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Despite Recent Closings, Cuquita's is Holding On by Serving Simple Food

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Cuquita's doesn't look like much from the outside. Just another strip mall Mexican place, right?

I paid the restaurant a visit the other day on the recommendation of a friend. I wanted an excuse to eat outside the loop, and Cuquita's, on Josey Lane in Farmer's Branch, promised traditional garb and handmade tortillas. I was in.

Inside the bright restaurant, I sat at the bar and ordered pozole. The simple stew was full of hominy and huge hunks of tender pork. It came with a bowl of onions and limes and cold, crunchy cabbage. It needed a little salt.

Enchiladas came three to an order and loaded with chicken and cheese -- so much cheese -- melted on top and running down the sides and into lifeless rice and limp beans. Still, the filling was tender and moist.

An order of eggs and potatoes tasted like eggs, potatoes and butter, and I think that's the trick here. Pozole tastes like pork and chili and limes after you squeeze them. The chicken enchiladas taste like chicken. Beans are beans and rice is rice. Cumin is not abused here. The dishes are simple and quiet.

The clean flavors are a backdrop to delicate and soft tortillas cooked on-site, which is rarer here than I expected when I landed in Dallas. The corn version is made from such finely milled masa it almost resembles a flour tortilla in texture. The flour version is tender, too.

Despite being named a top-five Mexican restaurant in Texas Monthly, two Cuquita's locations have closed. One on Henderson Avenue became the Hacienda on Henderson, and one on Lake June Road is gone as well. Two remain, though. One on Spring Valley Road and the other in Farmers Branch, where I sat at the bar this weekend.

While folding shreds of tortillas into little scoops I dipped into the pozole, a waitress staged flatware and paper napkins into cigars in front of me. She built a little Aztec tower out of roll-up Lincoln Logs.

"How many of those do you do a day?" I asked her.

"Oh, I don't know, sir," she replied, twisting each roll into a tight parcel and adding to the pile. I asked her to guess and she sighed. "Lots," she said, with a roll of her eyes. "Muchos muchos."

Hopefully the remaining locations will keep her staging silverware for a long time to come.

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