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Dart Bowl Enchiladas

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I always hate to be presumptuous about the tastiness of food based only on the digs, especially since I'm a strong believer in the correlation between burglar bars, formica tables, and outstanding Mexican food, but is all the hype about Dart Bowl's enchilada's really true? How they are described seems to remind of Casbere's, in San Antonio, where they served delicious, bubbling enchiladas from a small, personal-sized cast iron skillet, even though the place was, primarily, a bar.

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  1. do not dig into a plate of dart bowl enchiladas with super high expectations. they are a guilty pleasure at best and a convnenient choice for most (should you find yourself at dart bowl). also consider the fact that anything served with a fried egg on top makes it better.

    1 Reply
    1. re: yimay

      Reminds me of my friend who says his cure for a hangover is the double meat bacon cheese burger with fried egg on top - at Dirty Martin's. His hangover might be cured by that dish but his health most certainly was cursed. ; )

    2. I live in the area and got some friends to go there with me. I met the owner at a bar once. He accidentally cut in front of me at BarFly's, bought me a beer, and told me that Dart Bowl served the best enchiladas in Austin.

      The enchiladas cost $7 after tax and weren't great. The portion was small; it was swimming in a decent chile. It wasn't worth the money. The rest of the food (a burger and a turkey sandwich) were also overpriced and small in portion.

      I got the feeling that they got some good reviews and decided to up their prices. I'd rather have gone down 2222 a block and eaten a full plate at Taqueria Jalisco for $2 less. And if I wanted southern cooking and burgers, I'd rather have gone to Stallion Grille on Airport.

      1. Dart Bowl's Enchiladas are largely Austin pop culture myth. They are merely much better than you have a right to expect at a bowling alley.

        1. It's that Dart Bowl serves a specific TYPE of Tex-Mex enchilada.
          It an endangered species in a time when classic yellow cheese enchiladas topped with a thin, brown chili sauce and diced raw onions are derided as "Gringo Mex" by the Chowterati. It's not the first time - this dish actually helped coin the term "Tex-Mex" in the 1970's, but that label was meant an insult, as in "Not REAL Mexican" just like "Gringo Mex" is in current posts (google Robb Walsh for a award-winning, well-researched and fascinating history of Tex-Mex complete with recipes and restaurant reviews).
          Posters are correct in saying that Dart Bowl is living off their former glory. If you want authentic 1960's yella cheese enchiladas, go to Tamale House on Airport, and tell 'em to add raw onions - at less than $4, it's cheaper than lookin' at the barb wire at the Bob Bullock Museum, and a hell of a lot more Old-Tex, or better yet, hit Arkie's Grill in East Austin (Breakfast and Lunch only) for the full-on, trail-blazin', unashamed yellow cheese enchilada experience.
          I'll bet Arkie's IS what you are hoping to find in Dart Bowl.

          9 Replies
          1. re: Alan Sudo

            "Chowterarti"...Love it. Made me smile.

            1. re: Honey Bee

              That was a clever turn of phrase. What confused me was the interpretation of "Gringo Mex". I found 6 threads in a recent search that used the term, all either by MPH or used in reference to MPH. (That makes MPH the chowterati?) In all of the uses, it is being used as a term to identify a subset of Tex-Mex food that includes the cheese enchiladas with gravy and other such dishes. In no cases does it seem to have been “meant as an insult”, and when used it is mentioned as a term that MPH has heard others use.

              The term seems to have been used earliest (here on Chowhound in this sense) in a discussion of Tex-Mex, which I think is good reading: http://www.chowhound.com/topics/302038 .

            2. re: Alan Sudo

              gringo-mex! I love it. Absolutely adding that to my vocab.

              1. re: amysuehere

                I was once told that this type of Tex-Mex, Gringo-Mex...whatever (meaning the yellow cz enchilada with gravy)...was actually West Texas style Tex-Mex. Can anyone verify?

                1. re: Honey Bee

                  I can verify that it was NOT anything served in restaurants in the West Texas town of El Paso...only in the public school cafeterias on "mexican fridays"

                  1. re: amysuehere

                    Thanks amysuehere,

                    You are a seasoned hound and I trust you would know. Glad I asked.

                    Funny your Mexican food days were Friday. In San Antonio, ours were Wednesdays. Fridays were left for cheese pizza or fish sticks. Lots of devout Catholics in the area.

