Category Archives: Tex-Mex/Mexican

Never mind the decor, stampede toward Pyles’ new Texas eatery

Stampede 66 by Stephan Pyles has taken over a modest corner in Uptown with a delightfully enticing menu offering “modern Texan cuisine.”

The chicken-fried buffalo steak tops a savory pan-gravy alongside greens and mashed potatoes. (Photo by Michael Danser)

The chicken-fried buffalo steak tops a savory pan-gravy alongside greens and mashed potatoes. (Photo by Michael Danser)

So what is that culinary genre? Apparently, it consists of bocaditos (small bites), tamales, pickles, breads and butter, tacos, bowl and Texas classics, Galveston Bay oysters, meat and game, farm birds and, of course, sweets.

The passion-chile margarita has Jose Cuervo tequila, Patron Citronge, passion fruit, jalapeño and lime. (Photo by Taylor Adams)

The passion-chile margarita has Jose Cuervo tequila, Patron Citronge, passion fruit, jalapeño and lime. (Photo by Taylor Adams)

With a list of specialty margaritas, one would seem to be worth your try. The passion-chile margarita was acceptable, but maybe not for the $10 price tag with it. The thick consistency of the passion fruit was complemented by a slight kick in the back of the throat from the jalapeño taste that was in the beverage.

The Paloma pink margarita  has a Fever Tree soda, grapefruit and the expected, lime, tequila and agave. A bitterness accompanies this tequila-heavy drink.

The wine list has a selection of nice (for) Texas wines, along with a list of imports, which has offerings from Chile and Spain, along with those from Sonoma, Calif. and Virginia.

The top half of the menu has your smaller plates, but their sizes don’t necessarily warrant sharing. The mushroom and huitlacoche tamales come with two to an order. Offering a moist, traditional tamale consistency, these have a buttery inside of mushroom. (What’s the huitlacoche? Another fungus; this one’s from corn.)

The mushroom-huitlacoche tamales are served on the corn husk and topped with a creamy, subtle huitlacoche sauce.

The mushroom-huitlacoche tamales are served on the corn husk and topped with a creamy, subtle huitlacoche sauce.

While a mushroom taco sounds equally appealing, the fried oyster taco is a small tortilla filled with fried flavor and six cups of different toppings to change up each bite. The pineapple-pico de gallo is an extra sweet kick.

On another visit, the serving of shrimp and grits is sure to be worth a try, along with another type of taco.

On the bottom half are plenty of options that are worth your money. The barbecued brisket is dry and flavorful, served with a vinegar-based sauce and a simple potato salad.

The chicken-fried buffalo steak is coated with a savory, spicy batter that can be eaten on its own. Although, the salty pan-gravy that comes with it makes it even better. This plate also comes with some almost-too-thin, creamy mashed potatoes and “Gun Barrel Greens.” This bitter assortment of kale, carrot tops and other greens was created by a fellow who goes by Gun Barrel, our waiter told us. (He also said this man was from New Orleans; two sentences later, he said he was from Gun Barrel City. It’s yet to be determined. If this dish by his name were better, I might have been more curious to find out.)

This shrimp dish at Stampede is some of the best étouffée in Dallas.

This shrimp dish at Stampede is some of the best étouffée in Dallas.

The shrimp étouffée is one of the more flavorful dishes I tried, but it’s not for those who are weary of some spice. Served in a modest bowl alongside dirty rice, the étouffée has a well-made rue that every base should aspire to be. The almost dirty-like texture of it makes the heat and spice help turn that shrimp into a perfect bite.

The list of desserts offers plenty. There’s a chocolate-pecan pie that they call the black-bottom “Bama” pecan pie, which is presented as a small (but share-able) tart. The dark chocolate takes the place of the jelly portion that would normally be underneath these slightly candied pecans.

The "black-bottom 'Bama' pecan pie" (background) is great, but can't stand up to the coconut desert that maintains layers of dense, moist cake.

The “black-bottom ‘Bama’ pecan pie” (background) is great, but can’t stand up to the coconut desert that maintains layers of dense, moist cake.

Some type of cake will be on the menu when you go. The coconut has layers of dense, moist cake, separated by a sweet cream, that has just a hint of coconut. For the crisp coconut, just eat off the back of the slice that could easily feed four people, which is padded with toasted coconut flakes.

