Masters of Mexican (part 1)
Apr 28, 2016 11:11AM ● Published by Dia
By Audrey Sellers
Tacos! Enchiladas! Fajitas! Mexican food that makes you want to say, “mmm…gimme más.” That’s exactly what we uncovered in our 2016 Readers’ Choice survey. We polled readers in a two-part survey on their favorite Mexican food in our part of town, honing in on the top tacos, margaritas, guacamole, tortillas, and also the best menu variety and atmosphere. The seven restaurants that rose to the top as finalists out of 20 area establishments bring the Tex, the Mex and a fiesta of flavors.
It seems that our readers can relate to whoever said, “Life without Mexican food is like no life at all.” Our survey revealed that nearly half of you (47 percent) go out for Mexican food once a week, and almost a quarter (21 percent) of you enjoy it multiple times a week. When you need to satisfy your Mexican-food fix, here are the area’s best places to do it, as deemed by Southlake Style readers.
Chuy’s Mexican Restaurant 1221 E. Northwest Pkwy., Southlake
Chuy’s Mexican Restaurant is indeed a chain establishment, but make no mistake: This Austin-based restaurant is churning out tortillas better than any mom-and-pop kitchen. No mass-produced supermarket tortillas here; only fresh and homemade. When it comes to the tastiest tortillas, Chuy’s secured a solid 25 percent of the vote in our survey, followed by Mi Chula’s Good Mexican and Anamia’s Tex-Mex.
Its secret? Hand-rolled tortillas made from scratch daily. Tortilla experts transform a few ingredients into a simple dough, which is then rolled out to become soft, melt-in-your-mouth spheres of flour, corn and blue-corn deliciousness. These tortillas then go into dishes such as the restaurant’s famous “Big As Yo’ Face” Burritos or house specialties such as the Chuychanga and Chicken Flautas. Or you can put the tortillas directly in your mouth. You don’t need a hearty filling or even a dab of butter to enjoy these babies; they’re perfect when they’re piping hot and plain.
“Our fantastic tortilla ladies take pride in our food and their contribution to it,” says Brittany Martin, field marketing manager for Chuy’s restaurants. “Our food is made fresh several times a day in the kitchen, including the dough and masa for our tortillas. When you visit Chuy’s, the tortillas you order haven’t even been made yet.”
On its website Chuy’s admits, “We don’t take anything seriously, except our food.” When founders Mike Young and John Zapp started the restaurant in 1982, they wanted to serve authentic, fresh Mexican food in a fun and funky environment. That’s exactly what they’ve been doing ever since. They’ve expanded the restaurant to 11 states, and in the process, given Mexican-food fans a taste of some of the best tortillas around.
Mi Cocina Southlake Town Square 1276 Main St.
The food is reason enough to go to Mi Cocina (it’s Zagat-rated as one of Dallas’ Most Popular
and it also landed on Zagat’s Essential Dining list), but it’s the handcrafted margaritas that take this restaurant to the top. Southlake Style readers say the ’ritas at Mi Cocina are the best around. The local favorite got 29 percent of the vote, followed by Mi Dia From Scratch and Anamia’s Tex-Mex.
Mi Cocina’s Mambo Taxi® (after which you might need a taxi) is downright legendary. “It’s not only our most popular margarita, but also what our restaurant is known for,” says Rosalinda Posoz, restaurant director for the Southlake location. The margarita is swirled with sangria for a deliciously potent beverage that’s perfect frozen but also good on the rocks. Some say it’s made with Everclear, but the menu (and the bartenders) won’t tell.
Mi Cocina offers more than a dozen handmade margaritas with several different flavor profiles, whether you’re into sweet, fruity, smoky or spicy. Some are crafted with little else than tequila and lime; others are more creatively cooling with fresh purées and muddled fruits. What makes each one special, says Posoz, is that it’s “made from scratch with only the highest quality ingredients.”
So are margarita fans ordering their beverages frozen or on the rocks? Patrons like them both ways. The restaurant serves an even mix of the two varieties. A poll on SouthlakeStyle.com reveals 50 percent of readers prefer a frozen marg and 50 percent like it on the rocks. We’ll call it proof that margaritas are equally good in both forms.
In addition to the Mambo Taxi, local favorites include the Jalapeño-Agave Margarita, which delivers a sneaky sizzle with Sauza tequila, agave nectar, jalapeño salsa and lime juice, and the new signature Double Barrel Margarita, made with Black Barrel Hornitos Sauza. Mi Cocina also debuted a seasonal margarita for summer: the tequila-based Milagro Sangria. “It’s served in custom glassware featuring some of our beautiful commissioned artwork by Mexican artist, Luis Sottil, and can be ordered by the glass or in a carafe to share,” Posoz says.
Patio season is upon us, so raise a toast with a classic or a new favorite. When you’re in Mi Cocina’s margarita kingdom, you know each one will be reliably good.
Torchy’s Tacos 2175 E. Southlake Blvd.
The humble taco: It’s a Mexican-food mainstay. Only the tacos at Torchy’s Tacos aren’t humble at all; they’re “damn good,” as the restaurant boldly touts in its stores and on its website. Our readers agree, with more than 30 percent proclaiming that Torchy’s does tacos best. Anamia’s Tex- Mex and Mi Dia From Scratch came in second and third place, respectively.
The Austin-based taco shop began in 2006 as a trailer attached to a Vespa scooter. Founder Michael Rypka felt the area was lacking some great street food, so he put his executive-chef skills to work, turning out tacos so good he grew his fan base from one neighborhood to the entire nation. Torchy’s now operates more than 30 stores, serving up Mexican-street-food-style tacos in crazy-good varieties.
Torchy’s famously funky menu features tacos such as the Trailer Park, a flour tortilla bulging with fried chicken, green chiles, pico de gallo, lettuce and cheese, all topped off with a zingy poblano sauce. Make it “trashy” by holding the lettuce and adding queso. Speaking of queso, the restaurant’s green chile queso is topped off with guacamole, queso fresco and cilantro. A drizzle of Diablo hot sauce makes this dip sing.
For those who like to mix it up with their tacos, Torchy’s also offers a rotating monthly special known as the Taco of the Month. Sometimes it’s new and different; sometimes it’s an old favorite. And, because Torchy’s has a philanthropic side, it donates five percent of the monthly taco’s sales to community causes. To us, it makes the tacos taste that much better.