El Fenix Mexican Restaurant
While it’s tough to verify El Fenix’s claim that this was one of the forefathers of Tex-Mex, there’s no denying that the homegrown chain is as much a part of culinary history as it is of Dallas’s. Started in 1916 by Mexican-immigrant Mike Martinez (and renamed El Fenix in 1918, as a nod to the phoenix, a symbol of rebirth), the original café first served standard American fare, then slowly began introducing more “exotic” Mexican flavors, then combination platters that featured both cuisines—thus was born Tex-Mex, El Fenix style. Generations of Dallasites have grown up with signature dishes like the homemade chile
con queso dip, cheese or sour cream chicken enchiladas, and legendary tortilla soup, which is loaded up with crispy tortilla strips and chunks of cheese and avocado. As at the beginning, you’ll find American dishes with a Mexican twist, too, like cheeseburgers topped with Monterey Jack cheese, pico de gallo, and guacamole. The combination platters are particularly popular, as are the lunch specials. Though there are now over 20 locations all over the Metroplex, the downtown and North Dallas
spots are notable for their long histories and old-school vibe—and for the real feeling you get that many of your fellow diners have been El Fenix regulars their whole lives. You might even spot a famous face among them, as the casual restaurants are a popular stop for visiting celebs, musicians, and pro athletes; Mick Jagger was even known to pop in when he was dating Dallas girl Jerry Hall.