The interior of Stampede 66 is overtly “Texas.” Wire horse heads protrude from the top of a tall wall and a large, metal snake is lit from below by lights of changing colors. In parts of the restaurant, it’s a bit bright and the overall feel can seem simply cheesy until you take your first bite of food – then all that’s around you just doesn’t even matter.

It’s also not bad when Pyles himself drops by your table to make sure your dining experience has been more than copacetic.

Worth the price and multiple visits, Stampede better be here to stay.

Stampede 66
Location: 1717 McKinney Ave. in Dallas, 214-550-6966
Hours: 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m., 6 to 10:30 p.m. Monday through Wednesday; 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m., 6 to 11 p.m. Thursday and Friday; 6 to 11 p.m. Saturday
Price: $$$
Service: Very attentive, extra friendly (If you haven’t ordered the “signature” Modern Star Canyon Margarita, there’s a chance a friendly fellow with a rolling cart will roll over to your table, attempting to persuade someone at your table to purchase the $16 beverage.)
Ambiance: Modern Texan, a little louder and quite bright
Attire: Dressy-casual
Payment information: All major credit cards accepted
Alcohol: Full bar

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Strive for taste sometimes becomes desperate at Desperados

The thought of having a cheese enchilada and a margarita on the rocks within walking distance sounds like a fine setting.The idea would be better, however, if it were on a beach and the destination were some place other than Desperados Mexican Restaurant.

The namesake tacos are fine and a safe order when dining in the intimate joint. Crispy, greasy flour tortillas hold melted jack cheese in the middle of the fold, topped with cuts of steak (or chicken, if you so choose), a few dices of tomatoes and a thin slice of fresh avocado.

Desperados tacos (Photo by TAYLOR ADAMS)

Dressed shreds of lettuce sit on the side of the Desperados tacos. While that space on the plate would be better suited to some rice, the lettuce does bring a chilly freshness to the greasy, but savory tacos. The shell is salty, the steak is well seasoned and the cheese is perfectly melted. (Come in after 5 p.m. on a Thursday and get these for $5.95 instead of $9.99 and they almost taste a little better.)

The attempt at queso (Photo by TAYLOR ADAMS)

But the perfection in melted cheese isn’t always accomplished. The queso comes in a small cup, topped with a sprinkle of paprika, looking similar to Mi Cocina’s, but not living up to that taste. There’s effort put into it, with a small presence of peppers, but it lacks onions and any real kick or flavor. Needless to say, I can safely assume it’s a queso of which Leslie Brenner would definitely not approve.

The servers are quick and attentive, though there’s a good chance you could have three or four attending to your table during your meal. Our first waitress suggested that my order of sangria be upgraded to the larger, 12-ounce option. After seeing the other miniature glasses beverages came in, the $1.05 upgrade seemed worth it. The sangria is a little too artificially sweet, similar to the way plastic bottles of grape juice are loaded with just too much sugar.
Even while it’s somewhat buried by being at the bottom of the tri-fold menu, the list of Tex-Mex options should taste better. If visitors dare to go with these, they can choose from a meal of two, three or four options, all of which come with sides of fresh and flavorful rice and a small puddle of refried beans that need some salt.

Cheese taco and cheese enchilada are two options for a Tex-Mex plate. (Photo by MICHAEL DANSER)

The cheese enchilada and soft cheese taco sound like safe options, but the enchilada simply lacks significant flavor and the soft cheese taco has a fresh corn tortilla drowning it what appears and tastes to be the same disappointing “queso” that arrived in the white, plastic cup before the meal.

Desperados Mexican Restaurant
Location: 4818 Greenville Ave. in Dallas, 75206 (See website for other location)
Hours: 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 11 p.m Friday through Saturday
Price: $-$$
Ambiance:  Intimate, casual, quick service
Attire: Casual
Payment Information: Major credit cards accepte
Alcohol: Full bar

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Tacos that are good 2 go, better 2 eat

My craving for breakfast tacos has failed to diminish, as I kept trying new places and being disappointed with poor chorizo, too much egg or pitiful tortillas. However, I have managed to add one more place to my (short) list of favorite taco shops.

