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NY-> Dallas, Suggestions for Mex, Tex-Mex and BBQ please!

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Hello, I'm looking for 2-3 recommendations during my visit to Dallas later this month (I'll be living in Plano but can drive around). I live in NY and from what I've read Dallas does Mexican, Tex-Mex and BBQ better than NY.
The only place that I've been to in the past is Mesa and I thought it was very good! Here are some of the places that I found,

BBQ
- Pecan Lodge (lunch)
- Lockhart Smokehouse

Mexican and Tex-Mex
- El Si Hay (Take away taqueria)
- Restaurant Gonzalez
- El Ranchito
- Casa Milagro
- Uncle Julios

Just wanted to get some advice on whether I'm missing a must have or if any of the places that I listed is not very good.
What should be my top choice for a Mexican and a Tex-Mex meal?

Thanks!

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  1. I haven't been to Pecan Lodge but just be prepared to get there early as there can be a long wait. I think the brisket at Lockhart Smokehouse is worth the visit but have been underwhelmed with their other meats (turkey, ribs).

    One of my favorite places for Tex Mex is Marianos. They have a location in Dallas, Frisco and Arlington. They are also famous for inventing the frozen margarita.

    1. I would definitely go to Pecan Lodge over Lockhart Smokehouse. Not only does PL serve better BBQ, they're much more consistent. Ask for "moist" brisket with their sauce on the side. Personally, I don't use it. And also, ask for "center cut" ribs rather than the end pieces!
      http://www.pecanlodge.com/

      Just remember their hours: 11:00am-3:00pm
      Thursday-Sunday. And yes, go early (before 11:00) because although they've added more smokers, they still tend to sell out early.

      As far as Tex-Mex is concerned, the best in Dallas is Casa Milagro. No others even come close. I don't care what anyone else tells you! Great drinks, food, and service. All served in a smart, comfortable, contemporary Mexican ambiance.
      http://www.casamilagrorestaurant.com/

      However, that said, a new (second) location of Meso Maya (Mexican) restaurant in Dallas recently opened near downtown to rave reviews.
      You may want to consider it as well.
      http://www.mesomaya.com/

      For Mex-Mex, I love both, Restaurant Gonzalez and El Ranchito on W. Jefferson in Oak Cliff.
      http://www.gonzalezrestaurant.com/
      http://elranchito-dallas.com/

      At Gonzalez, I love the Puerco (pork stew) Guisado. Very important: At Gonzalez, before you get your chips and salsa, be sure to first ask for their SALSA FRESCA! Otherwise, you'll get a Pace style jarred style sauce. And don't forget their amazing flour tortillas. Hand made in the restaurant.

      El Ranchito is both a party and a meal. Great fun and delicious food. Be sure to have their (hard to find elsewhere) Cabrito. The best in town!

      Best Taquerias in Dallas:
      El Si Hay and, my personal favorite: Tacos al Banqueta on Bryan Street in Dallas. Be sure to have their Suadero tacos with plenty of onions and cilantro.
      http://www.yelp.com/biz/tacos-la-banq...
      http://tacoslabanqueta.com/
      http://www.yelp.com/biz/taqueria-el-s...

      Different from the above style restaurants, also be sure to try the just opened, Lark on the Park in downtown. Also getting rave reviews!
      http://www.larkonthepark.com/

      Btw, Mesa is one of our most favorite restaurants in Dallas!

      Enjoy!

      1. Best advice, give Jose an email and tell him Shane sent you. He can give you some lengthy but good advice on the state of the taqueria sand tacos here in Dallas

        http://thetacotrail.com/

        Mexican
        I would say since you are in Plano, Chitos on NWC of Legacy and Chase Oaks Blvd (just off 75/Central Expressway) will be your best bet. The corn tortillas are freshly made and would go with the Al Pastor taco if you have to have a taco. I would really go for the Asado de Puerco and with the fresh corn tortillas you can't get any better that will be close to your location.
        http://chitosmexicanrestaurant.com/?p...

