I happened to dine at both El Fenix and El Ranchito for lunch this week. El Fenix is a Dallas Tex-Mex staple, more than 90 years old and with 16 locations in the metro area. El Ranchito is the second restaurant venture for the Sanchez family, who owns La Calle Doce as well, and the menu is more about northern Mexican fare than Tex-Mex.
The Monterry influence was apparent in El Ranchito’s lunch specials, which do include classic Tex-Mex combos, but the daily highlights are dishes like milanesa and chicken with mole sauce. I opted for the gorditas, and was quickly reminded how Taco Bell-ed my perception of Mexican food has become. The masa shells were very light and too moist for me to pick up and eat (without creating a huge mess, at least), so I ate them with a fork, which tasted just as good, I assure you. Most of the lunch menu specials were around $7 to $9, so not the cheapest, but not bad for what you get.
At El Fenix, I went Tex-Mex all the way — the No. 19 lunch special, which included a beef burrito with chili con carne, and a sour cream sauce-covered chicken enchilada. It cost about $8 (most lunch specials at El Fenix range from $6 to $8) and hit the spot. Since I was there on Wednesday, my dining partner ordered the Wednesday special — two cheese enchiladas smothered in chili con carne for $4.99, which is available all day.