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Uncle Julios in Dallas/Mex/Tex-Mex Alternatives

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Hey Chowhounds.leaving for Dallas tonight (10/11) so this is rather last minute notice, but we had a kind friend in Dallas suggest Uncle Julios. I am a little scared, it looks like a chain and I think I'd much prefer a (slightly upscale) Taqueria. Don't tell me there is no such thing you know what I mean lol. I see some positive comments about Uncle Julios, but some appear to be from people who like chains, I saw one list every chain I could possibly think of along with a glowing review of Julios. Could I be wrong to be scared? Any other recommendations?

Had some great responses in my BBQ thread at:
http://www.chowhound.com/topics/432864
so thanks for those. We are still deciding.

I will also be looking at this great site:
http://dallasfood.org/modules.php?nam...
for some Mexican recommendations.

Thanks!

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  1. Uncle Julio's is very mediocre. Not disgusting, but certainly not where I would choose to go. For Mexican food in Dallas, I prefer Avila's or Cafe San Miguel. I also like to grab pastor tacos from Fuel City (in a truck stop, open 24 hours and cheap). A search on these boards may help out.

    1. Oh my...Funny you should mention Uncle Julio's, because we were having dinner (Mexican Food at Mi Cocina's) last night, and one of our topics at dinner was just how horrible Uncle Julio's is, and has been forever, and that their "swirl" which is a frozen drink of Margarita and Sangria, is the only good thing that they have ever had....An upscale "Taqueria"...hmm...Would Taco Diner be a representative of this? Honestly, there is "such a thing", but not so much in Dallas...We have PLENTY of good Tex-Mex and Mexican restaurants, but a "Taqueria" is probably found more in Austin....

      2 Replies
      1. re: jinet12

        Taquerias are plentiful in Dallas...more so than Austin from what I saw.

        Isn't discussing how bad a restaurant is while dining at another bad restaurant kinda like the pot telling the kettle it's black?

        Mi Cocina in my opinion is a horrible waste of money. The inconsistencies of the food I have eaten there range from "bad experience to downright disgusting."

        1. re: jinet12

          I disagree with your comments about Uncle Julio's. I have always found the food and service to be excellent. It is very fresh, high quality and well prepared ( not greasy )tex-mex. I think it was a good reccomendation, even though it seems like Ianto2000 was looking for something a little different.

        2. There are plenty of good Taquerias in DFW. Taco diner is an "upscale" Taqueria for instance. Personally if you want overall good mexican not chain and not average tex mex I would go to Nuevo Leon.

          And one of the best overall mix kind of places woudl be Aparicio's Plano Tortilla Factory & Cafe. They have two locations one on 18th just West of K (greenville) in Plano. and one in Mckinney

          3 Replies
          1. re: irodguy

            Oooh looks like sadness re: Nuevo Leon:( Destroyed in a fire, same place?

            http://www.guidelive.com/portal/page?...

            Very sorry to hear.

            1. re: Ianto2000

              Nuevo Leon downtown was indeed destroyed by fire. But the original in Farmers Branch is alive and well. http://www.nuevoleonrestaurant.net/

              1. re: irodguy

                Ah, glad to hear it. Missed this earlier buried in the middle of the thread though. Good for them.

          2. Manny's Uptown is looking pretty good and see some good reviews out here....

            8 Replies
            1. re: Ianto2000

              Not to be negative, but I think Manny's is worse than Uncle Julio's. For that matter, I don't care for Taco Diner that much either. To me, these places are very generic and might as well be located in any city in the USA. I still stand by my recs of Avila's and Cafe San Miguel for food that is more representative of Tex-Mex and/or Mex available only in Texas.

              1. re: Honey Bee

                Sorry, I forgot to mention that i looked up Cafe San Miguel and it looks pretty good too. I'll definitely take your comment on Manny's into consideration, I did see a pretty good review of it on the dallasfood.org site. Have you been to Avila's many times? I saw one review that complained about a number of things including cleanliness, but thought it might be one of those "revenge" reviews. Otherwise though I've found very little info. on Avilas but more on San Miguel.

                1. re: Ianto2000

                  I have been to Avila's probably 10-12 times. The place is family-run in a little house off Maple Avenue. It is nothing fancy, but that is exactly what I like about it. So many Dallas places are so....Dallas (shiny, new, generic). I don't need techno music playing while I eat conchinita pibil. Avila's is very casual, but I have never noticed anything unclean about the place.

                  I really enjoy their mole (rich, red) and the homeade flour tortillas. Lots of people rave about their brisket tacos, but I thought they were no big deal. I used to live in the area, and it was my go-to neighborhood resto because it was good and "easy" (meaning inexpensive, casual, and quick). However, you may want to note that they are a beer and wine only place (no liquor).

                  If you want more of an eating out experience, then choose Cafe San Miguel. It is fancier and a little more lively. The food is very good.

                  1. re: Honey Bee

                    Looks like we have a winner with Cafe San Miguel for lunch, if the rest of our party agree. Thanks Bee and everyone who responded.