        If you are up to driving I would also throw in Tortilleria La Nueva Fresh and Hot. Only get two tacos Guisado Rojo and Guisado Verde. You can try for the Barbacoa de Borrego which is made with beef cheeks and less fatty than the whole head version. I would seriously order about 4 of each of the guisado tacos especially since you will be driving from Plano. Pick up some fresh corn tortillas so you can make some chilaquiles/migas the next morning.
        http://thetacotrail.com/2012/02/02/la...

        For Tex-Mex I usually go to Tipicos and there are two locations (one in Carrollton just off Beltline and Josey and one off Bachman Lake close to Love Field on NW Hwy) I only get one thing the cheese enchiladas, I believe the #18. There are three reasons I only go here for my cheese enchiladas. 1. They use real cheddar cheese. 2. They use only a chile sauce, not ranchero sauce. 3. They have the best refried beans probably in Dallas (flor de mayo beans topped with an extra spoon of bacon fat and placed under the broiler). Since my last post I have branched out to get the sour cream chicken enchiladas and those are quite tasty as well.
        http://www.yelp.com/biz/tipicos-dallas
        http://www.yelp.com/biz/tipicos-carro...

        I would also consider hitting up some of the Indian, Thai and Chinese while in Plano. There is also a really good Austrian restaurant in downtown Plano.

        Some places you can research on the board are:

        Chinese:
        Noodle House
        Sichuanese (Make sure you go to the Spring Creek location though
        )North China
        JS Chens
        Mr Shabu Shabu
        Little Sichuan
        Umeko

        Thai:
        Jasmine Thai
        Bambu

        Indian:
        Chettinaad Palace
        Chennai Cafe

        Austrian:
        Jorg's Cafe Vienna

        1. One conspicuous omission that is very much worth your time are the Brisket Tacos at either Mia's or Manny's. Also, I'd take Uncle Julio's off your list.

          As an aside, the tex-mex most of us grew up with seems to no longer be popular as we became foodies. That food, which I know I loved growing up, I now realize is little more than crappy meat, processed cheese and pico. Accordingly, many of these suggestions err towards the Mexican side of things, which most people on this board (myself included) prefer. For some traditional enchiladas with chili con carne, crispy tacos etc..., you might consider Ojedas or Herreras. No longer my favorite but certainly representative of traditional Tex Mex.

          7 Replies
          1. re: demigodh

            Demigodh, I have to concur with the second paragraph of your above post. Very well said! And, I'd add El Fenix to that "old school" Tex-Mex list.

            But with all due respect, I cannot agree with you regarding the restaurants you mentioned in the first paragraph. With the exception of Uncle Julio's. Yes, the OP should remove Uncle Julio's from the list he or she originally listed.

            Above, LewisvilleHounder mentioned Tipico's. I highly recommend as well for solid Tex-Mex.

            1. re: demigodh

              Tex-Mex is a religion, i believe, which is why it's so hard to get any two people to agree about it ;)

              i have found the brisket tacos at manny's to be forgettable, but i really do like the chicken fajitas at uncle julio's. i've never had any better, and their barracho beans are great too, made with great quality chunks of bacon. their salsa made with chargrilled vegetables isn't bad either. now i've totally convinced myself that uncle julio's gets a completely undeserved bad rap!

              i still have a soft spot in my heart for tex-mex, and believe it to be a genuine if often abused fusion cuisine.

              no one's mentioned smoke ... pecan lodge is great & the brisket a must-have, but smoke is another option with wider hours, great food, and much less likely to run out of what you really wanted before you get to order! great brunch, but any meal is good.

              1. re: foiegras

                Right! Smoke is one of the best and, most important restaurants in Dallas and definitely should not be overlooked.
                Especially for brunch! Thanks for the reminder.

                http://www.smokerestaurant.com/

                1. re: foiegras

                  I have to say I agree with demigodh. If you have a soft spot for Tex-Mex, it's probably a soft spot in your head, not your heart. Just chalk it up to nostalgia, admit the quality is not there, but confess you want to eat it anyway for what ever reason. It's like a Jello salad that way. Or canned pears with a dollop of Miracle Whip on it. It just can't be rationalized. Kind of like that Jello salad your mom made in the 1960 -- lime jello, cottage cheese, canned pineapple and pecans with cool whip on top. You shouldn't like it. It's not really good. But you want to eat it sometimes. It's best not to try to explain. The more you try, the worse the explanation sounds.

