First Look: Tulum in Highland Park

Photo credit: Shaban Athuman

From the masterminds behind Firebird Restaurant Group (El Fenix, Taqueria La Ventana) comes a new, luxury concept called Tulum.

Tulum was inspired by Firebird CEO Mike Karns’, and his wife, Valerie’s, travels to the namesake city in Mexico. It is the couple’s favorite vacation spot, and with Tulum, they hope to recreate the experience for guests of the restaurant. Tulum, the restaurant, encompasses many elements of Tulum, the city, and is an amalgamation of what people seek on their vacation; good food, relaxing atmosphere, and a temporary escape from the ordinary.

Atmosphere

Upon entering Tulum, guests are greeted with a flowing bar in the center of the entryway. Sounds of the Amazon rainforest are heard throughout the restaurant and images of the beaches and the waters are projected onto a large screen in the back of the main lounge. The music selection consists of jazz vocalists, electronic trance and house, and Latin sounds. Overall, the atmosphere and ambiance allow for a luxury, cultural experience.

Starters

Guests cannot find the typical chips and queso on Tulum’s starter menu. Instead, they are offered a diverse selection of land, sea, and even vegan plates. Among the starters are the chicken flutes, the vegan ceviche, and the charred Spanish octopus. The octopus comes served as a portion of an octopus tentacle sat atop an achiote ginger orange sauce, and with charred hearts of palm on the side. The outer skin of the tentacle is grilled to a crisp. The tentacle itself cuts like a steak, and is juicy, hearty, and flavorful.

Spanish charred octopus from Tulum (Photo credit: Alex Gonzalez)

Mains

From a menu curated by Chef Nico Sanchez, guest can choose from a variety of minimalistically plated dishes. The diver scallops are an arrangement of three jumbo scallops sat atop a bed of mashed potatoes. They are served with a side of grilled beets and tamarind sauce. The scallops cut fairly easily and despite being a seemingly small portion, they are filling and satisfying.

Diver scallops from Tulum (Photo credit: Alex Gonzalez)

Another good choice is the cheshire pork ribs, which are wood-burnt baby back ribs immersed in a chile Morita and served with a side of salsa negra and charred pineapple. The chile Morita makes the ribs spicy with each bite. When dipped in the salsa, the ribs become even spicier, however, a bite of the charred pineapple instantly cancels out the heat, making for an ideal symbiotic pairing of food.

Cheshire pork ribs from Tulum (Photo credit: Alex Gonzalez)

Dessert

One of the desserts at Tulum is a chocolate sponge cake, which is served soaked in Nestle Chocolate Abuelita. It is a warm, comforting dessert that is not too heavy, yet makes for a delightful conclusion to a meal.

Chocolate Abuelita Cake from Tulum (Photo credit: Alex Gonzalez)

Tulum is set to open its doors to the public on  Thursday, October 25 at 5:00 P.M.

Tulum, 4216 Oak Lawn Ave, Dallas (Highland Park) | thetulumexperience.com

Doc B’s Fresh Kitchen Opens in Uptown

If there’s anything Dallasites love, it’s “fast” and “casual.” The Chicago-based Doc B’s Fresh Kitchen has mastered the art of fast and casual dining. At Doc B’s, guests can feast upon a variety of light-yet-filling items consisting of locally sourced ingredients. Uptown’s newest addition is a great place for those who enjoy eating good food and drinking unique beverages in a fun, modern setting.

 

Drinks

Doc B’s drink menu offers guests beers from local breweries, as well as cocktails unique to the restaurant. One of their signature cocktails, The Dangler, consists of Traverse City Whiskey, carrot juice, and maple flavorings. While the drink goes down easily, it has a strong whiskey aftertaste. It tastes like a cold-pressed juice with a hard punch at the end. Two Danglers are enough to help a guest loosen up and relax, but not too strong to the point where one wouldn’t be able to drive home at the end of the night.

The Dangler (Photo credit: Alex Gonzalez)

Starters

The Snack + Start + Share menu contains six items unique to Doc B’s, including the Oven Roasted Chicken Wings, Killer Grilled Shrimp, and the Housemade Guacamole. The latter of these items comes served with Doc B’s “famous” sweet potato chips. This plate is a great starter for those wanting to eat light, as the chips are devoid of grease and oil. The guacamole is thick and hearty, with the consistency of Greek yogurt, and it contains a perfect amount of lime flavor; not too acidic, but not in any way bland.