                    Also looking (for another meal) into Bakers Ribs, Mac's BBQ, or Back Country BBQ, according to some reviews on Chow and on dallasfood.org. Or going to Babe's for the chicken dinner experience. Feel free to share any thoughts on those. The Babe's in Dallas is actually Bubbas, apparently....

                    1. re: Ianto2000

                      Babe's (Bubba's). Way better than any BBQ you will get in Dallas.

                      1. re: Honey Bee

                        I totally agree with Honey Bee. Go to Babe's. BBQ in Dallas is mediocre. You have to head south to central TX.

                        Great choice on Cafe San Miguel. Cuquitas, which is down the road, has very good Mex food but is not the more upscale restaurant you are looking for.

                        1. re: jaime24g

                          BBQ in Dallas is so medicore that I could get better in NY? That's what I'm not so sure about. Maybe I'll get some takeout for a picnic on Saturday.

                          The lunch menu for San Miguel looks perfectly decent but not quite as interesting as the dinner menu. We were planning on going for lunch with our friends so hmmmm. Just thinking out loud, my dog hates it when I do that.

                          Maybe we go to Babe's for lunch with our friends and Avila's for an early dinner before the enforced appetizer fest. Too many good places to decide!

                2. re: Honey Bee

                  I would agree overall about Avila's however I would not consider it upscale as such.

              2. as far as upscale taquerias....

                http://www.chowhound.com/topics/409455

                two in one review...i.e. tecole:

                http://www.chowhound.com/topics/409455

                3 Replies
                1. re: adkim

                  Yes I saw the Urban Taco thread, looked interesting. I htought it mentioned more of Tecole too, but I don't see it now as more than just a name mention.

                  1. re: Ianto2000

                    I have not been to Urban Taco, but none of my friends have liked the food.
                    I would lump it in with the other "pretty" places (Mi Cocina, Urban Taco, Taco Diner). I prefer a place not quite as polished.

                    If you have not been to Dallas before, you must understand that Dallas fancies itself very cosmopolitan. Most Dallasites want the pretty package to go along with the goodies. (It is after all the number one consumer of blonde hair dye in the country and number two in plastic surgery). I don't mean any disrespect by this because I used to live in Oak Lawn and spent plenty of time at Neimans. However, it all depends on what you are looking for in a dining experience.

                    If you can, drive by Urban Taco and then drive by Cafe San Miguel. Based on the look and the neighborhood you will be able to conclude a few things. Decide which is a better fit for you and what you want.

                    1. re: Honey Bee

                      I was just commenting on Adkim's link, wasn't really reconsidering going there this time around, though I like the outside decor of the place. We hope to go to either San Miguel or Avila's tomorrow depending on the mood, etc., and understand the difference, so thanks again.

                2. San Miguel is the best Mex in town, by far. Their taco's are the real thing. Homemade corn tortillias. Also, check to see if they have Posole that day. I spend a lot of time in Mexico on business and thier Posole is the best I've had. Fish Taco's are particularly good.

                  1. Oh dear, oh dear. Oh post of pathos and despair. Sadly, the "Bubbas" version of "Babe's Chicken" in Dallas turns out to have counter service only, no waitstaff refilling family style sides.:( We had decided the Babes concept sounded good for our small group, and to have the Tex-Mex for another meal, but dayyyyum. No matter how good the food might have been, defeats the whole purpose of going there. Luckily Peggy Sue's BBQ was around the corner for an emergency backup, and I happened to notice that in our near futile search for parking. So that was at least a place we had heard of, and it was OK. Onion rings were very good, other sides (squash, corn and cheese blend, fried okra, spinach) were unequivocally excellent. Regular ribs were tough and dry, baby back ribs were very tender and nice. Sauce was very average, atmosphere absolutely nothing special though I've heard it touted.

                    Fortunately, even though one friend drove 1-1/2 hours to meet us, nobody complained though I felt like quite the fool after having instigated a change in restaurant choices, and everyone had a good time, as we were really there for each other, not the food.

                    Note to self, if you have any doubts, always call ahead (like why is this place called Bubbas when all the others are called Babes), and don't change horses in midstream, not too often anyway.

                    It would be nice if they indicated on the Babes website that Bubbas is counter service only, as it has a feel no different from thousands of other counter service chicken places. I'm my own worst critic I guess.

                    Oh, also, don't take any wooden nickles, a stitch in time saves nine, and as was quoted on a Tiger Woods inspirational poster-style ad at the airport, excellence is 10% what you have done, and 90% what you are going to do.

                    1. Hurray, Avila's was wonderful. Above all the service was excellent. Thank you Honey Bee and others for the rec.

                      It was certainly off the beaten path, across a minor highway from a furniture place which is posted to have a parking agreement with Avila's as their lot is small. We drove past it one time before making the u-turn to see it tucked away there.

