Texas barbecue gets influenced by Mexican heritage at Zavala’s, and the results are deeply satisfying. Every Friday is taco night, but every barbecue tray can be converted into a taco plate if you ask for tortillas. This might be a hot take, but tortillas are a better barbecue accompaniment than white bread. A slice of Zavala’s lean brisket nestled in a fluffy tortilla, topped with cilantro-heavy house salsa verde, tastes just about perfect. The ribs are perfectly cooked, too, especially with a house barbecue sauce that leans heavily on spice. A Sloppy Juan taco bundles chopped meats into a tortilla with a tomato-based sauce that, as the name suggests, tastes exactly like a sloppy joe. Jalapeño peppers find their way into a number of menu items, including sausage links and the creamy-but-spicy coleslaw. Making the whole experience even better, Zavala’s is housed in a tiny 1967 building in Grand Prairie’s mid-century downtown, with a big canopy hanging over the picnic tables out front. It’s an architectural gem, and a metaphor for the way that Zavala’s takes past traditions and uses them to build new traditions of its own.
Top pick: Cheesy jalapeño hominy replaces the customary macaroni and cheese as a side dish, and it’s fabulous.
The downside: It does wonders for the flavor of the brisket here, so we’re not complaining, but Zavala’s might some day be to blame if there is a global shortage of black pepper.
Fun fact: Yes, the tiny side street next to the building is really, officially named Brisket Lane.
- Hours: Thursday 11 a.m.-3 p.m., 4-7 p.m.; Friday 11 a.m.-2 p.m., 5-8 p.m.; Saturday 11 a.m.-3 p.m.
- Outdoor seating: Open-air patio
- Alcohol: No Alcohol