205 N. Garcia St.
Rio Grande City
3505 Blue Bonnet Circle
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.
El Fenix (downtown location)
1601 McKinney Ave.
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.
Original Mexican Café
4713 Camp Bowie Blvd.
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.
1817 Padre Boulevard
South Padre Island
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.
Original Mexican Restaurant
1401 Market St.
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.
Matt's El Rancho
2613 S. Lamar Blvd.
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.
Leal's Mexican Restaurant
1010 W. American Blvd.
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.
7901 Westheimer Road
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:
1511 E. Sixth St.
What to get: Huevos rancheros, Bloody Mary
2938 Guadalupe St.
What to get: Chalupas
Jaime's Spanish Village
802 Red River St.
What to get: "dip compuesto" (chile con queso with guacamole)
401 2nd St.
What to get: Enchilada in Friday sauce
218 Produce Row
What to get: Huevos rancheros, Mexican cookies
606 West Ave.
What to get: Puffy tacos
983 N. Highway 123
What to get: Chile relleño
Get the This Week's Top Stories Newsletter
Every week we collect the latest news, music and arts stories — along with film and food reviews and the best things to do this week — so that you'll never miss Observer's biggest stories.