                  1. re: Mike C. Miller

                    Sooo harsh!!! You will never catch me defending chili con carne--I've always thought it sucked a la Alpo, and I still believe that.

                    But the Tex-Mex chainlet I've been going to basically all my life (which is the Mexican Inn, and there are still variations among at least the older locations in the way they make things even though it's been acquired & expanded since I started going there) makes their own fresh masa daily, and from there, their tortillas & chips. Those I'll defend all day long.

                    I find Uncle Julio's chicken fajitas moist & succulent--a beautiful thing in white meat. I consider their beans the gold standard, and have reproduced them at home (but I haven't figured out how to buy bacon to match theirs).

                    I understand people are going to disagree with me, that's fine ... and frankly I think some of it is food snobbery. But I think my opinions are entirely defensible without needing to plead insanity.

                2. re: demigodh

                  Why would you take Uncle Julio's off of the list? There is no place better for fajitas.

                  1. re: jcrocks

                    The timing of this is pretty perfect as I had fajitas at Uncle Julio's last week (for the first time in probably a decade). I definitely enjoyed them. However, again learning towards more authentic Mexican restaurants, I much prefer the "fajitas" at El Ranchito, Taqueria Lupita, Cuquitas and others. I put fajitas in quotes because many Mexican entrees come "fajita style" meaning on a hot plate over onions and peppers and served with tortillas, pico and guac on the side. However, the places I named have better seasoned (though probably cheaper) meat, in my opinion. The Parillada at Taqueria Lupita (sausage, steak, chicken, shrimp) is awesome. Same goes for the Tablitas (short rib). The Mollejas (sweetbreads) at El Ranchito are phenomenal as is the Cabrito.

                    Regarding the brisket tacos at Mia's and Manny's, I'm a big fan. I realize they're practically pre-made and come out within two minutes of ordering but they are still extremely tasty.

                3. I totally forgot about El Tizoncito. Great Mexico City style tacos al pastor with the pork sliced off a trompo rotisserie.
                  http://www.eltizoncitous.com/

                   
                  7 Replies
                  1. re: twinwillow

                    This place sounds wonderful. Do they make their own corn tortillas? I've been looking for a good taqueria that does. Maybe you can help me? :)

                    1. re: burntcremebrulee

                      burntcremebrulee,

                      I assume you are in the camp that prefers a fresh corn tortilla over excellent meats on crappy store bought tortillas.

                      Tortillera La Nueva Fresh and Hot is the place you need to check out. Get both of the guiso (rojo y verde) tacos and maybe the babarcoa cachete taco. Get at least two of each to start with, you will probably be going back for more of the guiso verde ones.

                      If you do like awesome torillas then just look for torillerias vs taquerias.

                      Not sure where you are located but we can help you find what you are looking for close to your area.

                      1. re: LewisvilleHounder

                        Thanks for the quick reply LH, and sorry I'm just now getting around to it!

                        Yes, I do love a homemade corn tortilla instead of a crappy store bought one. I'll have to check out La Nueva Fresh and hot, sounds just what I'm looking for. Do they have a good horchata auga fresca by any chance? I hate when I order one and it ends up being the store bought horchata mix :(

                        Thanks for the advice on to search for tortillerias instead of taquerias. I didn't know about that.

                        Are there any in or around fort worth that you know about? OR better yet, what is your favorite place?

                      2. re: burntcremebrulee

                        Not sure if El Tizoncito makes their own tortillas or not.
                        But, all the food at every one of their three locations is made on site and more than excellent! Check out their menu on the bottom line.
                        And, as the pictures show, very comfortable with excellent caring service.
                        http://www.google.com/search?client=s...

