the first art show i ever had was held in an historic dallas building entitled GUERRILLA ARTS where, once time passed and it had closed its doors, some hobo vandalized the outdoor signage to instead read: TORTILLA ARTS. i now have a nostalgic tattoo bearing that name (as opposed to the former) because: TEX MEX. while some may not remember a time before the internet, most texans do not remember a time before chips & salsa. we are PROUD of our state, our sky, our history – and shredded yellow cheese is a part of that history. growing up a gay pip-squeak, my dad and i would go grab quesadillas together for some light, forced male bonding (which in retrospect, worked) and i will always remember those meals. but what’s not to remember? hand made tortillas, queso, brisket, molé sauces, fajitas, crunchy tacos. and tequila. and mescal. and cervesas. hey no judgment if yer above all that – fine dining is for fine people. but tex mex is for everyone. what follows is neither a RATING SYSTEM, nor a TOP TEN LIST (cause i’ll get eaten alive by some tex mex troll) so these are merely the local joints i personally enjoy when the mood strikes me. although at this point it’s less of a mood and more like a substance abuse problem.
this place is only 2 blocks from my house. the forced valet is a buzz kill, but since it’s so close i just walk over and skip that nonsense. when you walk inside you'll want to ask, “so what’s your favorite color?” knowing full well the answer is “yes” given the multi-colored walls, bric a brac, and lotería-card tablecloths. but don’t let all that distract you from the main event – the brisket tacos. they’re featured prominently inside the menu (i always appreciate a PROUD menu) and the margarita is solid. it’s refreshing, heavy on the tequila, and ain’t too sweet. what is sweet is their baseball t-shirt, which reads, “if mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy.”
this is another heavy hitter, boasting year-round christmas lights, about a mile from my place. now most joints serve free chips & salsa (it’s the lay of the land) but ojeda’s is so confident in their salsa, they KNOW you want more. so it’s waiting for you on the table. in a personal dispenser. they don’t mess around. sure, you can get all the tex mex standards here, but a few years ago i stumbled on a new story arc in our soap opera: BREAKFAST. specifically, the huevos divorciados or “divorced eggs” (OMG DRAMA). it’s two fried eggs, one covered in salsa roja, the other salsa verde, separated by a rail of refried beans. i highly recommend this dish. especially when high. and while ojeda’s margarita is totally decent, their house-made michelada is where it’s at. ojeda’s is my personal benchmark for local tex mex.
newly opened in the design district (one neighborhood over from me), el bolero is a touch more upscale. but in all the right ways. i’m a sucker for good tilework and this place clearly had a TILE BUDGET in their business proposal. they specialize in seafood, so don’t shy away from the lobster queso, lump-crab guacamole, or lobster fajitas. however, you can also steer yer meal towards the lighter side with a killer ceviche, vegetarian tacos, or the mexican poke burrito. lighter still, the homemade juices at breakfast and brunch are absolutely worth the coin. as for the margarita, to be honest it’s barely worth the calories, but they do have an extensive tequila menu. sometimes it is best to just keep it simple - one shot of top shelf tequila, a topo chico, and some limes is always a good idea.
jefferson boulevard and its tenants are hands down the most authentic of what oak cliff has to offer, and this restaurant is no exception. i can’t stress enough how good the ENMOLADAS are – two chicken enchiladas topped with mole sauce. if you don’t know what mole sauce is, it’s worth a google. adding to the already stimulating ambience, mariachi bands are known to descend on this place, trumpets ablaze, so make sure you save some room for dessert because those tight pants are delicious.
chances are there may be a line out the door at this fort worth INSTITUTION, but don’t panic because they’ll let you order a pitcher of margaritas while you wait. the overgrown courtyard is so green and romantic, it’s straight out of a guadalajaran storybook. they keep the menu lean (NO FILLER FOOD) but the few dishes they do prepare are so delicious it’s no surprise that those of us from dallas are willing to drive one town over to get em.
located downtown, around back of a separate restaurant, la ventana is simply a walk-up-window with a jumbled gravel courtyard. but like the BEST walk-up-window with the BEST jumbled gravel courtyard. it’s low key, relaxed, and cheap. the $3.75 frozen margarita will FUCK. YOU. UP.
the deep ellum neighborhood has seen a lot of change through the years, but this spot ain’t one of em. i enjoy getting tattooed over at elm street tattoo so i’ll pop over here beforehand to put some food in my belly and catch a quick buzz to ease the pain.
i would be remiss in running my mouth about TEX MEX without acknowledging it’s predecessor: MEX. tacos mariachi is also down in oak cliff and serves up tijuana seafood street flavors, including my taco-boyfriend, the pulp taco, with chunks of grilled marinated octopus. they also serve a frozen blood orange margarita that can cure anyone oppressed by yet another 100-degree day.
the newest addition to our family, this mezcaleria (serving street tacos and snacks) sits across from the majestic art-deco dallas fair park. the interior is as curated as the menu. it’s a true agave love story.