Perhaps nothing exemplifies Texas comfort food more than Tex-Mex, a delicious fusion of Anglo and Mexican-Indian fare that was created in the late 1800s by Mexican immigrants from northern Mexico. And though the cuisine may have evolved over the years, the quintessential staples: chili, nachos, enchiladas and fajitas are typically what defines a true Tex-Mex menu.
Of course, you can't have Mexican or Tex-Mex food without a margarita, specifically the frozen variety– which, by the way was invented in Dallas back in 1974. And one of the best places to find them is at E Bar Tex-Mex, especially on Tuesdays when they're offered up all day for only $3 a pop. But terrific tipples are not the only reason to come here, this lively joint turns out phenomenal food too– the brisket tacos are killer.
You'll also find exotic margaritas as well as excellent Tex-Mex, Mexican and Salvadoran fare at Gloria's Latin Cuisine, a family-owned mini-chain that has twelve locations in the DFW area.
Or if you're after something a little more upscale, head to Meso Maya, a bustling cantina with locations in North Dallas and Downtown. This restaurant elevates Tex-Mex and Mexican fare to an entirely new level with items like adobo marinated brisket tacos and short rib chile rellenos.
And it's not easy to stand out in a city saturated with terrific Mexican and Tex-Mex restaurants, though Mia's Tex-Mex has defied the odds by delivering consistently delicious from-scratch cooking for over three decades. The place is so popular that even A-list celebrities make a bee-line here when they come into town.
Getting hungry yet? Then be sure to check out our entire list of Dallas' top ten Tex-Mex spots. Your taste buds will thank you for it.
Digg's Taco Shop
This laid-back taqueria, located just across the street from SMU, cranks out tacos filled with everything from slow cooked barbecue brisket to grilled mahi mahi and fried habanero shrimp. But the menu doesn't stop with tacos, Digg's also turns out some of the tastiest, most affordable options on the Tex-Mex map, ranging from fully loaded nachos and burritos (including burritos in a bowl) to Tex-Mex style burgers and torta sandwiches filled with the likes of carnitas bundled up on caramelized Mexican style bread. And where else can you find a frozen margarita served up on a stick? Prefer a sugar rush to a tequila buzz? Then a stack of crispy doughnut holes with a side of strawberry jam will sort you out. (214-520-0155)
Mi Cocina-Highland Park Village
This permanently buzzing cantina has been a Tex-Mex go-to spot for over two decades, not only for area locals, but for A-list celebrities as well. Angie Harmon, Conan O'Brien and even Kanye and Kim Kardashian have touched down here at one time or another. The attraction? Undoubtedly the place turns out an impressive spread of tacos, nachos, fajitas, enchiladas and the like. And there's something to be said about its mind-blowing queso blanco and endless servings of homemade salsa and chips. But the big draw here are its famous margaritas. Most specifically, the Mambo Taxi, a frozen swirl of margarita and sangria that's so potent you'll need to take a taxi (hence the name) home if you try to slurp down more than two of them. Better yet, head upstairs to the Monkey Bar, a cozy speakeasy on the third floor. It's the best place to chill out while you get your Mambo mojo on. (214-521-6426)
Bandito's Tex-Mex Cantina
Tasty Tex-Mex delights, rock solid margaritas and fantastic happy hours keep this cheery cantina perpetually busy with everyone from families to students during most all hours of the day. As a consequence, you can almost always expect a wait to get in. But that hasn't stopped its legions of fans who want to chow down on the likes of top-shelf fajita nachos, rib-eye tacos, and what many claim are the best "beefy, cheesy and a little greasy" enchiladas in town. Oh, and that salmon diablo (grilled salmon topped with shrimp,crabmeat and pica de gallo)--is to die for. Speaking of the devil, the margaritas here are wicked-- especially the "ethyl" made with a potent combination of Sauza Silver tequila and sangria. There's also a sumptuous fried cheesecake on the menu for those craving something sweet to cool down the heat. (214-750-6100)
Gloria's Latin Cuisine
There's certainly plenty of variety on offer at this colorful restaurant and bar where you'll find everything from authentic Salvadoran fare to Mexican and Tex-Mex specialties. It's part of a successful, family-owned mini-chain (fifteen in total, including twelve in the DFW area) that got its start by opening Dallas' first Salvadoran restaurant back in 1986. As with the original, there remains a focus on dishes from Salvador with hits including the likes of pupusas, (griddled tortillas filled with cheese and meat) and fried plantains topped with sour cream. But the line-up also covers everything from tacos, enchiladas and fajitas to grilled quail, pork tenderloin and even ribeye steak. And better still, the prices are easy on the wallet, as most main courses come in at under $15. Drinks wise, expect to find an array of exotic mojitos and margaritas as well as wine, beer and sangria. Don't overlook the desserts, Gloria's tres leches cake is insanely good. (214-874-0088)
