DESTINATIONS, DFW Metroplex, Restaurants & Bars, Road Trips, TRAVEL

And Then God Invented Tex-Mex

Famous since 1918. Photo from
Famous since 1918. Photo from


Tex-Mex is my favorite cuisine in the world and Dallas is it’s birthplace. What’s your favorite Tex-Mex?

That First Bite

Can you remember the first time you ate Tex-Mex?  Nowadays the spicy cuisine is so uibiquitous, that’s like asking someone if they remember their first meal in a restaurant and the answer would be, “Of course not!”  However, I do remember the first time I ate enchiladas.

I grew up following my Dad’s job around the south.  In those days Tex-Mex was not yet an everyday phenomena, but we were in Texas at least once a year, because that’s where our extended family lived.  In the summer of 1966 my beloved Uncle Glenn wanted to take us to El Fenix – to the location right at the edge of downtown Dallas.  For an eleven-year-old kid who was most familar with dining at Shoney’s Big Boy and the local cafeteria, El Fenix was a whole new world.  All that rod iron and colorful tile was reminescent of our trip to the Mexican Flag section of Six Flags Over Texas  – which we’d visited for the first time during this same week.  I was giddy with glee.

El Fenix Set My Tex-Mex Bar Very High

After the decor, the next thing to bowl me over was the chips and salsa.  Over four decades later, I still think El Fenix has the best chips in the world – and I’m not alone.  Year-after-year the restaurant wins award-after-award, for chips, for salsa, for margaritas and more.  In my book, those crispy, knobby, yellow wonders can’t be beat.

Then my enchilada dinner arrived.  This is the same dinner you can still get for only $5.99 every Wednesday.  Those cheese and onion enchiladas with chili con carne set my Tex-Mex bar so high, that they’re still my favorite cheese-and-onion enchilada.  Now if you’re talking avocado enchilada with cream sauce or chicken enchiladas with green sauce or any number of other variations, I’ll debate with you all day long, but I won’t debate cheese-and onion, because El Fenix has the best.

Another fond memory of that original visit to El Fenix was the tortilla lady.  I’m crazy about breads of all sorts, but for me, a warm corn tortilla oozing melted butter is a slice of Tex-Mex heaven.  Though El Fenix no longer has tortilla ladies at their restaurant, on that first night, they had a nice little grandmotherly type hand-rolling tortillas and cooking them in a wood-burning oven.  I don’t know which I liked more, watching her work or eating her tortillas.  No one counted, but I’m sure I ate about three dozen and they had a hard time getting me to stay at the table.  I kept slipping away to the tortilla lady’s side.

 “My Stomach Hurts!”

That’s what I said after I was drug away from the tortilla lady’s kiosk and folded into the car.  I still remember the laughter.  No one could believe I’d eaten all I had.  No sympathy was afforded me, but the bloated belly soon digested the overdose and I was ready for more enchiladas the next morning.

A Happy Coincidence

The district headquarters for my dad’s work was in Atlanta, Georgia – which just happened to be on the way home to Augusta, our home in 1966.  Stopping by that office my dad recieved the happy news our family was being transferred back to the Motherland – TEXAS!  My mother’s reaction was tears of relief.  Every time we left Texas, it got harder and harder for her to stand it.  My reaction?  “Oh boy, that means I can eat at El Fenix all the time!”  (I might mention we had lunch at The Varsity, my favorite hot dog emporium, but that’s for another day.)

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