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Making Dallas Even Better

Matt Martinez, Jr., R.I.P.

Matt Martinez, Jr. passed away at 7:30PM on Friday. Here is the full release from the Greater Dallas Restaurant Association.

UPDATE: Services are as follows:
Rosary will be Wed at 7 p.m. Funeral Mass on Thursday at 11 a.m. at Thomas Aquinas Church 6306 Kenwood. Dallas, TX  75214

“Matt Martinez was a pioneer in the restaurant industry and made invaluable contributions to advancing the business interests of restaurateurs in North Texas and statewide throughout his career,” said GDRA Executive Director Jamee Green. “His wife Estella and their family are in our thoughts and prayers. Matt will be missed by all of his dear friends in the restaurant community.”

“I have been fortunate to know Matt Martinez, Jr. for more than 30 years, thanks to his involvement in the Texas Restaurant Association,” said Richie Jackson, TRA executive vice president/CEO. “While countless Texans enjoyed his pioneering cuisine, the Association benefited tremendously from his vision, enthusiasm and willingness to share his extensive knowledge of the restaurant business. I have always enjoyed my association with Matt and will miss his entertaining stories and strong support of the Association and the Texas restaurant industry.”

Mr. Martinez owned Matt”s Rancho Martinez restaurants in Lakewood and Cedar Hill and family-owned restaurants in Austin. He authored several cookbooks on Tex Mex cooking and served many dignitaries, including both former Presidents Bush and former President Lyndon B. Johnson and their wives. He also is known for introducing Julia Child to the Texas Chicken Fried Steak.

Mr. Martinez served as Texas Restaurant Association State Director from 1992 through 1995. He served on the TRA Executive Committee from 2000 to 2002 and Greater Dallas Chapter President from 1996 to 1997. He was inducted into the TRA Hall of Honor in June, 2000. Mr. Martinez was awarded the Lone Star Award for Culinary Achievement in 2007.

  • Henry

    Matt was such a tremendous kitchen talent !!
    He gave such much back to the Industry and the city. Matt will be missed.

  • Margie

    This is so sad. Matt was such a special person and so involved with his customers. When Matt still ran the Lakewood spot, I don’t think I ever finished a meal without him coming by the table to say hi to my husband and me. He and my husband used to drink together late at night after Hub had finished studying and Matt had closed the restaurant. It’s so so sad to think that he is gone. What a gem.

  • mike

    his spot at 1st and Congresss in Austin kept me alive in the days of yore.

  • Kristina Russell

    Having known Mr. Martinez since I was a young girl and having worked for him during college, I know the following passage sums up his personality better than I ever could…

    “When you hear that my body has ceased to exist, please do not feel sad. Just look deeply and see that my life and work continue in so many friends, so many young people, in their own ways and through their work. I will continue in everyone and everything I have ever touched. I have nothinng to fear and nothing to regret.”

    My thoughts and prayers are with the Martinez family at this time…

  • Rusty

    When I first moved to Dallas in 1987, my friends took us to a great Tex Mex place they had heard about in east Dallas off I-30. It didn’t have a liquor license so we made a batch of margaritas and poured it into a Gatorade jar, sat on the curb and sipped until our table was ready. The restaurant had to be an old chicken drive thru, with plastic tables and chairs, everything was perfectly tacky.

    We ordered and had a great meal and service. During dinner a man in an apron and denim shirt came by each table and visited- it was Matt. He asked us how everything was and we replied how much we enjoyed our dinner. Matt said, “I’m so glad”. You know by how he said it he actually meant it.

    Over the years I’ve had dozens of encounters with Matt through the restaurant biz, gourmet foods, charities and PBS. He has always been a genuine and sincere man. I’ll will remember him very fondly and I’m certain that right now St. Peter is enjoying a chicken relleno with green sauce, and Matt is visiting his table.

    Vaya con Dios, amigo

  • Jim White

    God bless Matt. Bless ‘Stella. What a wonderful, kind and loving man. He loved cookin’, eatin’, drinkin’, huntin’ and story tellin’. I loved being around him. We make his “Matt’s Big Time Eatin’ Turkey Chili” about twice a month.

  • Al & Ann

    Our deepest sympathy to Estella and children.
    Matt had a kind spirt and deep love for everyone he ever met. He will be truly missed.

  • David Waddington

    Matt and his father before have provided gathering spot for our family and friends for forty years. Graduations, birthdays, leavings and returns have all been celebrated. The impact of their food, hospitality and friendship on the lives of us all is without measure. Matt and his family are in our prayers.

  • Al and Mary Ann Golden

    Estella — Our thoughts are with you at this time. Matt was a true, gentle man and a blessing to his family and the business he loved. I know that you and your loving mother-in-law and sisters-in-law will be a comfort to each other.

    All our love,
    Al and Mary Ann Golden

  • Helen Duran

    From the days at “the Ranch” in Austin, when Matt was a skinny kid who told us fishing stories on slow Sundays to Lakewood and “Matt’s Dinner Store”, Matt was a part of the life of our family. He was part of our celebrations and cajoled our cranky kids. We have been lucky to have known him. Thank you, Estella, for sharing him with us.

  • Don Monaco

    I worked for Matt Jr. for 4 years in the mid-70’s at the old location on 1st St. (#2). He was very generous with his time and his talent and had many friends and admirers. I learned a lot about food from Matt and many important lessons on being a good host to your guests. He will certainly be missed.

  • Bill Vear


    My thoughts are with you and your family during this time. Matt was truly an inspiration to me. He was always driven to do the right thing and help promote the industry. I remember a day we met in East Texas to explore a program to help the community and his enthusiasm exploded as he discussed how he could help educate others on the great career in foodservice as an entrepreneur.

    I want to thank Matt for his passion and guidance in what is truly the greatest career we share. He was truly a great man.