                    1. re: Honey Bee

                      I'm from Midland. The gloopy "Gringo Mex" of Enchiladas Y Mas, Tamale House, and especially Jorge's reminds me of the food I ate growing up there. (P.S. A lot of this "Gringo Mex" is made by and consumed by folks who are obviously Hispanic, so the term is sort of broken.)

                      1. re: tom in austin

                        Hi tom in austin,

                        Tex-Mex as a category is kind of broken, too, don’t you think? At the very least, it means different things to different people. That’s why I always try to ask posters what they mean by “good Tex-Mex,” in terms of qualities that they like AND some specific dishes (enchiladas, carnitas, crispy tacos, mole poblano, barbacoa).

                        People used to tell me that my series on Tex-Mex wasn’t really Tex-Mex; it was “interior Mexican” or “authentic Mexican.” Well, no it’s not. I’m also discussing a blended cuisine, or what happens to the various Mexican regional dishes once they’re transported to Texas. What seems to cause confusion is that lengua, mesquite-grilled cabrito, chicharrones, and barbacoa are more likely to be comfort food to Tejanos, or Texans of Mexican ancestry, while combo plates are more likely to be comfort food to Texans who are not of Mexican ancestry. As I’ve stated before, the category of Tex-Mex includes both styles. Robb Walsh’s argument does not contradict that; however, his emphasis is construed as being focused more on the “Tex” part of Tex-Mex. To which I always say, Tejanos are Texans, too.

                        There's no getting around the fact that there are some dishes that generally appeal more to non-Mexican-American palates and some that appeal more to those of Tejanos and recent immigrants. That doesn’t mean that Tejanos don’t also crave combo plates and non-Tejanos can’t love tripas. Longtime Dallas chowhound Scott characterized as “Anglocentric” the list of “Tacos to Try Before You Die,” or whatever it’s called, that came out in Texas Monthly last year (http://www.chowhound.com/topics/36429... ). That may be a better way to think of “gringo Mex.” The list featured mostly brisket, shrimp, grilled fish, steak, and al pastor tacos offered by establishments that were likely to be appealing to the magazine’s specific customer-base, which is, on the whole, white and middle- to upper-class. A list of tacos that appealed more to Tejanos would include some of these, sure, but it would also include very different kinds of tacos, from very different types of establishments. It would also be more likely to appear in a Spanish-language publication (if it’s in print at all) than a glossy like Texas Monthly.

                        Best,
                        MPH

              2. re: Alan Sudo

                re: Robb Walsh - I was living in Houston when his six part series on Tex-Mex was published in the Houston Press. All six parts are still online and I just hunted down the links. I can't stress this enough, this is a must read for all Chowhounds. You might disagree with some of what he says, and much of it is specific to Houston, but the passion, research, detail, and thoughtfulness he brought to this series makes it some of the best food writing I've ever read.

                Part One - Pralines and Pushcarts
                http://www.houstonpress.com/2000-07-2...

                Part Two - Combination Plates
                http://www.houstonpress.com/2000-08-3...

                Part Three - Mama's Got a Brand-New Bag
                http://www.houstonpress.com/2000-09-2...

                Part Four - The Authenticity Myth
                http://www.houstonpress.com/2000-10-2...

                Part Five - The French Connection
                http://www.houstonpress.com/2000-11-2...

                Part Six - Brave Nuevo World
                http://www.houstonpress.com/2000-12-2...

                re: Dart Bowl Enchiladas -
                I enjoy them. I really like the fresh rolls that you can get with them (and I suppose enchiladas with rolls might be the very definition of "Gringo-Mex," but whatever). I think some of the appeal comes from the fact that you can get them in a cafe in a bowling alley.

                Just a theory, but I think a lot of internet-based food writing about Austin used to center around picks for SXSW visitors. Dart Bowl was always a big hit with them. "Dude, there's a bowling alley that serves killer enchiladas!"

              3. Here are a few more threads that discuss the Dart Bowl's enchiladas:

                http://www.chowhound.com/topics/385546

                http://www.chowhound.com/topics/370143

                http://www.chowhound.com/topics/89761

                You'll see that opinions vary on their quality—regardless of chowhounds' different feelings about the category of "gringo Mex."

                7 Replies
                1. re: MPH

                  Yep, consensus is, go to Arkie's!

                  1. re: Alan Sudo

                    Actually, you were the only one who suggested Arkie's enchiladas on this thread and the three linked to above. That's not really consensus. But I'm sure the OP will check out Arkie's, if he's interested.

                    1. re: MPH

                      Thanks MPH for the backup!

