On The Range: West Texas Enchiladas

The first of a series documenting Chris Meesey's personal quest for authentic Tex-Mex. But we'll let him tell you more...

I'm a genu-wine Texan, born and bred. In fact, I began life at Nix Hospital, San Antonio--less than one mile from The Alamo, the acknowledged epicenter of the Texas Universe. How much more Lone Star can you get than that? And, like most old-school Texans, I have my food likes and dislikes.

Last time I checked, I think it was in the Texas Constitution that all Texans must love the Big Five: Chicken-fried steak, barbecue, steak, chili, and of course, Tex-Mex. Despite the presence of hyphenated Mexican food from other states such as New Mexico, Arizona, and California, I still reserve a special place In my heart for the cuisine often described as "Love on the plate and lard in the skillet."

In his seminal work, The Tex-Mex Cookbook, Robb Walsh describes the history of Tex-Mex, and notes that its denigration as a cuisine probably started with the publication of a very popular book entitled The Cuisines of Mexico, in which English-born transplant Diana Kennedy "trashed the 'mixed plates' in 'so-called Mexican restaurants' north of the border, and encouraged readers to raise their standards." He goes on to add that Kennedy wasn't very familiar with Tejano culture at the time of authorship...although in here own way, she was amongst the first food writers to acknowledge Tex-Mex as a cuisine separate unto itself.

Just as American Chinese food tastes quite different from that produced in each of the main Chinese provinces, or from Hong Kong, for that matter. People from the same culture adapt, change, and grow differently in different areas and environments, and ingredients available in one part of the country may not be available everywhere. To make a long story short, and in the spirit of everything-old-is-new-again, I decided to track down restaurants in Dallas doing the best job of preserving old-fashioned, unadulterated Tex-Mex?

Luckily, I knew just where to begin my search.

When Dallas Tex-Mex was born, Eddie Dominguez was present in the delivery room. For more than sixty years, his family has been serving Mexican Food Supreme (his term) at his Tupinamba Mexican Restaurant, first at a location on Ft. Worth Avenue in Oak Cliff, later on Northwest Highway, still later near the corner of Midway and LBJ, and finally since 1996 in the old Crystal's Pizza location on Inwood just South of LBJ, right across from Jesuit High School. Most days, Eddie himself or one of his sons are on hand to greet patrons. Recently, Tupinamba has added several new dishes, including an old Tex-Mex classic: West Texas Enchiladas.

For those of you who have never been farther west than Weatherford, West Texas Enchiladas are thick, pancake-style tortillas stuffed with ground beef and cheese, then stacked and served with chili and a fried egg on top. Purists may carp that his chili tastes more like chili gravy. According to Walsh, chili gravy is flour-based and very much like brown gravy with cilantro and spices added, rather than the meat-based concoction officially recognized as The State Dish of Texas. But you'll hear no complaints from me. When I tried this dish, it felt as comforting as a good ol' Sunday pot roast, that is if you like your roast flavored with egg and cilantro.

In fact, it was so good that I feel I must continue my quest to discover other authentic Tex-Mex dishes, no matter where in Dallas they may reside.

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Chris Meesey