Homemade Guacamole with Doc B’s famous sweet potato chips (Photo credit: Alex Gonzalez)

Entrées

Patrons of Doc B’s can choose from a variety of sandwiches, burgers, and salads for their main course. One of their most popular salads, The Knife and Fork Cobb, is an arrangement of lettuce and tomato that comes packed with proteins, including bacon, egg, avocado, and a side of crispy chicken. The bacon, avocado, and pieces of the egg are carefully mixed in with the veggies, which are topped with cornbread croutons and Doc B’s signature Gold Coast Vinaigrette. Ordering a salad that utilizes a boiled egg is always a risk. If the egg isn’t cooked long enough, it may cause salmonella; if it’s cooked too long, it tastes like sulfuric acid. Doc B’s nails every aspect of the cobb salad. All of the proteins are cooked and prepared just right, and every morsel is packed with sweet, savory flavor. Even the cornbread croutons add a unique touch and allow for a taste better than typical remnants of stale toast.

The Knife & Fork Cobb Salad (Photo credit: Alex Gonzalez)

Dessert

Doc B’s dessert menu offers a featured dessert that changes daily. Last night, it was sea salt caramel gelato sandwiched between two oatmeal raisin cookies. Considering the weather in Dallas reached the triple digits yesterday, this dessert made for the perfect way to cool off after a long day. The ice cream was sweet but not overbearing on flavor. The cookies managed to stay intact with the ice cream, without slipping off or getting soggy.

One of Doc B’s daily-rotating featured desserts (Photo credit: Alex Gonzalez)

Service

Dallasites are hard-pressed to find better service at any other restaurant in town. Although Doc B’s is based in Chicago, their Dallas staff has clearly been trained to provide top-notch southern hospitality. Each staff member proved to be able any sort of question, knew the menu up and down, and tended to everyone’s needs with a genuine, good attitude.

 

Doc B’s Fresh Kitchen is currently open at 2021 McKinney Avenue in Dallas. For a full menu and information on hours, visit Doc B’s official website.

 

 

“Texas Cuisine Never Falls Short”: How Dean Fearing Came to be one of Dallas’s Most Famous Chefs

Those who can create original, innovative concepts are almost guaranteed longevity in the hospitality industry. For decades, Chef Dean Fearing honed his craft and, along with the help of fellow chefs Stephan Pyles and Robert Del Grande, pioneered what Texas and southerners know as Southwest Cuisine. Per Fearing, Southwest Cuisine is “the only true American cuisine.”

I join Fearing on a Friday evening at Fearing’s Uptown Dallas location. We sit outside, hours before a live band is set to perform, kicking off the weekend.

Fearing and I chat about his pre-Fearing beginnings, and how he came to create some of his most famous dishes. Before opening Fearing’s, Fearing worked in The Fairmont Hotel’s Pyramid Room as a seafood cook and The Mansion as a saucier. During his days working in the latter, he began sourcing his ingredients from nearby farmers, which helped him create original, authentic southern flavors.

“My team and I had people in the surrounding areas from whom we’d buy,” Fearing says. “We would buy pheasants, quails, and chuckers from a man south of us here. We had people growing vegetables and we would buy fish from the gulf. I know the whole ‘local’ scene sounds new, but Stephan Pyles and I have been ‘local’ since the early ’80s.”

2121 Cobb Salad from Fearing’s (Via Facebook)

The creation of innovative concepts is a tradition that has run through Fearing’s bloodline across many generations prior, most notably within his father, who partnered with Kemmons Wilson to launch Holiday Inn out of Memphis, TN.

“My family and I left the little town of Ashland, KY around the time when I was in sixth grade,” Fearing said. “We traveled the Midwest to open up multiple Holiday Inn locations. We lived in St. Louis, Chicago, Milwaukee, Cleveland, Cincinnati, you name it. Every big city in the midwest, we were there.”

