Eddie Dominguez's place is the restaurant equivalent of the Grapevine Bar--an unassuming, colorful, come-as-you-are kind of place.
If you've never been to the latter (conveniently located across the street from our offices) or if you can't ignore for a moment the bar's reputation, then consider Tupinamba one spot where the city feels free to shed its pretentious reputation. By that I mean the popular joint serves Texas comfort food. And looking at the crowd on certain days, it might just pass as some everyday small town hangout.
One hallmark of such diners is, after all, a general disregard for outward appearance.
Not following? Go to Tupinamba on a Sunday evening and you'll understand. Spotted at different tables are two or three middle-aged men in shorts, flip-flops and long sleeve sweatshirts. There's a guy with mismatched socks, baseball hats topping a number of seats, women decked out in their cheapest 'only around the house' outfit. You expect to see hair up in curlers and a few sans-a-belt slacks.
It's like eating at home. Or in a J.C. Penney catalog, circa 1970-something.
Yeah, they draw a professional crowd at other times of the day. But you have to appreciate the type of place where people are secure enough to wear whatever. And unlike many comfortable restaurants, Tupinamba's cooking actually exceeds the norm.
That's not to say they serve up brilliant Mexican/Tex-Mex fare. Their west Texas enchiladas drown in sauce and cheese, spoiling the moment when golden egg yolk oozes over the meat and tortillas layered underneath. But the overall profile is warm and the flatbread gentle and gritty like fresh masa. Spinach in their quesadillas feel rich and buttery on your palate. On the other hand, the restaurant's guacamole has that pureed texture associated more with chain kitchens.
Because the general standard for Tex-Mex (and some Mexican) in Dallas lags quite a bit it is relatively easy for an establishment to beat the norm, that's all. Consider, for example, Tupinamba's top-shelf margarita. Yeah, they rim the glass with salt dyed the color of a blue parrot. But they don't disguise the taste of tequila with sweet and sour mix--making these plain old, servicable cocktails a far sight better than most.
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It shouldn't stand out. But thanks to so many lackluster margaritas, it does.
So nothing has changed at Eddie Dominguez's restaurant, really. It is still comfortable, decent, friendly and capable of a little in-state joshing: there's an A&M logo mounted in the dining room and the menu's "TU" platter features chicken.
Don't worry, Texas grads. Speak in monosyllabic words and you'll fit in...
Just kidding. Tupinamba is a place to set aside rivalries, ditch the designer threads, bring the kids, slump down at a table and relax.