It's kitschy, 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 lure folks to this decades-old institution, the real show here is the food. Famous for its Northern Mexican cuisine, El Ranchito cranks out everything from mollejas (beef sweetbreads) to fried tripe and grilled baby goat. If all that seems a little too adventurous for your taste buds, don't fret, the restaurant also offers all the requisite Tex-Mex favorites.
Recommended for Mexican because: El Ranchito is a great place to take the kids.
Ilene's expert tip: Arrive early if you want a parking space next to the restaurant, otherwise, you will have to park across the street.
A Dallas stalwart since 1977, this perpetually popular restaurant offers a taste of modern Mexico City which means you won't find any Tex-Mex fare here. Instead, the real stars of the kitchen include dishes like cabrito fajitas, Mayan-style slow-roasted pork and ancho chile marinated charbroiled quail. Start with grilled cheese and chorizo panela prepared tableside and end with an order of cajeta crepes. If cigars are your thing, be sure to check out Javier's super swanky cigar bar after dinner. Don't be surprised if you run into a few A-list celebrities while there.
Recommended for Mexican because: Javier's is one of the best restaurants in town for celebrity spotting.
Ilene's expert tip: Reservations are only accepted by phone. Note that they adhere to a dress code of no shorts.
Set up in a landmark building on the edge of the Dallas Arts District, this sprawling cantina offers innovative takes on Central and Southern Mexican fare. That translates into dishes like cochinita pibil, Oaxacan chicken mole, and boudin Azteca, a multilayered corn tortilla casserole that's similar lasagna. Diners will also find everything from tamales and chicharrones to tacos and enchiladas filled with grilled Mahi-mahi and adobo marinated brisket. For something more casual, there's a taco-to-go window (La Ventana) located adjacent to the restaurant's courtyard. And as with all Mexican restaurants, margaritas are a priority.
Recommended for Mexican because: Meso Maya is a terrific family-friendly, group-friendly or even date night option when you want to hang out in downtown Dallas.
Ilene's expert tip: Bar snacks and drink specials are on offer during Happy Hour, Monday through Friday from 3-6 p.m. Meso Maya has other locations in Preston Forest Village, Lakewood, Addison, Plano and Fort Worth.
There are few Mexican restaurants with a better view of the Dallas skyline than this father and son run spot in Trinity Groves. They make their guacamole and margaritas tableside and offer a menu of modern takes on traditional family recipes. Expect to find things like Mexican-style poutine, pork carnitas noodle bowls and beef barbacoa stacked enchiladas along with a range of tacos, tortas and fajitas. Most everything is either crafted in-house or locally sourced, and the tortillas are all made to order. Sunday brunch brings breakfast tacos, chilaquiles and bread pudding French toast with prickly pear syrup and cajeta.
Recommended for Mexican because: Beto and Son is this best place to when you want al-fresco dining with a view.
Ilene's expert tip: Beto & Son hosts a Salsa Night from 7-10 p.m. on Wednesdays and Fridays. They also offer a vegan menu.
They say you can't always judge a book by its cover, and this no-frills, counter-service only taco joint is proof of that. But don't take our word for it, take Bon Appétit's, which named Trompo a finalist on its 2016 America's best new restaurant list. Here, you'll find five different Monterrey-style street tacos that go for around $2 each and range in a choice from bistek to poblano chile with paneer cheese. You can't go wrong with any choice, but you'd be remiss to not try the restaurant's signature Trompo taco, which features succulent roasted pork sliced straight off the vertical spit it's named for. Don't sleep on the quesadillas or Mexican corn either.
Recommended for Mexican because: Trompo is the perfect spot to grab amazing tacos on the go.
Ilene's expert tip: This is literally a hidden gem, so look for a red brick building on Singleton Avenue between Obenchain and Conroe Streets.
This perennially popular taco spot is a favorite of Food Network's Guy Fieri, who declared that chef Jesus Carmona's Tijuana street tacos were the real deal. Regulars swear by the pulpo tacos (grilled marinated octopus) which come dressed up with asadero cheese, avocados, and cilantro pesto salsa. But taco fiends can also satisfy their cravings with everything from pollo al pastor to braised beef tongue (lengua) and carne asada. More unusual options include a taco filled with grilled salmon, avocado mousse and passion fruit habanero salsa. The frozen blood orange margaritas here are a must. At only $6 a pop, you'll probably want to order a few.