After a rather nomadic youth and adolescence, Fearing ventured off to Hyde Park, NY, where he studied at The Culinary Institute of America. Following the completion of his associate degree, Fearing then went off to Cincinnati, where he worked at The Maisonette. The chef for whom Fearing worked quickly noticed his work ethic and recommended that he go to Dallas to work for The Pyramid Room in The Fairmont Hotel.

“The Pyramid Room was the fanciest French restaurant in Dallas in 1978,” Fearing says. “That was a huge statement back then because, at the time, this whole city was filled with French restaurants.”

Like most things during the pre-Fearing’s era, Fearing’s stint at The Pyramid Room came to a quick close after he was convinced to pursue a larger role in a new Dallas restaurant.

“The chef at The Pyramid Room told me ‘there’s a lady named Caroline Hunt who will be opening up a restaurant called The Mansion,'” Fearing says. “I had no idea who Caroline Hunt was, but he told me ‘she’s an oil heiress, and you need to go over there and get that sauce position.’”

Hunt was immediately impressed by Fearing’s experience and work ethic, which led her to him as The Mansion’s saucier.

Fearing stayed at The Mansion for a year, until he decided to open a 54-seat restaurant in Addison called Agnus. He ran Agnus for three years until he was forced to close it, citing the recession of the mid-80s.

Luckily, The Mansion welcomed Fearing back with open arms and the promotion of a lifetime.

“I went back to the Mansion and worked as the Executive Chef,” Fearing says. “I stayed there from 1985 until about 2006.”

After working over 20 years at The Mansion, Fearing decided to bring his ultimate dream to reality and open Fearing’s.

“I partnered with John Goff to open my restaurant,” Fearing says. “He’s a real estate mogul based in Fort Worth. He helped me build my dream.”

At Fearing’s, guest can feast upon a variety of hearty pieces of what Fearing calls “Texas cuisine.”

“It’s an offshoot of Southern cuisine, which Pyles, Del Grande and I started in the ’80s,” Fearing says. “Back then, we called it ‘Southwest cuisine,” but when I opened Fearing’s, I later realized it fits more to Texas than the Southwest as a whole, so I started calling it ‘Texas cuisine.'”

Fearing’s offers vegetarian Hors D’oeurves (Via Facebook)

Fearing’s menu consists of a variety of southern classics with his signature spin. One of Fearing’s personal favorite dishes is buffalo soaked in Vermont maple syrup, served over jalapeño grits, along with a butternut squash taquito, a tangle of greens, pico de gallo, and a smoky chili aioli. Recipes like these can be found in Fearing’s cookbook, The Texas Food Bible.

“I love this book,” Fearing says. “This book has long legs. All of these recipes will be good for the generations to come. Texas Cuisine never falls short and it never dies.”

Crispy Barbecued Bluepoints served over clam (Via Facebook)

For information regarding menus, hours, and how to make a reservation, visit fearingsrestaurant.com

Hide Debuts New Spring Menu

Located on Elm Street in Deep Ellum, Hide offers an extensive variety of cocktails, beverages, and American bar food with a modern twist. It is set up like a dive bar but arranged with modern grayscale furniture, creating a minimalistic aesthetic. With it’s futuristic yet traditional set-up and copious amount of food and drink options, it’s no wonder why Hide was named Best Bar in Deep Ellum by both D Magazine and Dallas Observer.

Last week, Hide debuted their new spring menu, which consists of traditional cocktails, as well as uniquely-named signature beverages. There are also plenty of bar food items, which are reasonably priced during Hide’s happy hour.

Below are a few recommendations based on my recent visit to Hide.

Drinks

Those wanting something heavy on flavor but light on booze should try the Frozen Guava Passion. It’s a lot like a frozen margarita, but with guava and passionfruit flavors. It is cold, thick, and refreshing and makes for a satisfying treat in the scorching summer heat.

Frozen Guava Passion from Hide (Photo Credit: Alex Gonzalez)

For those in need of a quick fix, I’d highly recommend the Sazerac. This demonic combination of rye, Peychaud’s bitters, sugar, and absinthe rinse packs a powerful punch. The Sazerac may come served in a tiny glass, but don’t be fooled!–This minuscule serving is enough to make you forget about the stressful week you’ve had at the office.

