Restaurant review: The ‘El’ words (El Fenix and El Ranchito)

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.



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  • Ernie

    YOU dont have to purchase mariachi music. You can just listen and enjoy others being serenaded. El Ranchito is great, but really like their other restaurant, just a few blocks away on Twelfth street….. Calle Doce is fantastic with a leaning towards seafood.

  • Keri Mitchell

    I’ve heard about the weekend scene at El Ranchito, and yes, I must try it sometime. I also noted the bold print on their menus and on signs that a mariachi song request costs $15.

  • rubbercow

    The food at El Ranchito is pretty good and reasonably priced. If you go at night as jake suggests be prepared for absolutely relentless, ear-shattering, brain-liquefying mariachi music. There is no escape!

  • jake

    Keri,

    You didn’t do El Ranchito justice if you didn’t go at night. It’s not as much about the food as it is about the atmosphere.