We Texans love our "Mexican" food. That is, we love flour tortillas filled with breast meat and corn chips dipped in processed cheese.
Who wouldn't? Except, as we all know, that's not really Mexican, now is it? (And sometimes, as our own Chris Meesey would point out, the concoctions we adore aren't even really Tex-Mex.) At any rate, several restaurants--new and not-so-new--are tempting those willing to step away from the comfort of the combo plate. From Central American home cooking to soups that channel the power of ancient Aztec gods, these new contenders are giving bland cantina chains a run for their pesos.
For starters, Mario Sabino's Mexican & Salvadoran Restaurant opens today in the old Casa Blanca space on Lemmon Avenue. Gloria's fans will be pleased to find another spot serving up pupusas, Salvadoran-style tamales, yuca frita and other delights. In fact, the menu looks a lot like the one at Gloria's, come to think of it. How can we tell already?
Well, we snuck in through the kitchen and snagged one while they were interviewing wait staff the other day...
Anyway, Veracruz Café ventures even further off the beaten path by offering Mesoamerican, Mayan, Huasteco and Aztec cuisine. Inspired by the rich history of Mexico's state of Veracruz, the restaurant (with outposts in Cedar Hill and Bishop Arts) features a wide array of both traditional and creative dishes. Pechuga Catemaco, for instance, is sauced with a "potion" believed to bring forth luck and health from a "City of Spiritual Healers". Similarly, seafood-packed Sopa de Atlahua was inspired by the Aztec god of lakes and fishermen. Panko-crusted jalapeño "bottle caps", on the other hand, don't need a mystical tie-in to make our mouths water.
Dave Faries recently gave props to the team at Masaryk Modern Mexican Kitchen for their "cooking savvy." Eschewing Tex-Mex in favor of Mex-fusion, you'll find dishes like Pepita Pesto Shrimp Enchiladas and Duck Carnitas at owner Gabriel DeLeon's newish Addison Circle restaurant. Course they've also got Queso Fundido and Chimichangas, too, if you're in the mood for "Mexican" comfort food.
No shame in that, either.
Finally, two notable newcomers are totally coloring outside the lines. Burguesa Burger's "borderless" concept includes menu items like La Monumental. Ham, avocado, refried beans and who-knows-what else top the monstrous double-beef Dagwood-style sandwich. And Good 2 Go Taco takes things in a different (though no less creative) direction. The brand new taco stand inside Green Spot Market and Fuels offers gourmet tacos featuring local, sustainable and often off-beat ingredients.