Sazerac from Hide (Photo credit: Alex Gonzalez)

Juice cleanses are all the rage right now, and the Yass Betch is the perfect cocktail for anyone trying to drink clean (or at least create the illusion of it.) The Yass Betch consists of vodka, mint, honeydew, cucumber, and clarified lime. It tastes a lot like a “green juice,” perfect for the regular Deep Ellum hipster or Highland Park housewife.

Yass Betch from Hide (Photo credit: Alex Gonzalez)

Food

During happy hour, guests can get a double cheeseburger and fries for only $6.00. I like the set-up of the burger plate and I think the little fry basket in which the fries are served is cute. The double cheeseburger comes topped with caramelized beer onions, bacon, and garlic aioli, and is served with bread & butter pickles on the side. The beef patties are thick, juicy, and hearty. The bacon is cooked nicely and easy to chew, and it doesn’t pull out in between bites, like that of other bacon cheeseburgers. I am also quite fond of the burger’s garlic aioli and plan on ordering a side ramekin next time, in which I will dip my fries. The quality and price of the burger plate make for a great deal, which could potentially give Shake Shack a run for their money.

Double Cheeseburger plate from Hide (Photo credit: Alex Gonzalez)

Apart from Hide’s many meaty options, there are also plenty of vegetarian-friendly choices on the menu. The Veggie Sandwich comes stacked with pickled cauliflower, roasted red peppers, tomatoes, arugula, avocado, and tahini aioli. This colorful arrangement of vegetables comes served with a side of seasoned hand-cut fries.

Veggie Sandwich from Hide (Photo credit: Alex Gonzalez)

Service

Hide’s staff consists of a group of individuals who are knowledgeable of every item on the menu. They are clearly well-trained and able to quickly answer questions regarding the compositions of the cocktails and the ingredients in the food items. Plus, they engage in friendly conversation with the guests and carry out their orders quickly

 

Hide is open at 2816 Elm St, Dallas, TX 75226 in Deep Ellum. Happy Hour takes place Monday through Friday from 5:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m.

 

Bulla Gastrobar Brings Authentic Spanish Tapas to Plano

While Texans are known to be lovers of Mexican food, there are a variety of dishes from other Hispanic countries just waiting to be discovered. Legacy West’s newest addition, Bulla Gastrobar, offers a variety of Spain-inspired dishes, drinks, and tapas.

Last weekend, I had the chance to preview Bulla’s dinner menu ahead of the restaurant’s opening this coming Tuesday.

To kick things off, my guest and I ordered a plate of embutidos (cured meats) and cheeses. We were allowed to pick one type of meat and one type of cheese. For the meat, we chose the finocchio, which is a handcrafted Italian salami. For the cheese, we chose the mahón, which is a firm cow’s milk with lemony, salty, tangy flavor. The plate came garnished with nuts and candied pecans in the center. It also included three crispy crackers with drops of cajeta dolloped onto them. The sweet and savory portions of the plate paired very well together and set the bar high for the upcoming dishes.

A tapa from Bulla Gastrobar, with finocchio and mahón cheese (Photo credit: Alex Gonzalez)

After my guest and I finished off the plate, we received our drinks. Although it is customary to receive drinks before appetizers, the restaurant was packed, and therefore orders had been getting mixed up throughout the night. This was understandable, considering the restaurant is still gearing up for opening and working the kinks out.

We were each allowed two drinks from the cocktail menu, the first of mine being the Bullfighter. The Bullfighter consists of Bulleit bourbon, Aperol, Dow’s Port, lemon juice and cranberry. It had a taste similar to that of a good fruit juice, like acai berry. The alcohol taste was just slightly noticeable, which allowed for me to take in the delightful combination of fruit flavors.

The Bullfighter (Photo credit: Alex Gonzalez)

For the second drink, I ordered the Moscow Mule. Bulla’s Moscow Mule consists of Russian Standard Vodka, Fever Tree ginger beer, fresh lime, cardamom, currant infused syrup and candied ginger. While most bars’ Moscow Mules are rather gritty and bitter, Bulla’s was a delightful exception. The currant syrup gave the drink a sweet, fruity flavor, allowing it to taste similar to Sprite mixed with a candy-like infusion.

