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Aside from barbecue, the cuisine you can't miss in Dallas is Mexican — well, mainly Tex-Mex. There's a fantastic restaurant around every corner serving up delicious salsa, refreshing margaritas and addicting tortilla chips. Considering I spent four years in Dallas during college, I sampled just about every Tex-Mex restaurant in the city (not much of an exaggeration either). While the go-to spot for SMU students is Bandito's, which I still dream about, there are some better known locales in the Big D.
For upscale Mexico City fare, head straight to Javier's Gourmet Mexicano. This may not be the typical Mexican cuisine that you associate with Dallas, but it's amazing. This Uptown restaurant offers dishes such as filete cantinflas, which is thinly sliced beef tenderloin that's stuffed with Chihuahua cheese and topped with a mild chile mulatto sauce. And don't worry, you can still indulge in chips and salsa at Javier's.
If you're craving heartwarming Tex-Mex, I suggest heading to Mia's Tex-Mex Restaurant. It's between Uptown and Love Field Airport and serves up spicy salsa, crispy tortilla chips and sizzling fajitas (among many other things). Don't miss the famous brisket tacos.
Another great Tex-Mex eatery is Mattito's in Uptown. You really cannot go wrong when you order the Bob Armstrong dip (it's not on the menu, but it's not much of a secret anymore). It's chile con queso with seasoned ground beef, guacamole and a dollop of sour cream — pretty much heaven in a bowl. Wash it all down with a Rumbarita (Mattito's bright blue margarita).
For an upscale Tex-Mex meal, make your way to Mi Cocina (affectionately known as MiCo by devoted fans). It was started by the same family that owns Mia's, so you know it's good. The Mambo Taxi is a delicious swirl of margarita and sangria, and the Rico salad still wins me over every time I eat there. There are a few MiCo locations; but I love the one in Uptown, as well as the one in Highland Park.
And if you're looking for a spin on Tex-Mex, try Gloria's, which specializes in what it calls Salvador-Tex. Like MiCo, there are a few Gloria's locations and each is unique. I'm a huge fan of the black bean dip.
If you like spicy salsa, look no further than Rafa's Cafe Mexicano on Lovers Lane. Don't judge its strip mall location; Rafa's churns out some of the best Tex-Mex in the DFW Metroplex. The thin and crispy tortilla chips soak up the spicy salsa just the right amount, and when you can wash it down with a fresh lime margarita, it's all the better.
With no shortage of Mexican dining options in town, it’s a challenge to know where to begin. Whether your taste calls for Tex-Mex or more traditional Mexican fare, here are a few options to jumpstart the dining fiesta.
Cutting-edge restaurateurs opted for a hybrid of American and Mexican flavors that resulted in a delicious dining experience. Komali’s crab sopes and Mexican-style meatballs are small-plate favorites while the Mexican hamburger, a grilled beef patty with Oaxaca cheese, black beans, avocado, lettuce, tomato, red onion and chile mayo makes for grand entree. At Mr. Mesero, try the chilorio: two cheese enchiladas with pork chilorio sauce and green rice on the “Mexican Side”; or the Big D Dog, a quarter-pound Kobe beef dog with chile, cheese and onion, served on a brioche bun with house fries on the “American Side.”
For Tex-Mex, visit Maximo, a chic eatery with a bordello of a bar. Their aguja al cazo is a cherry barbeque-braised short rib served with chimi-churri mashed potatoes and roasted asparagus. Try it with the signature Maximo Heat, a Sauza Blue margarita muddled with jalapenos. For seafood, look no further than La Calle Doce. The crisp blue and white decor is a nod to the maritime menu. Their filete a la parrilla, marinated and grilled catfish served with grilled veggies and rice, is perfect in its simplicity.
For Mexican fare that focuses on the country’s traditional offerings, you'll want to visit Wild Salsa. It's hard to choose from the selection of taqueria tacos, but you'll definitely want to try the sonoran enchiladas: chicken tinga on chile-rubbed tortillas with elote cream, cabbage and agave vinaigrette.
It’s normal — if you come to Dallas, you’re going to want some authentic Mexican food. How can you tell what’s the real deal and what's an upscale Taco Bell? Allow me to guide you in the right direction.
For down-home Mexican cooking, Cuquita’s Restaurant is a Dallas favorite. Completing the ambience? The friendly staff wears traditional Mexican garb.
If you’re looking for a mariachi band and margaritas flowing like water, then El Ranchito is your spot. Try some of their authentic meats (think goat) wrapped in corn tortillas with a dab of their chunky guacamole.
North Dallas' Meso Maya serves "comida y copas" — meals and drinks — inspired by Mexico's bold flavors, from habanero to chilies to cacao. A house specialty is budin Azteca, a layered tortilla dish with roasted tomatillo sauce and plenty of cheeses. Whether you’re a fan of Mexican food or not, there’s definitely something for everyone to enjoy at Meso Maya; they can satisfy any palate.