Dude Food: Avila's

4714 Maple Ave.

Dude Factor: 8, or "Nuevo Laredo", on a scale of  1 ("Stays in Mexico") to 10 ("El Paso")

A wise man once said "don't shit where you eat, kid." Whoever built Avila's blatantly ignored his advice, however, which is why the one-holer bathroom is located in the back of the kitchen. Maybe the wise man was Avila's stepfather or something.

That being said, it's actually kind of fun to walk through the kitchen to get there. Sure, there might be a few stray potty particles floating through the air, but other than that, it's an immaculate, fragant display of fresh Tex-Mex.

Ever since the Diners, Drive-ins and Dives guy stopped by the joint, changes have been afoot at Avila's, the lunchtime Tex-Mex destination of choice for many of us here at the Observer. First of all, they have a full bar. Outside, you'll also find a sad "patio" eating up one of the precious parking spaces. And the beans are no longer the refried bean paste one grows accustomed to when ordering Tex-Mex, but actual beans. We've also run across a couple of gringa waitresses as of late, which is fine and dandy except for the fact we really miss hearing about "more especials on the board." The last two developments are somewhat disturbing, but for the most part, Guy Fieri's seal of approval hasn't ruined the place.


The salsa is still among the best in Dallas, with a fresh, spicy kick, and the chips are thin, crispy perfection. The enchiladas are probably my favorite Avila's fare, though the brisket tacos are worth a try as well, even if they pale to the ones at Mia's. Same goes for the tamales and the crispy beef tacos.

Other than the food, I'd say the waitstaff is probably Avila's greatest strength--I've yet to see the bottom of a chip bowl or a tea glass over the course of some 100 visits. And the way the "chip guy" cleans up an order of chips and salsa--pouring the bowls over the uneaten chips and smashing down the remnants with the empty containers--is about as artful as table busing can get. Just watch out if you run into him on the way to or from the restroom: homeboy has places to go and things to do, and he's practically the Tex-Mex version of Terry Tate, office linebacker.

And though I miss hearing traditional Tex-Mex restaurant standards like "Volver, Volver," I have to give props to whoever picks the tunes over there: I've heard everything from Sergio Mendes to Doug Sahm in Avila's, and it definitely helps the vibe. After all, legend has it that Sahm once chartered a jet on Jerry Wexler's dime to fly him and his band from New York to San Antonio for Tex-Mex, just so they could fly back to the studio in the right frame of mind to record. That just might be the baddest "Dude Food" moment in history.

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