Moscow Mule (Photo credit: Alex Gonzalez)

As for the post-drink effect, I felt that the impact was just right. I didn’t feel drunk, but I did feel relaxed enough to just unwind and enjoy a stress-free night.

For the next plate, we ordered the Montaditos de Castillo, which were an arrangement of four slices of toasted bread topped with braised short ribs, tomato marmalade, guindilla, and tetilla cheese. Although this sounds like a lot to take in, I highly recommend just taking a big bite and consuming every aspect of the piece all at once. The combination of the ingredients makes for a hearty, flavorful appetizer with a sweet and spicy kick.

Mostaditos de Castillo (Photo credit: Alex Gonzalez)

When it came time to order the main entree, my guest and I ordered the paella, however, there was a bit of a mixup in the kitchen, which resulted in our order being pushed back an extra 20 minutes. To make up for this, one of the servers offered us the albondigas.

The albondigas were an arrangement of three veal and pork meatballs immersed in a tomate frito sauce and topped with manchego cheese. The meatballs were thick, warm, meaty and cut very easily. Eating the albondigas was like eating miniscule meatloafs and they were enough to tide us over until the paella arrived.

Albondigas (Photo credit: Alex Gonzalez)

Bulla’s paella is a soupy, creamy rice dish, with calamari, prawns, clams, red sofrito, shrimp and saffron arranged to make a beautiful display. It tasted just as amazing as it looked. The consistency of the rice was just right, the insides of the clams pulled out easily, and the shrimp were cooked to a pink perfection.

Paella (Photo credit: Alex Gonzalez)

We ended the night with the flan de coco, which is a coconut flan served with a side of passion fruit sorbet. The sorbet was unlike anything else I had ever tasted; sweet, icy, and packed with fruit flavor. The flan itself was also a unique dish, given its utilization of coconut.

Flan de coco with fruit and a side of passion fruit sorbet (Photo credit: Alex Gonzalez)

From beginning to end, I was highly satisfied with the food and drinks served to us. Despite a few minor kinks in terms of customer service, I appreciated the fact that the staff acknowledged the mistakes, made it up to us by offering us extra food, and by allowing us to fill out feedback cards. With their diligence and customer orientation, everything should be running smoothly by opening day.

Bulla Gastrobar officially opens on February 13 in Legacy West.

How Pazzo Encompasses Everything Dallasites Love About Uptown

When Dallasites head out for a night in Uptown, they are seeking delicious food, good drinks, and/or fun music. Cedar Springs’s newest opening, Pazzo, has managed to combine these three elements to create an Italian dining and lounging experience. Pazzo is the brainchild of Luke Zeutzius, whose mission is to bring an evolving menu designed for the American Italian fusion enthusiast.

Upon arriving at Pazzo’s media and influencer event, I am greeted with smiles from two casually dressed young ladies, who quickly seat me in the proper section. I am first offered water, and once the server returns with a cold glass, I am then asked for my drink order.

To kick things off, I order the Walk of Shame, which consists of Zephyr gin, lemon, and Angostura bitters. It is a tangy, fruity, sour drink, which tastes like lemonade with a hard kick.

The Walk of Shame (Photo credit: Alex Gonzalez)

I follow the Walk of Shame up with the Straight Skinny, which consists of Código, agave, and lime. It is Pazzo’s version of the margarita and it has a light taste. The agave makes it sweet, but not to the point where it overpowers the tequila and lime. Most house margaritas taste like Slurpees, however, Pazzo’s tastes like a delicious, healthy juice that one could pick up at a Pilates studio; theirs just happens to be kicked up a hard notch.

The Straight Skinny (Photo Credit: Alex Gonzalez)

After drinks, the servers bring out a variety of appetizers, including the White Truffle Garlic Bread, Crispy Polenta Cakes, and Crispy Eggplant. Although all of the appetizers are phenomenal, my personal favorite would have to be the Crispy Polenta Cakes. As a Texan, I love my pork, and Pazzo’s polenta cakes come topped with a sweet, shredded, savory pork shoulder. It is the perfect merging of Italian and Texan culture.