Recommended for Mexican because: Tacos Mariachi is where to go for awesome street tacos served in a family-friendly, laid back atmosphere.
Ilene's expert tip: The Greenville Avenue location offers free parking behind the restaurant, and customers can also park in neighboring Char Bar's lot. Tacos Mariachi features a daily special taco, check Facebook for all the details.
This upscale eatery offers a veritable smorgasbord of Mexican food with a menu that stretches from Mexico City to Texas and Santa Fe. That means you can dig into everything from artisanal street tacos filled with duck carnitas to roasted poblanos stuffed with sautéed Mexican truffles to fajitas, flautas, enchiladas, and more. There's also a robust cocktail list with an impressive selection of margaritas, mezcal and in-house infused tequilas. Whatever you do, leave room for dessert, folks say the churros are phenomenal. Note that Mia Dia has locations in Grapevine, Flower Mound and Plano.
Recommended for Mexican because: Mi Dia From Scratch is best for an extensive variety of Mexican cuisine.
Ilene's expert tip: Score $6 premium margaritas, $2 off wine by the glass, $1 off bottled beer plus complimentary chips and queso during Happy Hour, Monday-Thursday from 3-6 p.m.
This family-run Deep Ellum spot with counter service ordering and communal seating is an oasis for taco connoisseurs. Corn tortillas are handmade and grilled to order, and toppings run the gambit from seared duck breast to roasted baby goat and grilled premium wagyu beef. Tacos aren't the only reason to come. Hidden in the back is a 14-seat dining cove (the Purépecha Room) where guests can tuck into an eight-course modern Michoacán-style feast prepared by the owner's mother. It's one of the most unique tasting menus in town, but it will also set you back $120. If that's out of your range, also consider hitting this place for the all-you-can-eat Sunday brunch buffet. For $35 per person, you can indulge in guisados (stews), Menudo, chilaquiles, breakfast tacos, quesadillas and more. Oh, and did we mention that it's open until 2 a.m. on weekends?
Recommended for Mexican because: Revolver is a good place to come for a quick bite before or after hitting the nightlife in Deep Ellum.
Ilene's expert tip: Try to stop by for Pinchi Taco Tuesday when you can snag $2 al pastor tacos and $5 house margaritas.
Named after renowned ceramist José Noé Suro, who created many of the design elements for the restaurant, this bright and airy Guadalajaran-inspired spot offers a fresh take on the regional specialties of Jalisco. Expect vibrant, flavorful dishes in the form of tempura-fried soft shell crab tacos and filet mignon in pink mole alongside goat cheese & mushroom tamales and marinated fish paired with seasonal fruit. As for the drinks, you can't go wrong with a smoked Pasado de Moda, made with Luna Azul Primero Anejo Tequila, orange, chocolate and mole bitters and raw amber agave.
Recommended for Mexican because: Jose is where to go for upscale Mexican food in casual, family-friendly surrounds.
Ilene's expert tip: Margaritas on the rocks for $10 plus discounted select appetizers are on offer during Happy Hour from 4-6 p.m., Monday through Friday.
A favorite stop for Beyoncé and Jay Z when they're in town, this cozy Jefferson Avenue spot is a go-to when it comes to Mexican coastal cuisine. While dishes like seafood enchiladas in a yellow bell pepper cream sauce and cochinita pibil (slow-roasted pork marinated in citrus juices) are always standouts, the specialty of the house is Mesa's signature Mama Cata chicken enchiladas featuring a family recipe mole sauce that's made with over 20 ingredients. Team it all up with one of their spicy chile-infused margaritas and finish with a sampler plate of tres leches cake, coconut cake and flan.
Recommended for Mexican because: Mesa serves some of the city's best mole dishes, it's also an ideal place to take a date.
Ilene's expert tip: Find cocktails priced at $4 and $5 during Happy Hour, Tuesday- Thursday from 5-7 p.m.