Restaurant Reviews

Being Horny ...

Exposure to a horny toad must make you garrulous. How else can you explain the incessant chatter of the servers at Horny Toad's Cantina? They want to know what you think of the menu, how your food looks, how it tastes, if it's still good after 30 minutes, whether you're finished, and how it was. They ask you if you're coming back, will you tell your friends, and "What are you doing New Year's Eve? We have a $50 per person deal where you get a really nice bottle of champagne, a party, and a Horny Toad T-shirt."

On Monday nights during football games, they have a raffle called "penalty payoff." Every time a penalty flag is tossed, they call out a ticket number and the winner gets five bucks. When the Cowboys played the New York Giants, our server said, the house had to pay out some $275. (That would have been 55 penalties. The game actually had 19).

Horny Toad's is sandwiched amid a crush of chain restaurants on Mesquite's restaurant row: Red Lobster, Outback Steakhouse, Hooter's. Horny Toad bills itself as "a pretty good Tex-Mex joint," which doesn't set expectations in the sky, though it might elevate them to the tree line. Horny Toad reaches these heights, at least with the chips (thin, crisp, and relatively greaseless), the salsa (zesty, rich, and chunky), and margaritas. They have what they claim is Dallas' largest margarita, a 60-ounce thing called the atomic margarita for two ($9) served in a glass that could double as a koi pond.

But the rest barely reaches toad-hop altitudes. Beef fajitas ($9.99) are served with dry, stringy beef strips and limp, listless pico de gallo. Mix-and-match combos at lunch ($4.99), a choice of two from various tacos, enchiladas, tamales, or burritos, had a flaccid chicken enchilada in a Velveeta-like varnish with a rippled skin. A beef burrito belched a processed pulverized meat substance. I found myself yearning for Taco Bell.

The grilled rib eye steak plate ($11.99) with fried onion and jalapeño strips in a spicy sauce was much better. The meat was juicy and red, though a bit thin, and those strips were light, crisp, and mostly greaseless. Crisp chicken tacos were dry and dull with more listless condiments. An appetizer mix called a nightmare sampler had fajita nachos with plump juicy chicken and steak, bland cheese quesadillas, and amusing devil tongues (fried chicken-and-cheese-stuffed jalapeños), little pepper bites that rose well above adequate.

Like the menu, the décor at Horny Toad is basic Tex-Mex boilerplate with railings made from pipes and pipe fittings, old beer signs and Texas license plates, distressed chairs, and corrugated metal with lots of Christmas lights strung about. There are some dubious stabs at humor, like a gallery of celebrities -- Gilligan, Homer Simpson, Jack Nicholson, and Darth Vader -- who haven't been to Horny Toad.

There's a line on one of the promo fliers that says Horny Toad's Cantina is "Spanish for next to Hooter's." Unfortunately, that's about all you can say.

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Mark Stuertz
Contact: Mark Stuertz