Crispy Polenta Cakes (Photo credit: Alex Gonzalez)

Before the main entree, the servers bring out what’s called The Vinegary One, which is Pazzo’s house salad. The signature dressing nicely complements the greens and vegetables, giving it a salty, lemony taste.

Pazzo’s house salad: “The Vinegary One” (Photo credit: Alex Gonzalez)

For my main course, I order The Cripsy Piece of the Lasagna, which is a lasagna dish layered with spinach noodles, bolognese sauce, and a combination of fresh and aged cheeses. As its name suggests, the noodles are rather crisp. The bolognese sauce is hot, hearty, and packed with spice and flavor.

The Crispy Piece of the Lasagna (Photo credit: Alex Gonzalez)

To wrap things up, I pick the Chocolate Chip Cookie Panwaffle “Smore” as my dessert. A fun fact about this is that Pazzo’s owner Luke Zeutzius invented and patented the Panwaffle pan, as a result of him and his younger brother arguing about what to eat for breakfast. The Panwaffle Smore is topped with strawberries, chocolate, graham crackers, ice cream, and burnt marshmallow fluff. It is a dessert experience unlike any other, and a must-try for first-time visitors.

The Panwaffle S’more (Photo credit: Alex Gonzalez)

After dinner, we are taken to a lounge, in which the walls are lined up with couches. We toast with champagne to celebrate Pazzo’s prosperous future.

I leave Pazzo highly impressed with what I’ve experienced. Pazzo manages to encompass everything Dallasites love about Uptown, from fun, upbeat music, good drinks, and delicious (not to mention, relatively inexpensive) food.

Pazzo will begin serving items from their brunch, lunch, and dinner menus beginning February 2. They will also host a grand opening celebration on February 23.

Haywire to Begin Serving Brunch

In the three weeks since their official grand opening, Legacy West’s Haywire has proven to be a hit. People from all over the metroplex are stopping by to get a taste of southern hospitality.

This coming weekend, Haywire will begin serving brunch.

I was lucky enough to try some of Haywire’s soon-to-be-available brunch items last weekend during a special Frontburner friends and family event. Their items are far different from the regular chicken and waffles or eggs benedict Dallasites know and love. Haywire’s brunch menu consists of many traditional brunch items that have a southern touch one couldn’t find anywhere else.

To kick things off, I ordered a Seelbach cocktail. The drink had a fruity, citrus flavor, similar to grapefruit, followed by a strong, alcoholic aftertaste. I cooled down with a mimosa, in which the champagne and orange juice flavors had a perfect balance.

Mimosa (Photo Credit: Alex Gonzalez)
For the starter, I was served the Cast Iron Cheddar and Jalapeño Biscuits. The biscuits were served with sides of sausage gravy and peach compote. I particularly enjoyed the fact that the biscuits were crispy, with a crunchy, cheesy outer layer, and didn’t fall apart leaving a flaky mess. The gravy complemented the biscuits in a way that made them feel warm and comforting.
Cast Iron Cheddar and Jalapeño Biscuits (Photo Credit: Alex Gonzalez)
The biscuits were followed by the Ranch Chicken Cobb Salad. Although the salad was phenomenal, I found it a bit oddly presented. It looked like two chicken strips were simply plopped atop a bed of greens. Perhaps the salad would’ve been more aesthetically pleasing had the chicken strips been cut into smaller pieces and spread among the salad. Despite the salad’s peculiar appearance, it was packed with flavor. It was heavy on bleu cheese and Texas honey & herb vinaigrette dressing, which gave the greens a creamy texture. Plus, the bacon bits gave the salad a sweet, meaty kick.
Ranch Chicken Cobb Salad (Photo Credit: Alex Gonzalez)
I ordered the Texas Gulf Shrimp and Grits for my main course. Normally, I’m not very big on grits, however, I do not regret trying Haywire’s. The grits were topped with a beautiful arrangement of high-quality shrimp and a poached egg. The shrimp was the brightest shade of red, and thick and meaty like sausage. The grits were creamy and soupy in texture and had a spicy kick courtesy of Haywire’s signature creole sauce.
Texas Gulf Shrimp and Grits (Photo Credit: Alex Gonzalez)
I concluded my brunch meal with the Texan Pecan Brown Butter Pancakes. In all honesty, these pancakes were the best I’ve tasted in my life. I’ve never had pancakes with a perfect cake-like texture, but Haywire hit this nail on the head. These pancakes were a stack of heavenly, fluffy goodness, topped with delicious whiskey peach compote, pecans, and whipped cream.
Texan Pecan Brown Butter Pancakes (Photo Credit: Alex Gonzalez)
Legacy West’s Haywire is a manifestation of southern hospitality. It’s an experience unlike anything you’ll find in Plano and is sure to be a hit for years to come.