Paris, TX, Chorizo with cheese taco and the SoCo taco/Photo: Michael Danser

Good 2 Go Taco has a list of its own tacos with ingredients ranging from traditional picadillo to biscuits and gravy (yes, inside of a tortilla). Of course, customers can also make their own combinations, (the chorizo is a good choice) but I suggest going for one of the options written on the chalk board.

On the breakfast menu is a greasy mess inside of a tortilla named the Hangover Helper. Keep this place in mind if you’re ever in need of such a remedy because mashed potatoes with the house chorizo and cheddar will do the trick for only $3.50. If you get it with another taco, there’s no confusing it with another–it’s the one covering the foil in an orange grease.

For something just as meaty without the grease, try the Paris, Texas ($4). Take a bite of this taco and you’ll get some grilled hanger steak with egg and potato, all smothered in a charred tomato Hollandaise sauce. The charred taste is a better pairing with the meat than the typical, buttery sauce. Plus, there’s more than a bit of spinach to make you feel  less guilty (though the taco really is better without it).

If you’ve seen my post on Barbec’s, you know I have a slight passion for biscuits and gravy, as does some taco creator at Good 2 Go. The breakfast sandwich meets the breakfast taco in the SoCo ($3.50), which has breakfast sausage, egg, biscuits, potato and cream gravy inside a tortilla. All components are surprisingly adequate, though the whole wrapped a tortilla aspect will take some getting used to. The real biscuits and gravy breakfast elsewhere is a better choice than this attempt.

The menu on the chalk board changes frequently, once on it was the Picadillo Circus. Though it’s not there now, the picadillo was above par. The tortilla strips on it, however, made this a taco I wouldn’t order again. Luckily, there is another lunch option I found pleasing.

The Hotlanta taco: waffle-battered chicken with a few sweet potatoes and honey butter/Photo: Taylor Adams

When it’s brought to your table, whether it’s sitting in a basket or wrapped in foil inside of a paper bag, you’ll instantly think of Fair Park in the fall. This is is nothing below the experience of fair food: it’s fried decadence that gives you the premonition of a heart attack and the guilt of potential weight gain. The Hotlanta taco ($4) is one I didn’t imagine loving: inside this tortilla is honey butter topping a few sweet potatoes and waffle-battered chicken. I had no idea this turn on fried chicken and waffles would be something I could crave outside of the Texas State Fair. A moist piece of chicken is brought almost to perfection, surrounded by a crisp, sweet batter. I was worried about the sweet potatoes I saw on the cheese-dusted chicken, but with the few included, they complemented the sweetness of the waffle batter, similar to the usefulness of syrup.

I don’t typically like the rave reviews, but this Hotlanta is worth the praise, and the calories.

Good 2 Go Taco (Click here for Good 2 Go’s Facebook site)
Location: 1146 Peavy Road, Dallas, 75218, 214-519-9110
Hours: Tuesday through Saturday, 6 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday, 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. (Closed Monday)
Price: $
Service: Friendly, quick
Ambience: Local, clean taco joint meets a local, hip coffee house
Attire: Casual
Payment information: All major credit cards accepted
Alochol: None served
Seating: Indoor and outdoor (the sidewalk in front of the restaurant)

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1 year and another taco joint

We’ve been eating delicious tacos from a metal tray for a year now, as Rusty Taco marks its birthday of one year today. Owner Rusty Fenton, who also co-founded Uncle Julio’s, has a celebration in store for this upcoming weekend with a concert and slashed taco prices.

“We’re going to have a big, old wing ding on the patio,” Fenton told me.

Jayson Bales performed on the taco joint’s opening day last year, and he’s returning with his band, “Sons of Taco,” Saturday at 7 p.m.

While Fenton sounds excited for his restaurant to make its one-year mark, he wasn’t exactly planning on it for months in advance.

“I forgot we were a year old,” he said, “my employees actually reminded me.”

While Fenton’s on Greenville today, he also has his focus on St. Paul, Minn., where Minnesotans are also tasting delicious tacos today and apparently, they’re liking it.

Fenton explained that while Minnesota has good food of its own, it’s unsurprisingly lacking in much authentic Mexican cuisine.

“They’re happy with what we’ve given them,” he said.

