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Tex-Mex Three Ways: Austin, Fort Worth, Dallas

Chips and salsa have replaced chouquettes as my go-to mid-afternoon snack, and I’m liberally splashing Valentina sauce — available for about a buck fifty at the Mexican grocery stores — on everything I can. Tick-tock. I’ll be back in Paris soon, but while I’m here, I’m making melty orange cheese a daily food group.

In the last few weeks – and I do mean few – I’ve finally managed to get out and wrap myself around some tacos, and in some cases, a margarita or two, at some of my favorite old school Tex-Mex places in the state. Which I figured you’d want to know about.

First, the original Matt’s El Rancho. Hit it with a couple of girlfriends post-Central Market cooking class in Austin a couple of weeks ago, and it was so late (and of course we’re eating lighter in the summer) ¬†we only shared a large bowl of the Bob (aka Bob Armstrong dip, a highly addictive version of queso pimped up with taco meat and guac).

I probably would’ve ordered more, since the Bob is only an appetizer, but it was near closing and the waitstaff was ready to go home, and I had to retreat to my hotel room near the airport to catch an early flight back to Big D.

By the way, back in Dallas, the Lakewood Matt’s recently closed and was taken over by Mi Cocina, which I also tried (and loved) for lunch last week…Matt’s is slated to reopen soon on Abrams, but a definite date hasn’t been set.

I thought of my pal Linda Wright, the Cashmere Cowgirl, with every fiery bite of salsa at her favorite Fort Worth haunt, Benito’s, which Mom and I hit recently after a free Sunday at the museums. As y’all know, I like it hot, but I have to say that both the salsa and the pico here is five-alarm city. Dang, it’s spicy. So be warned. We split the bean sope and then had an order of super-cheesey spinach quesadillas, which was so big we couldn’t finish. Next time, we decided, we’d start with the guac and move onto the spicy stuff after that.

And in the most surprising – and pleasing – experience of all, I had dinner at Pepes and Mitos in Deep Ellum, where I used to go at least once a week when I lived in Dallas. It’s been nearly six years since I’ve been in, but when I sat down, one of the waitresses came over and asked me how I’d been like no time had passed at all, and then she said, “Spinach enchiladas with salsa verde, right?”


They were just as good as they’d always been.

Which is the best part about going home. While many things have changed, the ones that stay the same are what I long for and keep going back to. I love the tortilla chips at El Fenix, the horchata at Fiesta, and the red chile flour tortillas at Central Market, all of which I’ve eaten as much as I can on this trip.