The Nine Best Mom and Pop Tex-Mex Restaurants in Dallas

Former D Magazine editor Mary Brown Malouf and I ate our way across town looking for the best one-location-only Tex-Mex joints. We conquered 17 joints in 7 days. Here are our top ten. Yes, we know Tejano was sold after we went to press and no we don’t feel bad leaving Mia’s off the list. Everybody got one shot and the day we ate at Mia’s was not their best. Update: Make that nine, we deleted Tejano.

Let’s begin with two words: processed cheese.

In this age of artisanal, responsibly raised protein, people shudder when they read those words. But you can’t have Tex-Mex—still the most meaningful cuisine to emerge from this state—without it.

We’re all about understanding other cultures and learning to appreciate Mexico’s authentic regional cuisines. Love that stuff wrapped in the banana leaves. Love the million and one moles. But those are, well, Mexican cuisines. Tex-Mex is ours. Its gold standard is the cheese enchilada, and a cheese enchilada requires greasy, yellow cheese. So does a soft cheese taco. So does a platter of nachos. And, of course, chile con queso is nothing but. We’re talking American. We’re talking Velveeta.

Newcomers eager to try Dallas’ most famous cuisine tend to be, if not dismayed, then certainly unsettled the first time a server shoves a platter—“Hot plate!”—of earth-tone glop in front of them. Maybe you had to grow up with it. For sure you have to live with it awhile to love it. But for most of us, Tex-Mex is the taste we crave when we are away and the one that defines “home.” Most of us have a steady relationship with our favorite Tex-Mex place, our go-to joint that makes it just the way we like it. No matter that there’s only one way to make a real cheese enchilada (soften a tortilla in hot, flavored fat, roll it around chopped onions and grated cheese, cover it with thinned chili con carne and more grated cheese). Each restaurant has its own signature flavor. You can argue the superiority of your favorite until you’re azule in the face, but it’s like trying to convince a Philadelphian that Pat’s is better than Geno’s. Or vice versa.

Here’s the list.

17 comments on “The Nine Best Mom and Pop Tex-Mex Restaurants in Dallas

  1. Solid list, to be sure, but have to ask if you considered El Taquito on Grand Ave.? It could take the place of Avila’s…since El Taquito remains in business, after all.

  2. SNARK RETRACTION: I confused Avila’s with Mextopia. My bad, my bad, my bad. Avila’s IS great–but still wonder if El Taquito got its day in Tex-Mex Court.

  3. OK, I know we live in a “smart phone” world where information is readily available to most. But do you not think that addresses or phone numbers would have made this list a little more user friendly?

  4. FWGuy, if you touch the link it takes you to the D Magazine info page with phone, location and map

  5. Rafa’s meat quality has gone down considerably, and their margaritas are weak and made from mix. No thanks.

  6. My list would contain Herrera’s on Maple as it is the original and I think the other locations are another family. Tippico’s on NW Highway with great soup and the best Mex breakfast in town and possibly Gonazales in the OC who’s neon sign sure looks a lot like the one above.

  7. As a 30-plus-year patron of Tupinamba I’m so happy to see Eddie Dominguez get his due, but considering it to be one-location-only is a tiny bit generous. Eddie’s son Jeff has run Tupy’s in Frisco for the past few years, and this is not a Mia’s-begat-Mi Cocina kind of thing. The concepts and the menus are very nearly identical. The only real difference between the stores is the square footage.

  8. I’ll be trying El Norte tonight. Let’s hope it doesn’t dissapoint like that ridiculous A Wok place y’all declared as best Chinese. Talk about atrocious! :-/

  9. To call Tupinamba’s margarita the worst in Dallas may be as ludicrous as you calling El Fenix’s marg the best one some years ago. We look forward to our frozen margs at Tupi’s. Can’t wait for the next visit.

  10. You only visited 17 restaurants? Really in Texas? And btw coming from someone who is Tejana, el Norte definitely doesn’t deserve to be on the list.

  11. As another 30+ year patron of Tupinamba’s I’m so excited to them get the recognition they so deserve. We live in West Frisco and were so happy when Jeff opened Tupy in Frisco. So now we have two great places for our favorite Tex Mex. On that note…we will be having Tupy meltdowns and Tupy tacos in just a few hours. YUM!