                        Menu:
                        http://www.eltizoncitous.com/img/menu...

                        1. re: twinwillow

                          Awesome, thanks TW. If you say it's excellent food, I know it's going to be. You guys haven't failed me yet. I'm starting to know all the best places to eat (depending what I'm in the mood for) around DFW because of you guys!

                          I've been catching up on some old threads on places I want to try and will bookmark them for later use. My friends and I really do love it, they'll even call/txt me asking where they should try next, or "hey I'm in this area, what should I try around here?" LOL.

                          1. re: burntcremebrulee

                            I'm eager to know if you enjoy it.

                            I especially like the Chicharron de Queso to start. Cheese fried very thin on a special flat grill and then you break the pieces off to eat instead of having "chips".

                            And then I like the Pastore con Queso Alambres for my meal. The pork pastor is sliced off the vertical Trompo Rotisseri.

                            You get a very delicious black bean soup "amuse bouche" to start and all the condiments are brought to the table in a stand with cups containing the condiments.

                            For drink, I like the Agua Jamaica (hibiscus)

                            They also do it as a Margherita. Although, I think the Tamarind Margherita is the best.

                            http://www.eltizoncitous.com/menu.html

                            1. re: twinwillow

                              The food sounds wonderful, and I'm happy to hear they cook the pastor on the vertical broiler. +1 for that.

                              I've never had a jamaica agua fresca. Never knew it was a hibiscus drink, I'll definitely have to try that now, especially since I love hibiscus tea.

                              I want to try their sopes with house made refried black beans and pastor meat, sounds soooo good. Never had refried black beans.

                    2. On the subject, also of interest...
                      http://blogs.dallasobserver.com/cityo...

                      1. Casa Milagro is the best tex-mex in town. Great service and great atmosphere. I'd drop Uncle Julios off the list. It's very chain-y and way to americanized if you're looking for true Tex-Mex.

                        If you don't mind a bit of a drive, Sammy's Bar-B-Q is great. It's just north of downtown on the edge of Uptown. But Lockhart is also quite good.

                        1. Thank you everyone. At this time, I'm leaning towards Pecan Lodge and El Ranchito (I like goat a lot but don't get good goat often!).

                          What time should I get to Pecan Lodge? I know it is generally suggested that I get there before 11:00 but would 10:45 work or it has to be before that? I was planning to get the 3 meat combo between 2 people - "moist" brisket, "center cut" ribs (Which ones are better, pork or beef? I generally like pork more than beef) and the pulled pork. Would that be enough?

                          At El Ranchito, it seems like the Cabrito a la Parrilla is popular. How big is this? Also, I wasn't able to locate the sweetbreads on their menu. Do they still have that? Anything else that I should try there? Finally, do they have (or can make) some vegetarian options?

                          Thank you very much!

                          4 Replies
                          1. re: indiefoodie

                            First, good choices! I would try and get to Pecan Lodge about 10:30am. There may or not be a line but if there is, it should be a short one.

                            I would get TWO not one three meat combo plates for two people. Their portions are not huge. The pulled pork is very good. You can however, order whatever meats you want by the pound and do the sides separately.
                            And, PL does have vegetarian options if need be.

                            They'll be happy to help you decide. They're nice folks.

                            PL only serves pork ribs. Except for Smoke, beef ribs are hard to find in Dallas. And Smoke serves only one "Big Rib" plate. With only one (huge) delicious beef rib for $24.00. It's my favorite dish at Smoke. Best probably for dinner than lunch.

                            Lockhart Smokehouse serves beef ribs but, not every day. And the quality can be different every time.

                            Have a look at El Ranchito's menu for vegetarian options other than rice and beans.
                            Although, I'd imagine lard would be a major player in the making of their beans and almost everything else.

                            All their Cabrito options are excellent and very popular.

                            Enjoy!

