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Upscale Mexican cuisine best savored during happy hour
A lot of people seem to think that Cantina Laredo is too pricey, and if that sounds like you, then here’s what you do: Go during happy hour. Not only are their drinks way cheaper (anywhere from $2 to $5, depending on what you order), but a lot of their dishes are also sold at half price at the bar. You can go traditional with a simple plate of enchiladas, or you can go a little more modern with their ahi tuna tacos made with jicama, ginger slaw, and guac. Whatever you do, make sure you go for their tableside guacamole -- made fresh to order, the way you like it.
A convenience store's taco outpost doing it right
This place is inside a convenience store, but don’t let that deter you. It’s some of the realest Mexican restaurants in the city, and you’ll feel like your actually vacationing in Mexico. The tacos are made to order and served on handmade tortillas. You can also order caldos (that means soup), tortas (sandwiches), and gorditas (pastries filled with meat and cheese, similar to arepas). Whatever you decide to order, wash it down with a classic Mexican agua fresca (juice).
The spot for inventive tacos and a secret back room
Revolver's tortillas are made fresh; it's got a menu of toppings that's featured succulent octopus and delicious wagyu beef; and most of its recipes are inspired by the ones handed down to owner Regino Rojas by his mother when he grew up in the Mexican state Michoacán. The authentic family connection extends to its secretive, 14-seat, reservation-only back area, the Purepecha Room (named for Michoacán's indigenous Purépecha people) -- where the Rojas family itself serves guests an intimate eight-course prix-fixe menu. It changes all the time, so repeat visits encouraged.
A tiny strip-mall joint with unbeatable mole
This is a small, cash-only establishment that slings gangbusters Oaxacan food, much of it topped with a rich black mole that's got Mi Lindo's own handmade chocolate in it. The mole is a highlight -- deeply rich and flavorful with just a hint of dark-chocolate bitterness and spice, and probably best savored on the mole negro chicken. It's hard to go wrong on the menu, though, from the authentic blue-corn tlayudas (sort of like a corn tortilla pizza with beans, pork, and more) to the crunchy grasshopper tacos (seasoned to perfection, of course). The best part: Most menu items that will fill you cost less than $10.
A convenient mainstay great for a little bit of everything
La Ventana is best known for their tacos, but they offer a lot more than that. The fresh salad, burritos, quesadillas, and taco bowls are all next-level, but if you’re set on tacos, order the barbacoa and the shrimp. Their happy hour runs early (2-6pm), but the prices are worth getting there before everyone else, and their many locations (three in central Dallas alone, with more to open soon) make it an easy run. Don’t forget to order a churro for dessert.
Old East Dallas
Enjoy some classic Tex-Mex at this gem
Founded by the heads of the now-defunct Primo’s, this place started off as a hole-in-the-wall and has turned into one of the best non-chain Mexican restaurants in Dallas. Jorge, their longtime bartender, knows how to make a mean margarita with the perfect mix of sweet and tangy. As far as the menu goes, it’s all good, but some highlights include their stuffed jalapeños and the shrimp tacos.
North Texas' perfect mix of Tex and Mex
You can’t make a list of the best Mexican restaurants in DFW without mentioning Chuy’s. The chain has become a staple in North Texas. The greatness of Chuy’s starts with their tortillas. They’re hand-rolled right in front of you, and their ingredients are never frozen, so everything is always fresh. Aside from the usual suspects -- enchiladas, tacos, burritos -- there’s also some incredible specialities like the Elvis Green Chile Fried Chicken, a chicken breast breaded with potato chips then deep fried and covered in green chile sauce and cheese.
A classy establishment with a chef's bar
Relatively new to the area, Mesero has quickly made a name for itself. Their house margarita, the Micorita, packs a punch, but if you want to take it a step further, order the Meserita -- made with a reposado tequila. The vibe is a little upscale (there's a chef's bar, for example) without being too pretentious (there's Bud Light on the drinks menu for those who prefer it). The enchiladas verdes are full of flavor, and their braised pork -- served with chile seco, cremini mushroom, jalapeño ranch, roasted peppers, and onions -- will make you want to come back again and again.
The best patio for live music, great Mexican, and 29-degree cerveza
When the weather’s right for being outside, you have to go to Señor Locos’ patio for some cold beer (chilled to 29 degrees) and flavorful dishes. One of their best plates is the mouthwatering chipotle shrimp tacos, which come topped with avocado relish. They also have six salsas to try ranging from their mild Little Loco to their insanely hot Pendejo Loco. On the weekends, you can usually find a live band here -- perfect for sitting on a patio.
More than 100 tequilas to try and pair it with delicious bites
From chicken tinga tortas to lamb shank barbacoa, this place has it all, and it's all delicious. They also have tamales filled with pork carnitas and chorizo and potato tacos. But Wild Salsa really shines if you’re in the mood for a good tequila. Its menu offers more than 100 spirits to choose from whether you're hunting for blanco, extra añejo, or something entirely different, like mezcal.
Three decades of traditional and Tex-Mex delights
Cristina’s may have been around for almost 30 years, and it may be a local chain, but it’s still pretty underrated. Part of the reason for that is because they never launched a location south of 635. If you ever find yourself north of that highway, though, you should seek one out. If you want something light, try the shrimp and avocado cocktail made the traditional Mexican style. But if you come with an appetite, go for the chimichanga and get it smothered with your favorite sauce. You won’t go wrong with the taco menu, either, and the shrimp and brisket are the best bets there. Top off your meal with some mini sopapillas for a sweet finish.
The best joints in town for Mexico City-style tacos
What started as a hole-in-the-wall inside of a gas station in Richardson has grown into a thriving business with four locations. Their tacos are made the traditional Mexico City way: double corn tortilla with onions, cilantro, and your choice of salsa. If you aren’t in the mood for tacos, try a stuffed quesadilla with your choice of meat. The restaurant is named after their green salsa, but the red one is just as spicy.
An iconic Dallas classic with lots of history
Before there was most of the restaurants on this list, there was On the Border. It was founded right here in 1982, the same year Chuy’s was created. Over the years, On the Border was fallen into the shadows on the local level, as people flock to places that put a new (pricier) spin Mexican dishes, but the quality at OTB hasn’t changed. Think of OTB as the one of the OGs of Mexican food in Dallas. Here you can never go wrong with some carne asada or a chimichanga. Of course, the best part of OTB is their chips and salsa.
Park Cities area
Keep things authentic at one of oldest Mexican places in Dallas
While we’re on the topic of OGs, we have to mention Rafa’s Cafe. The owner, Rafael Carmen, opened the original in 1975 and then Rafa’s Cafe in 1994. Honestly, when you’re here, you could just close your eyes, randomly place your finger on the menu, and wherever your finger lands just order that because you won’t be disappointed. From their rib-eye steak Mexicano to their red snapper mojo de ajo, you’ll find plates that are packed with flavor and goodness. Make sure you don’t go on a Monday -- keeping with their long tradition, Rafa’s is closed on Mondays.