Sometimes you stumble upon something serendipitously and fall in love. It's just awesome. Buena Vista Social Club was like that. I knew nothing of Wim Wender's documentary when my roommate suggested we schlep from Queens to the Angelika for a screening. It was pure joy, having grown up with similar music to the type played by that group of viejitos. I still go about singing "Dos Gardenias."
When leads on two other Fitzhugh taquerias turned up dead ends but my dining companion spied Margarita's Restaurant, I thought, "Dos Gardenias." Yes! Fantastic. It's even next door to a Michoacana Meat Market. Competition surely would mean excellent tacos at either establishment, right? Being that I got the chain tacos out of the way last week, that was all I considered regarding Michoacana. Margarita's, it was.
The restaurant is surrounded by markets and beauty salons and, like many of the commercial outlets in Old East Dallas, is fitted with door and window bars. The house-like, orange-painted brick building is set back from the street. Between the sidewalk and the restaurant is a patio, where a smattering of glass-top patio and wood picnic tables seem placed haphazardly. All of it was abandoned in the 100-plus-degree heat.
Inside, oilcloth tablecloths decorated with marigolds and a diamond pattern adorned surfaces. The stereotypical tchotchkes (hi there, General Villa!) appointing the interior weren't surprising and straight out of the Mexican restaurant handbook. But the thing about that handbook -- following its guidance makes for a comfortable environment, one bolstered by a friendly staff. Margarita's was shaping up to be another Buena Vista Social Club
The server told us that the restaurant's specialty was the cuisine of the Mexican state of Coahiula, but I saw little to indicate that fact. Mole poblano shares the same menu space with a hamburger -- though my dining companion was the only gringa in the restaurant, and she ordered the bubbling inferno otherwise know as the queso flameado. There weren't even nachos on the menu. Nachos were created in Coahiula. But I was there for the tacos. So, back to the tacos.
The tortillas were made to order. The corn tortillas looked so deceptively like the flour tortillas that, at first glance, I wondered if the kitchen had mistaken my order. They tasted like corn, but were pillowy in texture, and the tacos only came with one tortilla.
I ordered the crispy taco (my first ever) and a taco plate (fajita, chicken and barbacoa).
The crispy taco, sealed in the frying process and, therefore, more of a San Antonio-style puffy taco, was an empanada nightmare -- tasteless and intermittently soggy -- though it held up under the weight of the picadillo. It was one of the few signs that Margarita's is a Coahiulan restaurant, as San Antonio was once part of the old Department of Coahiula y Tejas. As the taco was San Antonio-style, however, the lettuce and tomato garnishes on the side were a waste.
The fajita was tough and dry. A net made of the fajita meat would be strong enough to hold the restaurant that served it.
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Then there was the grilled chicken taco. I'd like to think that chicken tacos deserve the benefit of the doubt. Margarita's chicken taco put the kibosh on that. Don't order a chicken taco unless the restaurant advertises itself as specializing in chicken tacos.
The sinking feeling, my sense of dread at being duped, was slightly alleviated by the barbacoa taco. It was rich and dripping with jus. However, one taco doesn't merit a stop at Margarita's. Perhaps, the queso flameado is worth it. But, it's not a taco.
Margarita's Restaurant was no Buena Vista Social Club. There were no culinary analogs to Compay Segundo or Ibrahim Ferrer. It was more John Cusack in Serendipity.
Margarita's Restaurant 2414 North Fitzhugh Ave. 214-821-9366