                      I thought that the context would be enough to show that the implied consensus was "Do not seek out Dart Bowl enchiladas, but don't avoid them while bowling", and that I could abbreviate that thought and join it with my alternative recommendation without losing the reader.

                      I was wrong,

                      So I will elaborate, in my own style, about my suggested alternative to Dart Bowl.

                      First thing, Arkie's does this particular style of Tex Mex better than Dart Bowl.

                      And yes, since the OP mentioned "the digs" as influencing the experience, I am sure they will love Arkie's - an Austin tradition since 1948.
                      They will love the little glass chandaliers hanging over every booth.
                      They will love the uniformed waitresses that greet customers with "How ya doing, Hon?".
                      And they will love the Beef Tips over rice - so tender, the Turnip Greens, the fried Catfish, the chicken and hand rolled dumplings, the ever-popular turkey and dressing - a yellow turkey gravy with big roast chunks of bird over a scoop of homemade stuffing started the night before by the same man that has cooked there the last 40 years, that has yet to change his techiniques (take canned green beans, add bacon, a little garlic salt, simmer until they start to fall apart), and they will love the old school enchiladas.
                      Hell, I'll bet even an old Houstonian corrupted by years of shopping in "the cheese shops of Chicago and New York" can get back to their Texas roots and fall in love with this place. One just needs to give onesself over to old time cookin'!

                      1. re: Alan Sudo

                        Who is this "old Houstonian corrupted by years of shopping in 'the cheese shops of Chicago and New York'" that you're referring to? You? The OP?

                        While plenty of people like some of Arkie's chow (as a quick search will show), that doesn't mean that the tradition, ambience, or home-style breakfast and lunch food will make Arkie's enchiladas taste good to everyone. It's par for the course that one chowhound's "mediocre" is another's "delicious." One just needs to give oneself over to the spirit of this site to appreciate the fact that each of us has different ideals for all types of chow.

                        Some of the posters on the threads linked to above do indeed love and seek out Dart Bowl's enchiladas.

                        As for Arkie's Grill, I'm not sure if you've seen these threads on their non-enchilada fare:

                        http://www.chowhound.com/topics/420043

                        http://www.chowhound.com/topics/42630...

                        http://www.chowhound.com/topics/342163

                        1. re: Alan Sudo

                          Thanks Alan Sudo - this was a great post, and has gotten me wound up about Arkie's, although I am not a fan of that style of enchilada. Your description of the turkey and dressing will dance around my head and stomach until I get there to experience it myself! I enjoy your "own style" of review, and when you say "They will love" I am sure you mean ME. Language, food, its all about sharing (and really, hopefully, fun) ....and this post certainly is a great addition to the dialogue.

                          1. re: Alan Sudo

                            Wow! I've never even heard of this place! While I appreciate the gloriously disgusting enchiladas at Dart Bowl, I'm definitely feeling inspired to check out Arkie's! Thanks for the loving, amusing writeup, Alan Sudo!

                            1. re: Alan Sudo

                              If you go to Arkie's you should know that they are only open weekdays, and even then only until 3PM. Many of the dishes are daily specials - Chicken and Dumplings is Tuesdays only, Turkey and Dressing is only on Thursdays, and they tend to run out of both of these by 2.
                              If you want to order like a pro, look at the blackboards for the list of 4 sides available that day. Daily specials come with 3, so just tell your waitress which one you DON'T want.

                      2. The enchi's at Dart Bowl are mostly tradition, not so much a great meal. The real draw to the cafe at DB for me is the french fries. Hand cut and not frozen, those babies are wonderful. Sometimes crispy sometimes a little limp but still so much more flavor than their frozen kin.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: Kaya_n_Austin

                          Just to prove the "one chowhound's "mediocre" is another's "delicious." " - I love limp french fries. Sometimes the crispy ones seem too dry.

                        2. Great post(s) Alan Sudo. I'll have to give Arkie's a try. I'm a sucker for any place that serves turnip greens and homemade dumplings. And I've been searching furiously--unsuccessfully, I might add--for restaurant seating with personalized chandeliers dangling overhead.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: jackietreehorn

                            My post was re-directed to General, but I thought it was worth a link

                            http://www.chowhound.com/topics/44674...

                          2. There should be two catagories for dining: eating out straight and eating out stoned. The Dart Bowl enchiladas are best eaten stoned, and then they are a treat. Without the drugs I'd have to call them pedestrian at best.