Vintage Tex-Mex

Caro's
205 N. Garcia St.
Rio Grande City
956-487-2255
Since 1937

and

Caro's
3505 Blue Bonnet Circle
Fort Worth
817-924-9977
Since 1954

What to get: Tostadas and puffed tacos
Both locations are run by the third-generation of Modesta Caro's family, and both offer hot, pillowy tostadas and puffed tacos in a frozen-in-amber ambience.

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El Fenix (downtown location)
1601 McKinney Ave.
Dallas
214-747-1121
Founded in 1918

What to get: Special Mexican Dinner
The new corporate owners promise that nothing's going to change at this iconic Tex-Mex institution, but better go eat a cheese taco soon just in case.

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Original Mexican Café
4713 Camp Bowie Blvd.
Fort Worth
817-738-6226
Since 1926

What to get: Roosevelt Special.
Nothing has changed here since Amon Carter hung out in the bar. If a combo platter with two fried eggs on top of the enchiladas sounds a little heavy, try the enchilada omelet—a cheese enchilada inside an envelope of scrambled eggs.

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Palmetto Inn
1817 Padre Boulevard
South Padre Island
956-761-4325
Since 1945

What to get: No. 10 Dinner, shrimp cocktail
The shrimp cocktail and shrimp fajitas are tempting with the beach so close, but don't ignore the old-fashioned Tex-Mex at this last location of a once-famous chain. The fresh-fried thick masa chips rock.

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Original Mexican Restaurant
1401 Market St.
Galveston
409-762-6001
Since 1916

What to get: Tamales with chili con carne
You'd never know you were eating in the oldest Tex-Mex joint in the state—the waiters are clueless about the restaurant's history, and the manager has only been there a few months. The Original was sold to new owners last September. We hope they wake up and smell the chili pretty soon.

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Matt's El Rancho
2613 S. Lamar Blvd.
Austin
512-462-9333
Since 1925

What to get: Old-fashioned tacos
This is another family dynasty. Delphino Martinez pushed a tamale cart on Congress Avenue and opened Austin's El Original in 1925, and his son Matt Martinez opened Matt's El Rancho in 1952. The new location on South Lamar features potent margaritas and a fabulous patio.

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Leal's Mexican Restaurant
1010 W. American Blvd.
Muleshoe
806-272-3294
Since 1957

What to get: Enchiladas in New Mexican red chile sauce
This West Texas chain started out as Irma Leal's tortilla factory in a tin-roofed building in Muleshoe. Early patrons were mostly migrant farm workers. Now you can get their tortilla chips at Central Market.

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Molina's Cantina
7901 Westheimer Road
Houston
713-782-0861
Since 1941

What to get: Enchiladas de Tejas
The meaty chili con carne is what made Molina's famous—it's made with lots of cumin and just a touch of chili powder. Try it over tamales or cheese enchiladas with raw onions on top (enchiladas de Tejas).

A few other suggestions:

Cisco's Bakery
1511 E. Sixth St.
Austin
512-478-2420
Since 1949
What to get: Huevos rancheros, Bloody Mary

El Patio
2938 Guadalupe St.
Austin
512-476-5955
Since 1952
What to get: Chalupas

Jaime's Spanish Village
802 Red River St.
Austin
512-476-5149
Since 1931
What to get: "dip compuesto" (chile con queso with guacamole)

Moya's Café
401 2nd St.
Refugio
361-526-9124
Since 1938
What to get: Enchilada in Friday sauce

Mi Tierra
218 Produce Row
San Antonio
210-225-1262
Since 1941
What to get: Huevos rancheros, Mexican cookies

Jacala
606 West Ave.
San Antonio
210-732-5222
Since 1949
What to get: Puffy tacos

El Ranchito
983 N. Highway 123
Seguin
830-303-7802
Since 1941
What to get: Chile relleño

 
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