Haywire officially rolls out their brunch menu on December 23rd at 11:00 am.

Laura Sanchez on her Family Mexican Food Empire

In the heart of the Bishop Arts district lies one of DFW’s longest standing Mexican food restaurants. El Ranchito has been in business for nearly 35 years, and owner Laura Sanchez is still expanding upon her empire.

In September, Sanchez opened El Ranchito’s South Cooper location in Arlington. Opening the restaurant was a process that took nearly seven years.

“The original building owners originally wanted to lease the place,” Sanchez said. “I wanted to own it, so I had to wait until the owners were ready to sell the space. When we heard the building was finally for sale, we bought it, and then it took two and a half years to actually build the restaurant.”

When deciding on a location to open the restaurant, Sanchez made sure to strategically pick a Hispanic-populous area.

“We are feeling very optimistic about the new location,” Sanchez said. “It’s a larger restaurant attracting the Hispanic communities of South Arlington, Mansfield, Grand Prairie and Fort Worth.”

In terms of measuring up to the success of the original Oak Cliff location, Sanchez is looking forward to seeing the new Arlington location thrive.

“It’s doing very well so far,” Sanchez said of the new location. “The Oak Cliff location has been in business for 35 years, so the new store is gonna take some time to meet the original’s success, but as for now, we are very confident about it.”

El Ranchito’s menu consists of North Mexican cuisine. Sanchez emphasizes that much like the food in the U.S., Mexican food specialties differ by region.

“Northern Mexico is very meat, beef, and pork oriented in terms of food,” Sanchez said. “We have a lot of tripas and other dishes that aren’t as popular in the south or southwest regions of Mexico. Northern Mexico offers a lot of cabrito, asado, machado; all those dishes they don’t have in the other places.”

Delicious Tacos Al Carbon plate from El Ranchito (Photo credit: Alex Gonzalez)

 

With its new location having opened up, El Ranchito will also be dividing its traditions and events among the stores.

“Every year, we celebrate the birth of Elvis Presley and we commemorate his death,” Sanchez said. “The event takes place across four Wednesdays in January and four Wednesdays in August. However, my brother and I have decided that the Elvis events will take place two Wednesdays in Oak Cliff and two Wednesdays in Arlington during the two months.”

The Elvis Presley celebrations consist of look-alike contests.

“The people who come to compete just make it a culture,” Sanchez said. “They just always go all out. People are already calling to reserve their spots.”

El Ranchito pays tribute to Elvis Presley twice a year (Photo credit: Tammany Stern)

 

When she’s not holding down the fort at her two El Ranchito locations, Sanchez is either helping organize events in her Jefferson Tower event center, or handling matters at La Calle Doce, her Mexican seafood restaurant.

“At La Calle Doce, we serve a lot of Monterey-inspired seafood dishes,” Sanchez said. “Some of our specialty dishes include our tilapia, which is served on top of our signature paella. We also serve a really good ceviche, and our shrimp cocktail is loved by Oak Cliff’s Hispanic community.”

Sign in front of La Calle Doce, also owned by Laura Sanchez (Photo credit: Alex Gonzalez)

Part of what makes Sanchez’s dishes so authentic is the fact that many of her employees are members of both her immediate and extended family.

“It’s wonderful working with family,” Sanchez said. “Most of them have been working for me since they were legally able to work. It helps that they really love the restaurant and put a lot of care into creating quality dishes and providing good service.”

Mariachis in El Ranchito give Sanchez’s restaurant an authentic Mexican feel. (Photo credit Tammany Stern)

El Ranchito is currently open in Oak Cliff and in Arlington. Also, be sure to try some delicious Mexican seafood at La Calle Doce in the Bishop Arts District.