eighteen years ago, we drove into texas to set up shop and call this place our home. i remember asking people, “so where’s a good mexican restaurant?” I don’t recall the the suggestion, but i do remember the disappointment.
i wasn’t quite sure what it was, but it wasn’t the mexican food i had grown up eating.
after forty years of feasting on the flavors and textures and spices of northern baja mexico, i was not prepared for this native food called, tex-mex. enchiladas were supposed to be covered in spicy, bright red chile sauce, melted chedder cheese and some crumbled queso fresco…not chili con carne or queso sauce. taco shells were to be freshly fried, not taco bell style. carne asada was thin-cut flank steak, marinated for days and grilled to a nice char, served with scallions, jalapenos and a side of guacamole… not a round steak and a side of borracho beans.
look, i’m a seasoned cross-cultural traveler. as much as i wanted to say, “this is not mexican food”, i know better. it simply wasn’t the mexican food i was accustomed to. early on, i just didn’t like it very much…but i think it was more that i just missed the taste of home. (growing up just a few minutes from the border, mexican food was a three-meal-a-day proposition most of the time!)
but slowly…over the years…i have not only grown to appreciate tex-mex, i really enjoy it. but here’s my over-arching, general opinion of this texas phenomena: other than fajitas, the signature tex-mex taste sensation, pretty much all tex-mex tastes the same to me. (fajitas are different…it’s all about the quality of meat. more expensive mexican restaurants have better quality meat. it’s just the way of the world.)
anyway, here’s my current evaluation of tex-mex favorites:
best brisket tacos… la hacienda
best ground beef tacos… rosas’ (meat has chiles, onions and potato)
best cheese enchiladas… christina’s on 1171 in flower mound (they’re really tasty, but the best tex-mex enchilada ever was served at the texas hamburger factory…which is nothing but a distant memory for old-timers)
best chips… the rusty taco
best quacamole… chipotle (really simple, but tons of flavor and some good heat)
best fast food dollar item… taco casa bean burrito with spicy green sauce
best salsa bar… taco cabana (lots of choices: chile ranch, green tomatillo, roasted chile, mango-pineapple…all of them are great)
best salsa… roasted dark chile salsa from la hacienda. totally addictive.
best fish taco… not a strong suit for the tex-mex nation…but i will admit that fuzzy’s tempura fish taco has grown on me. great flavor, interesting spices on the deep fried fish, nice vinegary white sauce and the butt-burning taco sauce makes for a nice flavor combination.
best beef fajitas… el chico. the meat has never let me down.
best chicken… pollo salsa fire grilled, marinated chicken (in carrollton)
best breakfast taco… brisket, egg, potato and cheese taco from rudy’s
so what do you think of my choices? agree or disagree? what other dishes would you add that are truly tex-mex delicacies?