                      The salsa and chips were excellent and the staff were truly eager to refill both, as they were with my Dr. Pepper. Can't say enough about good, fresh, spicy, yet not overbearing table salsa. In our experience there is often something just slightly off about it - but not here. The chips were warm and not greasy at all. We ate far too much of all this despite many statements of "I'm not eating any more chips".

                      The waiter who turned out to be the owner, we believe (Octavio Avila?) was happy to answer all of my questions (for which I am famous), including, "What is the best thing in the restaurant?" :) He recommended the chili relleno and the enchiladas. There weren't a lot of items served with their famous mole, just chicken mole, though he told me I could have it on enchiladas, it would just have to be an ala carte order.

                      I solved all my problems by ordering the chili relleno (a dark, fire roasted poblano pepper stuffed with cheese and in this case, chicken) with a side of a cheese enchilada with mole. Both were excellent, and as advertised, the mole was unlike any I have ever had, very thick, rich, and pudding-like. I wouldn't want mole like that every time but it was wonderful, and spicy as well. The chili relleno was very well roasted, the chicken fresh and tender. I reserve a special mention for the refried beans which were of an excellent, not too thick texture.

                      The SO didn't fare quite as well with her order of Enchiladas Mexicanos, three cheese enchiladas with a wash of some type of chili-pepper, and a side of carrots, beans, and potatoes, which sounded very intriguing. The wash didn't really do that much for the enchiladas but make them a bit tough, and a little more variety was needed. The veggie combination was different but they could have been a little zippier. We shared everything of course so nothing was really left lacking overall.

                      We declined final refills of chips, salsa and Dr. Pepper and left about $30 lighter only, including a good tip. Can't eat again for a day or so.:)

                      We'll be back next we return to the area, and thanks again for the rec.

                      3 Replies
                      1. re: Ianto2000

                        I am so glad you liked Avila's. Next time I am there I will certainly be requesting mole on my enchilalads. Yum!

                        1. re: Honey Bee

                          I'd try ordering brisket tacos with mole if I went again, methinks.

                        2. re: Ianto2000

                          Glad you enjoyed your Tex Mex...You definitely made the right choice...

                        3. And here's the scoop on one of the real Babe's Chicken, in Carollton. Yep, I just had to make us go there on the way to the airport. And what a difference two days make.

                          The restaurant was huge and lovely, not at all like the Bubba's fast food version in Dallas proper. You walk through a garden-like place to get in, with benches and plants. Good thing we got there before 11:30 on a Sunday, because, although I thought we might have been able to actually sit outdoors, the outdoors was packed when we left with people waiting for tables. Not a bad place to wait at all though.

                          We ordered fried chicken, and on the waitresses recommendation, catfish. The fried chicken was as good as fried chicken could possibly be, and more than I could eat, a half chicken. The catfish was overly seasoned and overly salty, though if one eats a lot of fried salty food it probably wouldn't be totally out of proportion. I think there is probably an issue with a place this huge frying catfish in what is presumably the same oil as they fry the chicken, as I think the chicken fat and seasonings got into it, making it overly intense. However, what I believe was corn flower breading on the catfish was excellent in texture. Catfish also came with sides of onion garnish and tartar sauce. The onion garnish was a bit odd, you might have to be an afficiando to really appreciate it.

                          As for the famous family style sides, they were not all that great but OK. Flat green beans and corn, both canned. Mashed potatoes were fine, but were overshadowed by the excellent buttermilk bisquits, in my case with wonderful gravy, and in the SO's case with butter and honey. I can't say enough about how wonderful the bisquits were. We ordered seconds of bisquits though not sure if that was technically allowed as with the other sides.

                          The waitress was absolutey wonderful and fun. "Have y'all been here before? Let me tell you all about it." When she brought the food, she asked if we needed anything else, jalapenos, tabasco sauce, ketchup. I replied, "Did you say jalapenos?" "Yes." "Yes, please." :) She brought a little bowl with two jalapenos, one of which I bit right into while eating. Excellent and a very spicy jalapeno, so watch out.

                          It came to about 10 bucks apiece. I'd say just slightly pricey given the non-exciting sides but for the bisquits. Again, the place was packed, with clearly a lot of locals. Carollton was a lovely tiny town, we mailed our postcards from there in hopes of getting a local postmark.

                          In summary, the chicken was excellent, I'm sure I'll never have better, but I might have as good. And yes, the staff did dance to a song or two and give someone a good birthday welcome. The family style sides are not a good reason to go there, though. I've had better in my hometown, though the braised chicken at home wasn't as good.

                          I can only wonder at the health factor of so much quantity of fried chicken being fried in presumably the same fat all day long, but if one is very concerned about that one probably wouldn't go there. I'd love to try the chicken fried steak. A fun time for a big group for sure.

                          1. I'm assuming you're in downtown or uptown... as that's the main uncle julio's.... if that's the case... I can think of two outstanding local places. Mia's about a block north on Lemmon Ave.... or Gloria's directly across the street on Lemmon Ave.
                            Both are stellar.

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: brianmclaren

                              I am also a fan of Monica's- aca y alla, on Main St. in Deep Ellum.