When someone tosses around words like “The Best,” I tend to roll my eyes. We all have different preferences as to what constitutes the best. More so, when someone claims they know the best Mexican restaurant, I just can’t take it seriously. In a city where you can find more shacks dishing out breakfast tacos on neighborhood corners than you can Starbucks, there are way too many contenders to distinguish a leader. That being said, I don’t mind accepting the challenge. My appetite for guacamole, carne asada, spicy salsa, and pibil cochinita is endless, and I just can’t get enough. Dallas’ dedication to all things tortillas and mole provides the perfect platform for my Mexican craving. Hence, my continuing journey to try them all. My most recent notable stop: Gonzalez Restaurant.
Rewind to a couple weeks ago, and it’s another Saturday afternoon by the pool. Once again, my friends and I find ourselves in a circular conversation about the night’s dinner options when Dave claims he knows the best Mexican joint around. Cue eye roll and scoff. But, my interest is piqued and I want to know more.
Now, I must admit Gonzalez is Tex-Mex by definition, but you wouldn’t think that from its appearance – or its carne guisado. Just check out the crowds flocking here and you know it’s the real deal. Located along the Latin American strip of Oak Cliff, it’s a hard place to pick out unless you’re looking for it. Encompassed by bright colors and festive decorations, it’s a hole-in-the-wall kind of place that, if you’re not a local or don’t know someone in on the secret, you’re going to miss out on. (There is another location is Southeast Dallas also.)
Dave and his family have frequented Gonzalez’ since he was little and he claims he still recognizes the owner’s daughter amongst the servers. That, to me, says authentic and dedicated. We sat amongst large families and it felt like one big neighborhood gathering. Family-run and family-oriented, you will find a homey environment that invites you to take a seat and stay awhile.
As soon as the salsa hits the table, I dive in like Michael Phelps racing for gold. Salsa does that to me, and I usually regret my overindulgence every time. The chips are hot and, to my surprise, so is the salsa. I’m not sure what’s in it, but it was nothing like I had before. A little sweet, a little spicy, and a whole lot of addicting. If you want a bit more kick, ask for the green tomatillo salsa.
Following Dave’s lead, I ordered the breakfast tacos with an extra serving of flour tortillas. I must admit I am not big fan of tortillas. Why waste the stomach space when I can fill up on slow roasted pork instead? Am I right? No, I am not. Think Mexican pancakes. Thick, pillowy, buttery, heavenly. Slather on a little butter and eat it straight up, shower it in chunky guacamole and salsa, or dunk it in one of their meaty gravies, there’s no wrong way to indulge.
My verdict on the breakfast tacos ranks high, but merely for the tortilla. The hard taco shells are notable as well (see our review of them in our Best Tacos piece). Crispy, flaky, and almost pastry-like, you get a good crunch of fried shell with each piece of beef. Tacos run around $3 and two is more than enough.
Other dishes to mention are the Carne Guisada and and Guisado de Puerco. The Carne Guisada, a dish of slow-simmered beef tips, comes buried in a gravy of cumin, garlic and chili powder; whereas the Guisado de Puerco is a pork plate served with a red serrano sauce. Big plates range from $10-$15 with worthy proportions.
That day I ate until I was in physical pain, as I do most times I eat Mexican cuisine. However, this time, as I rolled my stomach back across the doorway, I was already craving my next Gonzalez trip. I will say that I know some items can be hit or miss on the menu, but go with a regular and you’ll quickly find this place is a gem deserving of a second visit.
My last thoughts: All I want in life is to eat Gonzalez’ tortillas and salsa every meal of every day without packing on the pounds. That’s a reasonable request, right?
Lauryn Bodden is a DMagazine.com summer intern and a goalkeeper for the SMU women’s soccer team.