On Wednesday evening, a new "Mexican" restaurant quietly opened within walking distance from Dallas Observer HQ. We'd watched with curiosity as the building at 2618 Oak Lawn Ave. made the transition from the former brick, beige and bland law offices of Robert S. Gregg to the new, stylized wooden façade of Campuzano.
Although the blue neon sign out front and the server's T-shirts read "Campuzano Mexican Food" even our server was quick to admit that the food was definitely Tex-Mex. And it's one thing to win "Best Salsa and Chips," "Best Margarita" and "Best Mexican Restaurant" in places like Waxahachie, Cedar Hill and Midlothian, where Campuzano's three other locations serve up the same menu, but when you open a Tex-Mex place this close to so many other established restaurants that plate up similar fare -- from Mia's to Herrera's to Avila's -- then you have to do something to set yourself apart, right? Like, say, a decidedly non-Tejano dance-heavy, Top 40 soundtrack and free Wi-Fi with built-in iPhone chargers in nearly every booth, which one Yelper already described as looking "like giant spiders." (And we hear they plan to have DJs on Friday and Saturday night.)
When we walked in past the bar area the first thing we noticed was Daft Punk's "Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger" playing over the sound system, while several couples sipped margaritas and glanced at their menus. And then, even before we were seated, we noticed the colorful phone chargers. They are impossible to miss. The group to our right was already plugged-in, and once we were seated we immediately overheard the young woman to our left who couldn't contain her surprise. "That's amazing!" she said to her date before fumbling with the cords until finding the right cable for her phone.
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While diners look over the menu three complimentary salsas are delivered to the table -- a fiery, smoky "Diablo" salsa, a salsa verde (which our server described as an avocado and pesto sauce) and a traditional red salsa. We liked all three, but the Diablo one was the most memorable.
Campuzano's menu offers typical Tex-Mex dishes from enchiladas and tacos to chimichangas and fajitas.
The location in Waxahachie is in a two-story Victorian-style house known for serving large portions, and the Dallas location is no different -- no one in our party finished their plates. And a quick skim through the three other locations Yelp pages proves that folks either love or hate Campuzano's food, with most folks giving them positive marks. Reviewers seem to especially love their "World Famous Nachos", as well as the chimichangas and fajitas.
A manager at the Waxahachie location was recently quoted as saying: "The owner was looking for a space in Dallas for a long time." So far, the feedback on Yelp, Facebook and Twitter seem to be mostly positive, so it will be interesting to see if Tex-Mex heavy Dallas continues to embrace Campuzano's brand.