But the single best use of cheese I encountered while eating my way through the Avila family tree was an enchilada plate at Avila's, a beautifully balanced presentation of melted sharp cheese, quality tortillas and a robust chili sauce. When Tex-Mex defenders extol the virtues of their favorite cooking style—goofy as it seems, the genre's still not taken seriously in places like New York City, where critic Robert Sietsema was recently assailed for describing fajitas as "splendid"—I suspect their argument's rooted in dishes like this one.

The superb enchiladas were bolder than most of the dishes I sampled at Avila's, a wonderfully friendly place where the servers are quick to say "thank you" and ask after your day. Too light seasoning spoiled an otherwise decent plate of brisket tacos, and a tortilla soup skewed bland. A dollop of guacamole and a pellet of queso were the soup's only identifying Tex-Mex markers: The celery-rich chicken soup could pass for comfort food in almost any cuisine.

But the kitchen's reserve vanished with dessert, a white chocolate bread pudding that's a solid brick of sweetness. The pudding is so heavily saturated with alcohol that the first bite felt like French-kissing a sailor: I genuinely wondered about the wisdom of returning to the office after eating it.

Good Tex-Mex must be in the Avilas’ DNA.
Sara Kerens
Good Tex-Mex must be in the Avilas’ DNA.
Good Tex-Mex must be in the Avilas’ DNA.
Sara Kerens
Good Tex-Mex must be in the Avilas’ DNA.

Location Info

Map

Avila's Mexican Restaurant

4714 Maple ave
Dallas, TX 75219

Category: Restaurant > Mexican

Region: Uptown & Oak Lawn

Ricardo Avila's Mextopia

2104 Greenville Ave.
Dallas, TX 75206-7126

Category: Restaurant > Mexican

Region: East Dallas & Lakewood

Details

Avilaís Guacamole $3.95 Enchiladas $7.25 Tortilla soup $3.95 Brisket tacos $10.95 Bread pudding $6.95 Mextopia Guacamole $4.95 Chile relleno $10.95 Beef fajitas $13.95 Layered queso $6.95 Triple D special $14.95 Brisket tacos $12.95 Pan-fried tacos $9.95

Unlike Mextopia, which cultivates a hip, detached vibe, Avila's doesn't feel like a place to get drunk—even on bread pudding. It's Mrs. Avila's house, for goodness sake. And therein lies the difference between the two superficially similar restaurants, which really aren't the same at all. If I recall correctly, that's what those twins back in high school kept trying to tell us.

Avila’s 4714 Maple Ave., 214-520-2700. avilasrestaurant.com. Open 11 a.m.-2:30 p.m. Monday-Saturday, 5-9 p.m. Monday-Thursday and 5-10 p.m. Friday and Saturday. $

Mextopia 2104 Greenville Ave., 214-824-9400, mextopia.com. Open 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Monday-Thursday, 11 a.m.-midnight Friday and Saturday and 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Sunday. $

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