular menu items there include the poblano cream soup, tacos and red snapper. Komali features a brunch menu on the weekend as well. (2142520200)
Looking for authentic Mexico City (D.F. as it's called by its locals) food? Head on over to Northwest Highway and Webb Chapel to Torteria Insurgentes. This special gem features the same menu items that delight Mexico City residents every day. If you've never traveled to that part of Mexico, then you're in for a real treat! Torteria Insurgentes has traditional Mexican sandwiches (called tortas) and other types of popular Mexican lunch items like blue corn huarache (a fried corn pancake), chorizo and potatoes, and tacos pastor (spit-roasted pork served on tiny corn tortillas and topped with chopped lime and onions). Try some of the delicious non-alcoholic Mexican drinks like horchata or an agua fresca. ((214) 366-2624)
Opening in Fall 2015 in the always-trendy Shops of Highland Park, Madrina is Dallas' newest restaurant. The cuisine marries traditional Mexican food with French cooking techniques and features fabulous entrees like Lobster Bisque en Croute with traditional French-style bisque, Mexican-inspired vegetables and black jalapeno ash; Enfrijoladas with homemade cilantro tortillas, duck confit, crispy duck skin and crema; and Plantain Empanadas with steamed plantain casing filled with braised oxtail, capers and chives. Start off your meal with one of many decadent cocktails that feature agave-distilled spirits such as mezcal, tequila from Mexico and Armagnacs, Eau de vies and aperitifs from France. Dress to impress at this Highland Park enclave. ((469) 513-2505)
A Dallas standout, Mesa in the Oak Cliff neighborhood features traditional Mexican favorites such as mole and ceviche. This gem is upscale Mexican cuisine at its finest and a great place to take out of town visitors who don't want typical Tex-Mex items. The decor is a blend of warm rustic and cool modern elements. This place gets packed on the weekends, so make a reservation there in advance. Kick things off with a spicy margarita - you won't be disappointed! Then start with the ceviche or guacamole. Choose one of many popular entrees, including the signature dish, Chicken Mole Mama Cata, a quarter chicken marinated in a special blend of chili peppers and chocolate, and served with rice and grilled green beans. Other menu favorites include the lobster enchiladas and Veracruz-style red snapper. ((214) 941-4246)
Not your typical fajitas and burritos joint, this hip addition to one of Dallas's more up-and-coming neighborhoods has carved out a cozy niche for itself. Indeed, the locally-owned eatery presents a gourmet slant on traditional Mexican cuisine, and its creative fare is sure to inspire odes in years to come. Need proof? How about baked lobster with jalapeno sauce or Mexican egg rolls? Other dishes pay flavorful homage to Mexico's Aztec and Mayan traditions. The restaurant itself is very small and it's stylish yet not at all pretentious, the dramatic red dining room is accented with lacy curtains and flickering candles. (214-948-4746)
La Calle Doce
This popular Mexican eatery distinguishes itself with a focus on tasty seafood dishes that defy your expectations of south-of-the-border fare. The restaurant itself is a tiny converted house with a lovely covered patio, which is great for pleasant Dallas weather. Start with a ceviche that locals claim is the city's best -- whitefish, chopped shrimp, tomatoes, onions, cilantro, and a lime marinade make for a flavorful appetizer. Pan-fried tilapia with sauteed peppers, crispy fish tacos, oversized chicken flautas, enchiladas verdes, and a hearty fish soup (a cup of which is customarily served with entrees) represent the rest of the menu. (214-941-4304)
Javier's Gourmet Mexicano
If you're looking for authentic Mexican cuisine (not Tex-Mex), visit this popular dining treat in the Knox-Henderson neighborhood at the edge of Highland Park. This upscale Mexican restaurant is where Dallas power players and foodies unite, and it is a great place for a special dinner. Javier features an cozy and stylish (and beautiful!) dining room. Dress to impress as the regular clientele there is polished. Try one of many delicious Mexican menu items, including the specialties of steak stuffed with cheese, shrimp in diablo sauce and red snapper. Perfect (and potent) margaritas and salsas. End your meal with a nightcap in the cigar bar. (214-521-4211)
About Denise Brandenberg
Born and raised in Dallas, Denise Brandenberg has been a self-proclaimed “Dallas Ambassador” for out-of-town friends and colleagues for years.
Denise started her career as an advertising agency copywriter, recruiter, and manager of online forums for an international meeting planning association. She ventured off on her own a few years ago, to start an adventurous career as a freelance writer and marketing consultant. Denise’s other work can be found at Global Road Warrior, USA Today, Chron.com, The Motley Fool, LovetoKnow, The Meeting Professional, and several other online publications.
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