Owners of the new franchise location came down to Dallas to train for a month to develop the right attitude of the restaurant and, of course, take with them the recipes. Fenton and others then went up to St. Paul, where they helped the new restaurant open.

He says the new restaurant feels similar to the Dallas joint, it’s just missing a patio and some Texas heat.

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A rusty breakfast

A couple of tacos at Rusty Taco/Photo: Michael Danser for the Daily Campus

I have been craving breakfast tacos for about two weeks now. I have no idea why it took my so long to fulfill this craving, but finally, I was able to get some egg, cheese and chorizo enveloped in a tortilla this morning.

With Rusty Taco‘s proximity to the SMU campus, it’s amazing I’m not stopping by every day. They’re regular tacos on the menu are fine, but it’s the breakfast that’s really worth the short trip (and even the calories).

I went for two tacos this morning: one bacon, one chorizo. Let me note, if you go with this pairing, it’s imperative that you have the bacon first, that way the grease of the chorizo doesn’t make you feel so horribly that you can’t have a second taco.

Rusty Taco’s approach to bacon has improved since the taco joint first opened–flimsy strips of bacon on top of egg have been replaced with bits of crispy bacon intermixed with the melted cheese and egg. The chorizo taco should be handled carefully–the grease will escape the moment you pick it up. I’m not sure if there’s a better meat to start the day with other than chorizo, and Rusty Taco provides it to me in a small flour tortilla holding in egg, cheese, and the ever-necessary sausage.

Curious about other items at Rusty Taco? See my full review in the Daily Campus.

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A meal worth digging into

The taco combo/Photo: Taylor Adams

Since I noticed that taco joints seem to be popping up like frozen yogurt chains, I’ve been less than eager to open the doors of new ones. But Digg’s Taco Shop has been serving tacos across from my college campus since January of this year–not terribly long, but more than enough time for a true food lover (and routine taco eater) like myself to give it a try.

I finally got myself inside this restaurant, where Stromboli Cafe used to serve over-priced pizza. The walk-up order counter has a menu with tacos, quesadillas, hamburgers and other miscellaneous items.

Order the tacos individually for $2.50 or go with the combo served with cilantro rice and black beans for $6. The combo makes for a complete meal. The small cup of beans is classic–nothing special–but complimentary of the tacos. It also makes up for the boring mound of rice on the other side of the rectangular plate. The meat (or veggies, if you’re into that) of each taco is served beneath a heap of cabbage, small chunks of tomato and plenty of cilantro inside two soft, white corn tortillas, just enough to keep everything together before taking the first bite. The roast pork carnitas is a sweet meet, paired perfectly with the fresh cabbage and a squeeze of lime. Less exciting is the shredded beef, which pours out grease as you lift it up, and fails to live up to much expectation.

Hot Digg-ity Sauce at Digg's Taco Shop/Photo: Taylor Adams

However, to amp it up, there is some “Hot Digg-ity Sauce” sitting on the table: a runny but decently hot (remember, a Texan is talking) condiment.

I’ll make sure my next visit will involve a gulf shrimp taco and possibly even a mahi taco (both are offered fried or grilled). But there’s sure to be a couple of visits to Rusty’s before that. However, what has me more excited for Digg’s is the quesadilla. Shredded cheese  is offered with either chicken, beef, shrimp or veggies melted together between grilled flour or spinach tortillas.

I don’t order quesadillas often: it’s a food I actually love, but associate with an afternoon snack in my middle school days. But now it looks like this afternoon snack can work in my college days with a crisp tortilla (flour, of course) carefully casing shredded chicken blended with cheese: simplicity made satisfying.

Margarita popsicles or crispy jelly donut holes are available if you’re still hungry after your meal–both of which are on my “to-do list” for this joint. Now I just wonder how many visits it will take for me to order a hamburger at a taco shop.

Digg’s Taco Shop
Location: 6309 Hillcrest Ave., Dallas, 75205, 214-520-0155
Hours: Monday through Wednesday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.; Thursday through Saturday, 11 a.m. to 12 a.m.
Price: $ (items are below $10)
Service: Adequate
Ambiance: College hangout, entertaining and tasteful music
Attire: Casual
Credit Cards: All major cards accepted
Alcohol: Beer, wine and margaritas served
Seating: Indoor and patio seating
Take-out: Yes

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