So long my dear, caseoso, borracho, caliente friend. It looks like our 50+ year refried kind of love affair is ending.
It’s your fault, of course. I’m just getting older. But you are ageless, like a witch. Blessed with eternal life. Ever ready to pounce on accustomed Texans and unsuspecting Yankees alike with your larded venom.
Readers, I won’t bore you with the details of this long-coming split. I’ll just say that the world’s ultimate comfort food has, of late, become my worst “discomfort” food.
But oh, what an affair it has been. Tex-Mex leaves me with wonderful memories.
Back in the mid-1960s, my parents loved, and often took me to, a place called Candlelite Inn. (It’s still going strong — since 1957 — at 1252 E. Division in Arlington.) It was sort of a steakhouse/Tex-Mex hybrid, and remains so.
Dad usually ordered an enchilada to go along with his steak and Carta Blanca. My brother and I shared what Dad would call “Naches” as an appetizer. Well, Chris ate most of them. My love for Tex-Mex hadn’t yet bloomed.
Nor had it when “The Mall” opened in 1970. Six Flags Mall, Arlington’s first. People from all around came to gawk and shop. And eat at El Chico, our family included. It was a brightly lit, fully modern Tex-Mex palace, yet I was unimpressed. For some reason I didn’t like the cheese, or the spices, or whatever. I would get a hamburger.
But a teenage boy’s appetite soon outweighs his tastes. I got a job as a busboy at La Casita, another venerable Tex-Mex place. The job lasted one evening (got hired at Six Flags the next day), but the meal I had on break was an amazing combo and I never looked back.
By the late 1970s, new Tex-Mex restaurants were opening on our end of town. (Candlelite and El Chico were in East Arlington; we lived in the Pantego area which is practically Fort Worth. Reddy Kilowatt was visible from the backyard!) Tex-Mex had taken its sweet, spicy hold on me.
Moving to Houston, I brought this unshakeable love with me. It didn’t help that Houston Tex-Mex is vastly superior to that found in North Texas. (Dishes here are finished under a salamander which makes all the difference.) I can’t even count how many enchilada dinners, tamales, combo plates, fajitas, tacos, and tortilla chips I’ve had in the last 21 years.
I’ve had so many favorite Tex-Mex spots here. Pappasito’s, Superica, La Tapatia, El Real, El Tiempo, Chapultepec, Ninfa’s, Molina’s, Sylvia’s, Teotihuacan, Spanish Village, Spanish Flower, Gloria’s, and, yes, even Tony’s.
Oh well, I must accept that Montezuma is finally getting his revenge. It’s been great, Tex-Mex. But now, I will only go these places to meet my true love, the love that really cares, the one who comforts me when I need it most, the one who lifts my spirits. She may give me a headache the next day, but…. Have you met her? They call her Margarita!