The god father of Tex-Mex in Dallas, El Fenix, is celebrating its 95th anniversary this Monday. To commemorate the event, for the rest of September El Fenix will give every guest a scratch-and-win card, which together total one million dollars in prizes that range from iPads and gift cards to free food and drinks.
On Monday, September 16, diners at all 22 El Fenix locations will receive a free order of sopapillas. Plus, in what surely must be a logistical triumph, El Fenix is donating 9,500 enchiladas to the North Texas Food Bank.
For a little history on this historic restaurant, founder Miguel Martinez emigrated from the town of Potrero, Mexico, to Texas to find work in the early 1900's. At 22 years old he settled in Dallas and got a job in the kitchen at the historic Oriental Hotel in downtown.
He met his wife, "Mama Cha-Cha" Martinez, shortly thereafter and in 1916 opened a café at the corner of McKinney and Griffin, which was originally called Martinez Café and served primarily American dishes.
Two years later they decided to serve food from their homeland and began blending the two cultures for, possibly, some of the first plates of Tex-Mex in this area. It was also then that Martinez changed the name to El Fenix, an ode the mythological phoenix that represents strength and renewal.
El Fenix remained family owned and operated until 2008 when the Firebird Restaurant Group purchased the company. There are now 22 restaurants in Texas, including one at Winstar Casino in Oklahoma.
Miguel eventually moved back to his hometown, but much of his family stayed here, including son, Alfred Martinez, who is now 94-years old. Alfred dines at the flagship restaurant for lunch every Wednesday, where he still works the room and greets every diner at every table.