It's kitchy, boisterous, and hands down, undeniably popular. So don't be surprised to find a line snaking out the door, especially on weekends. But it's not just the strolling mariachi bands, Elvis impersonators (Wednesday nights) and eclectic décor (piñatas, wagon wheel chandeliers and the works) that lures folks to this decades-old institution, the real show here is the food. Famous for its Northern Mexican or Norteño cuisine--El Ranchito cranks out the kind of food your abuela might make, like mollejas (beef sweetbreads), fried tripe and its signature cabrito a la parrilla (grilled baby goat). However, if all that seems a little too adventurous for your taste buds, you can dig into some pure Tex-Mex fare as well. Tacos, burritos, enchiladas, nachos it's all there. Desserts are also excellent, especially the sopapillas. Terrific food, massive-sized margaritas and friendly service--what's not to love? (214-946-4238)
Pepe's & Mito's Mexican Cafe
This colorful, rustic cantina is famous for its muy delicioso Mex-Tex classics, like tacos al pastor, fajitas and chicken mole enchiladas. But you'll be missing out if you don't try the cafe's specialty that had Guy Fieri slurping with delight-- the albondiga soup, a comforting bowl of fragrant broth with flavorful omelet-like patties of meat and vegetables. Guy also went loco for the beef tacos nortenos, one of several dishes that come slathered in a heavenly chipotle wine sauce. Speaking of getting sauced, the margaritas here are muy potent. Grab a few to swish down on the comfy patio, it's a perfect way to pass the evening. (214-741-1901)
Lalo's Fine Mexican Cuisine
Lalo's may look unassuming from the outside, hidden within the depths of a non-descript strip mall on the Plano/Richardson border– but this sleek spot regularly ranks at the top of the heap among its legions of adoring fans. And it isn't hard to see why. Diners flock here to dig into traditional Mexican dishes such as chicken mole and sopecitos (thick fried corn tortillas stacked with brisket, beans, queso and sour cream) along with Tex-Mex favorites that cover quesadillas, tamales, enchiladas and, of course, tacos filled with everything from succulent pork al pastor to sliced New York strip and fried battered onions. You can't beat the house made chips either, they come served up with complimentary salsa and black bean dip. And the friendly staff is just the icing on the cake. Speaking of cake, don't skip dessert. The lush chocolate cake topped with flan and dulce de leche has your name on it. (469-298-3017)
This bustling cantina, spanning out over a cavernous two room space, dishes up modern takes on interior Mexican classics like cochinita pibil, a traditional slow-roasted pork dish from the Yucatán Península that dates back to Mayan times. You'll also find Tex-Mex items like mole-bathed chicken enchiladas, as well as a lineup of tacos--think adobo brisket served on fresh white corn tortillas. Speaking of tortillas, the ones here are all freshly made by mixing dry white corn with water and lime powder, before resting overnight and being painstakingly ground into masa. The queso dip with roasted poblano peppers, fresh corn and nopalitos (cactus) is a must. As is the house specialty-- Budin Azteca, a Mexican take on lasagna with meat (or vegetables) and cheese sandwiched between layers of tortillas. It's Mexican comfort food taken to the next level. And truth be told, the avocado margaritas here (avocado puree, pineapple and lime juice, Cointreau and Don Ramon tequila blanco) are touted as the best in town. Take note that there's two locations: Preston Forest Village and Downtown. (469-726-4390)
It may look like little more than a hole-in-a-wall, but don't let that fool you– Mia's is one of the most authentic and busiest Tex-Mex joints in the city. And as such, you'll be hard pressed to land a table during mealtimes–when they dish out a host of from-scratch specialties using tried and tested family recipes. All the requisite Tex-Mex essentials are here: Crispy tacos? Check. Enchiladas with rice and beans? Check. And so is everything else, from tostadas and tamales to quesadillas, chimichangas, flautas and fajitas. Their brisket tacos are the bomb and the chile rellenos (available only on Tuesday nights)–stuffed with beef, raisins and almonds–are legendary. Add in a friendly staff, a reasonably priced menu and a festive, inviting atmosphere–and it's no wonder this place has kept Dallasites coming back for over 30 years. (214-526-1020)
E Bar Tex-Mex
Tucked away off the beaten path between East Dallas and Uptown, this cozy brick-lined cantina has
locals cramming in at all hours– not only for the incredible drink specials on offer everyday (including $3 hand-crafted margaritas on Tuesdays and $2 mimosas at weekend brunch), but also for the phenomenal food.
You seriously can't go wrong with anything on the menu, from the spicy white queso topped with taco meat, guacamole, sour cream and jalapeños to tacos, enchiladas, carne guisada (a Tex-Mex style beef stew), grilled shrimp and the like. But the showstopper here has to be Jorge's tacos. These bundles of flavorsome joy come loaded up with ground beef, shredded chicken, brisket or carnitas and are served on freshly griddled corn tortillas. Cool the burn with said margaritas which come every which way– from straight up on-the-rocks to frozen and swirled in flavors like mango and strawberry. Oh, and did we mention that they serve breakfast all day and stay open until 2 a.m.? (214-824-3227)
About Ilene Jacobs
As a perpetual wanderer, foodie freak and wannabe chef, Ilene is always on the lookout for the best places to see, eat, drink and sleep. Ilene got hooked on this wanderlust lifestyle after spending 10 years as a university student in Paris where she spent most of her time eating her way around France.
When she's not writing about the latest happenings in her hometown of Dallas, she's hanging out in Paris and road tripping around Europe with her spunky teenage son.
You can find Ilene's articles about her favorite hot spots and foodie finds at 10Best.com, CBSDFW.com and Examiner.com.
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