During Hidden Gems Week, the Observer food and drink writers are celebrating an abundance of diverse, delicious restaurants and bars around Dallas, places that don’t often (or ever) get mentioned by big-name food media, trendsetters, bloggers or chefs. We’re taking you outside of the ordinary to help you discover something new.
Dallas is one of the hottest, most thriving Mexican food cities in the United States. Just about every neighborhood has a great taco restaurant, and south of the Trinity River, there are dozens. Some of them you know about. Trompo received national attention from Bon Appetit magazine; Tacos Mariachi was the Observer’s Best Taqueria of 2016; El Si Hay, a few blocks from Bishop Arts, has had a strong cult of fans for years and the ever-present line to prove it; the new Maskaras Mexican Grill got a lot of attention for its lucha libre-themed atmosphere.
But many of Oak Cliff’s taco joints don’t have such a following yet. Some of them aren’t listed on Yelp or Google Maps. We hate to betray some of the neighborhood’s best-kept secrets, but it’s our job — and these are small businesses, so revealing a “secret” spot means helping the owners find new customers and pay the bills. That’s a good cause.
Here’s your guide to three taquerias and Mexican restaurants in Oak Cliff that you won’t find on Yelp, along with suggested orders and, in some cases, what to avoid.
La Sultana Antojitos: The ultimate Oak Cliff breakfast
616 Schooldell Drive. Closed Wednesday; open 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. all other days.
Any list of Oak Cliff hidden gems has to include La Sultana, the only one of these three restaurants that you can find on Google Maps. It boasts a long breakfast menu — huevos rancheros, huevos divorciados (one egg in salsa verde, one egg in salsa roja), chilaquiles and a list of breakfast tacos, only one of which contains eggs, all between $1 and $2. The taco with a fluffy mix of mashed potatoes and chorizo is fantastic, the barbacoa nicely flavored and tender, but the surprise star is the bistec, brilliantly seasoned and with a sear so good you can smell it. All come on excellent from-scratch corn tortillas.
The chilaquiles ($7) are another winner — with gently spicy salsa verde, crisp chips and just-still-runny eggs — so we’re excited to return and try La Sultana’s lunchtime specialties, including El Sultanazo, a monster platter featuring a gordita, a sope, two red enchiladas, two flautas, two tacos and two fried tacos.
Because La Sultana’s menu is not posted anywhere else online and because we like the place so much, we are including the menu below before getting to the other two restaurants. Check La Sultana’s Facebook page for its incredible weekly specials, like two-for-one breakfasts on Mondays and $0.99 Taco Tuesdays.
Los Tres Mas Taqueros: The best pun restaurant name in Dallas history
2643 S. Hampton Road. Open 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Sunday
This location is cursed. First came Mr. Chamorro, an extraordinary taco spot that didn’t even last six months despite incredible pork shank tacos and some of the best chorizo we’ve ever tasted. Mr. Chamorro was so good, it was in line for a formal (and glowing) Observer review when it closed. The replacement, El Ta’Pelon Taqueria, sported excellent salsas and a delicious taco de chicharrón en salsa roja, but the lengua, barbacoa and floppy tortillas were all disappointing.
A new contender has arrived in the space, hoping to draw more fans than its predecessors: Los Tres Mas Taqueros, with a jaunty logo and spectacularly punny name. The specialty is tacos de cabeza, with maciza (lean), lengua (tongue) and surtida (a mixture) available. They’re all fine, especially the tender lengua, and all affordable — the most expensive taco here is $2 — but we were underwhelmed by apparently mass-produced corn tortillas and by gritty ground meat in a campechano taco. We’ll definitely be back to try the tostadas and flan, though. Speaking Spanish is suggested; staff members know just enough English.
The menu is not available online, so we included it in the photo above.
La Fonda de Don Chuy: Guisados while you shop
1120 S. Westmoreland Road. Open 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Sunday.
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SHOW ME HOW
This one isn’t so much a restaurant as a counter or a stall. Need some tacos and some groceries on the same trip? La Fonda de Don Chuy has you covered.
It’s inside Supermercado Monterrey, the grocery store chain with outposts across North Texas. Walk into the location at Westmoreland and Clarendon roads and make an immediate left, heading for the corner of the store. There’s a counter and a small, fenced-in dining area with tables running along the grocery’s front windows.
Don Chuy’s specialty is tacos de guisados, or tacos with stewed meat. The most famous Tex-Mex interpretation of a guisado is carne guisada, in which a fairly cheap cut of beef is cubed and stewed in a gravy of tomatoes and spices. Here is a chance to branch out: Try the taco with tender, bone-in pork chunks and a tomatillo stew, or carne deshebrada, a standout shredded-beef taco. There are more typical offerings too, including dryish barbacoa, but they’re not the reason to visit.
Take a good look at the stews before you order. Although chicharron en salsa verde is consistently good (but bony!), some of the other offerings vary widely based on what’s freshly made, and occasionally the meat simply dries out. Order what looks good. Cash only; speaking Spanish strongly recommended.