I realize that the following assertion will likely result in my being doused in hot lard and dusted in the crumbled tortilla chips, but it must be said: Eating Tex-Mex can be a serious drag.
Please, Dallas, just put down the pig fat and hear me out. You should know that I wrote this guide at my editor's firm direction. But I should also admit the coercion was borne out of my own repeated (and often lengthy) complaints about my physical well-being after eating Tex-Mex. Enough Monday mornings were spent bemoaning yet another weekend binge that it was kindly suggested I commit my suffering to the written word.
Why eat it at all then? You should know that I had to. There's something oddly addictive about Tex-Mex and I could never break the cycle. I'm eating chips and salsa as I type.
My friends should take some of the blame, too. I'm convinced there are grooves in the pavement of every road that leads from Dallas' airports to prominent Tex-Mex restaurants. Whether coming for a visit or returning home, as soon as someone lands, the primary concern is the immediate consumption of Tex-Mex.
Travel aside, Tex-Mex seems to be the universal answer in the face of dining uncertainty. Groups with no plans can debate where they should eat for hours until someone finally calls out Tex-Mex and the deal is done.
It doesn't have to be this way. You can fight back against your friends' mindless desire for a meal that will expand their waistlines quicker than a dozen doughnut breakfast. The next time you hear the Tex-Mex rally cry, counter with the the ill effects of the tortilla chip binge.
Remember those small toys you added to water, which expanded to 38 times their size overnight? The next time someone suggests Tex-Mex, point out that tortilla chips have similar properties, only they expand more quickly, maxing out about hour after you've taken your last bite of chicken enchiladas. The result is a sensation that you've not just eaten Tex-Mex for dinner, but Tex-Mex and a gallon of ice cream.
Your friends may counter with queso, which is seductive for sure, but you wouldn't be a compassionate person if you didn't point out that cheese can clog up your arteries, and in excess it stops up your digestive system, too. Making cheese available in a form that can be funneled is an act of pure evil -- an act of pure, delicious evil that they will not refuse if they enter a Tex-Mex restaurant. And there are more fats that dominate most of the menu.
Lard flavors more than just beans, and if bacon is employed anywhere, your friends should know that the fat that was rendered while it cooked is used somewhere else too. Often dry tortillas are made pliable again by a quick dip in warm oil, and if it's not covered in melted cheese as thick as a quilt then it's likely not Tex-Mex.
With your friends backed into a corner, they'll likely argue that at least the salsas are healthy, and that's great. There's lots of salsa being shuttled around inside Tex-Mex restaurants, and sometimes it's delivered in larger pitchers or bowls with tapered tops so you can serve yourself more and more. So ask them if they know what happens to the leftover salsa after they leave the table.
Don't get over-confident now that you have them questioning their physical health. Stomachs are growling at this point, and one mention of steaming fajitas will undo all your work. Hit them with a fire hose of alternatives, and make sure they're good ones. There are tons of interesting options (here are 50 to start with) around the city with higher-quality ingredients and more innovative dishes. Dallas does many cuisines well, and these restaurants deserve more time in the spotlight. And many of them carry a lower risk of ruining your night.
The first time I really got hit hard by Tex-Mex, friends had just gotten into town. They requested Tex-Mex and I only put up a feeble fight. Five baskets of tortilla chips later we had trouble sliding out of our booth, and despite plans for an evening of live music, barhopping and other shenanigans, we went home and passed out after signing the check.
Our evening was demolished. We'd been Tex-Mexed. And no matter how hard you try, chances are good you'll be Tex-Mexed too.
There's another property of Tex-Mex that's more difficult pin down, and it's why despite writing this guide I'm actually contemplating a trip to Avila's tonight. Somewhere in this offering of meat, cheese and Texan heritage is something that warms and comforts us. It could be genuine feelings of happiness associated with hyper-satiation. But it could also be something like Stockholm syndrome -- we're drawn to the things that punish us.
So best of luck changing the minds of your enchilada craving friends. There's a chance you could pull it off. Maybe.
Pass the salsa?
Keep the Dallas Observer Free... Since we started the Dallas Observer, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Dallas, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Dallas with no paywalls.