                            1. re: twinwillow

                              Thank you! PL's website says that they have beef ribs (not that I would have them if the pork are good) - http://www.pecanlodge.com/Menu.html

                              Also, in addition to the Cabrito at Ranchito, are there any other must haves? Thanks!

                              1. re: indiefoodie

                                Regarding the ribs at PL. I swear I've never seen them there. But, if that's the case and they do have them, have both!

                                Regarding El Ranchito,
                                Personally speaking, My friends prefer the Cabrito more than I do. Not that I wouldn't order it. What Cabrito I've had there was very good.

                                I usually like to start with the Coctel de Camerones and then have either Arrachera or Tablitas or Chuletas de Puerco.

                                I Also love their terrific Tex-Mex cheese and onion enchiladas ordered with extra onions and cilantro.

                                And of course, I must have an order of Guacamole no matter what I order.

                                It's a big menu and unfortunately, You can't eat everything at one sitting.

                                Hopefully you'll go on a weekend when the Mariachi band makes their rounds from room to room. It's just like being in Mexico!

                                Muy auténtico!

                            2. re: indiefoodie

                              The sweetbreads are the mollejas under the Comida Regional Nortena portion of the menu

                              http://www.elranchito-dallas.com/El_R...

                              I would save room for dessert and go across the street to the Paletas Fruititas for either a mangonada or some of the ice cream. Not sure what they currently have on the menu but the helado de elote (corn ice cream) is quite good. I believe they have a avocado also

                              http://sidedish.dmagazine.com/2010/09...

                              http://dallasfood.org/forums/index.ph...

                            3. Thank you everyone for the help! I ended up going to Pecan Lodge but wasn't able to hit El Ranchito - next time! Also, I had a meal at Jasmine Thai.

                              I'll get Jasmine Thai out of the way first. We had the jungle curry, red curry, the whole bass and everything was just OK. I wouldn't go back at all. No real depth of flavors, everything was too sweet. Not a very good experience.

                              Pecan Lodge - the BBQ I've ever had! I got there at 10:30 and there already was a 30 people line. By the time that place opened, it was probably around 50 or more. We got the Pork Ribs, "Fatty" brisket, spicy sausage, mac n cheese, fried okra, coleslaw and the star of the show, the special that day - beef ribs! Fatty, juicy, succulent, this was excellent. They price it per half pound ($9 I think) and the min. size that day was a little over a pound so the beef rib probably cost as much as everything else together but completely worth it. The brisket too was very good. The pork ribs, although good, were nothing special. Still waiting for the day I find pork ribs that make me react in the same way as the beef ribs here! The sausage and the sides were decent. We also go the banana bread pudding which I thought was pretty good.

                              Thank you once again for the help!

                              3 Replies
                              1. re: indiefoodie

                                You're so welcome.

                                Glad to know at least you enjoyed Pecan Lodge. I'll have to try their beef ribs myself!

                                Next time you come to Dallas, we'll suggest some Thai restaurants that are much better than Jasmine Thai.

                                Personally, most die-hard Dallas hounders like myself prefer, Bambu, Si Lom and Royal Thai.

                                See you next time.

                                1. re: twinwillow

                                  I haven't heard a peep about Si Lom....passed it on my way to Scardello the other day and was curious if it was worth my time.

                                  Please start up a separate Thai Food in Dallas post so you can tell us about the dishes you had at each of these (well you can leave off Bambu). I have got Bambu pretty well covered.

                                  1. re: LewisvilleHounder

                                    Yes, Si Lom is definitely worth your time. It's a real sleeper.
                                    They have the best Tom Ka lemongrass coconut soup around. Everything is fresh, very tasty and cooked to order.
                                    Very reasonably priced as well. Especially at lunch.
                                    Drive around the side and park on the lower level of the garage and you can walk right in their back door without having to park on the street.
                                    You know where I live so you know how much more convenient it is for me than having to drive to Bambu.
                                    Si Lom's food is not as "adventurous" or unique as Bamboo but, all their staple Thai dishes are better than most of the Thai restaurants in Dallas serving the same dishes.
                                    http://www.silomdallas.com/