When talking about Mexican food, the notion of what's "authentic" often clouds the conversation, so know this right up front: Don Juan's in Grand Prairie is NOT authentic Mexican food. That fact, however, doesn't take away from the uniqueness of the joint or its appeal to locals, especially on Thursdays.
"Everybody in Grand Prairie knows about Taco Thursdays," says Trent Parker, employee and son of owner John Parker. In DFW, Taco Tuesday has become the ubiquitous Tex-Mex deal of the week, but on Thursdays in Grand Prairie, be prepared for a wait out the door or along Main Street in a drive-thru.
Frankly, Taco Thursday at Don Juan's blows Taco Tuesday at Rosa's out of the water on price. The product is at least as good, too, although all the tacos at Don Juan's are of the crispy persuasion.
The deal is straightforward enough: five tacos, $3.79. Three or four can eat for less than $8. It's good grease at Don Juan's, the kind to make even the staunchest authenticity hawks simmer down and chew.
The tacos are even more straightforward: beef, cheese and lettuce in a fresh crispy shell. There isn't a chicken option on the menu aside from a quesadilla. A combo platter consists of two cheese enchiladas (unless they happen to scoop three, a fairly common occurrence) swimming in chili sauce with more than a fair share of diced onions, beans and either chips and guacamole or rice.
Go for the rice; it's an unassuming, out-of-nowhere hit; slightly sticky and seasoned nicely enough to add something to the meal. The guacamole is just OK, with a prepackaged, off-green look to it that may be unappetizing to some.
Don Juan's has the feel of an old diner, with the round teal barstools and countertops still intact from the building's birth as a location of the "Griddle System," a popular chain in the '40s and '50s. The late Don Chiavario, a California transplant, gave the location a partial overhaul in 1966, giving the place the feel of both some bygone malt shoppe and abuelita's kitchen. Don Juan's will celebrate 50 years in business on September 17 with a party that is getting citywide attention.
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That date, the 50th anniversary of Chiavario's experiment in Grand Prairie, has been proclaimed Don Juan's Day by Mayor Ron Jensen, and as they did for the 40th anniversary, prices will take a trip back in time to 1966.
If the menu from the 2006 party is any indication, that means something in the neighborhood of 20 cent tacos and burritos for a quarter.
They've also applied a rather unique tag to Don Juan's brand of Tex-Mex: romantic Mexican food, a reference to how many have fallen in love with the establishment in its 50 years in business. So taco lovers can grab a loved one, get close and shove as many cheap tacos as will fit down their gullets. This Grand Prairie staple was made for lovers.
Don Juan's Romantic Mexican Food, 325 E. Main St., Grand Prairie