From your favorite breakfast burrito to that cheesy plate of nachos, there’s something about Tex-Mex cuisine that makes you keep coming back for more. It could be the explosive combination of flavors, or perhaps it’s the novelty and newness of these dishes that we can’t cook ourselves. Or maybe it’s the chili.
Whatever the reason, Tex-Mex cuisine has undoubtedly captured the taste of people from all over the world. From its name, Tex-Mex cuisine has roots in the Tejano culture of Texas, USA. Texans of Mexican or Spanish heritage brought with them their colorful cuisine that’s not lacking in flavor, and because of that we now get a rich variety of dishes that have spread like wildfire.
There are a number of popular Tex-Mex restaurants around, but even for casual dining places that are not strictly Tex-Mex, you’ll find that some of the cuisine’s staples have been adopted,
To navigate your way easily across these options, just remember that Tex-Mex cuisine is made up of these essential dishes, in varying forms:
At its most basic form, a quesadilla is a corn or wheat tortilla that’s filled with cheese and then grilled to perfection. It’s the Tex-Mex version of a grilled cheese sandwich, but it has many incarnations because restaurants can add whatever they want to the filling – from chicken and pork to chili and black beans. Restaurants go all out and create their own memorable versions – from Chili’s Chicken Bacon Ranch Quesadillas to Chronic Tacos’ Pollo Asado Quesadilla.
What could be a better appetizer or snack than fried corn tortilla chips covered in gooey, flavorful cheese sauce? Most restaurants don’t stop with the cheese either. There’s jalapeño peppers, olives, salsa, beef, beans, and other toppings that can make a plate of nachos as filling as a real meal.
So don’t take nachos lightly. Pappasito’s famous Matador Nachos for instance, which is served with guacamole and sour cream, has Ixtapa beef, refried beans, cheese & jalapeños, which is more than enough to fill you up.
Another cornerstone of Tex-Mex cuisine, a taco is basically a tortilla that’s folded in half and filled with a variety of ingredients and garnishes, including but not limited to beef, lettuce, onions, salsa, and cheese. The traditional taco shell is hard but there are also dishes made of a soft-shell taco.
Don’t think you’re limited to beef either. Barberitos for instance can give you its famous Jerk Fish Taco on Fridays, and this is filled with grilled tilapia, guacamole, cheese, cilantro, and lime. Taco Mac also has a Grill Shrimp Mango Taco.
Technically speaking, Fajitas refers to the strips of grilled meat that forms the filling of many other Tex-Mex dishes. But when you find ‘Fajitas’ on a menu, they usually give you a plate of this meat served with flour tortillas, and diners assume that they need to wrap or fold it in the tortilla in order to eat it. So think of Fajitas as an assemble-your-own kind of dish, where you can pick the things you like and just mix and match as you please.
Chili’s Mix & Match Fajita Trio is a perfect example of this. You basically get a plate of sizzling fajitas (grilled steak, prime rib, or seared shrimp) with chipotle garlic butter, chopped cilantro, bell peppers & caramelized onions. This is served with 3-cheese blend, guacamole, sour cream, pico de gallo, fresh salsa, citrus-chile rice & black beans. Since you get tortillas as well, you can assemble your own.
Like all its other friends, an Enchilada is still made of a tortilla. But this time it’s rolled around a filling and swimming in a chili pepper sauce. Ordering Chili’s Sour Cream Chicken Enchiladas gives you 3 baked enchiladas filled with seasoned chicken & Monterey Jack cheese. This is topped with sour cream sauce, melted 3-cheese blend, chopped cilantro & house-made corn & black bean salsa, then served with citrus-chile rice & black beans.
A burrito is one of the more filling Tex-Mex dishes, because it’s a delicious filling mixture (typically including rice) wrapped or enclosed in a large, wheat tortilla. You can get something really filling like Chili’s Smothered Prime Rib Burrito, which has tender pieces of prime rib smothered with ancho-chile sauce, sour cream sauce & melted cheese. This is then topped with house-made corn & black bean salsa and chopped cilantro, and then served with black beans.
Breakfast burritos are also becoming more and more popular. Torchy’s Tacos has the Migas, which gives you scrambled eggs, crisp corn tortilla strips, green chilies, avocado, pico de gallo, and shredded cheese. Alberto’s on the other hand has a burrito with Eggs, Chorizo, Potato, and Cheese.
A chimichanga is basically a deep-fried burrito. Try the Fajita Chimichanga from Abuelo’s, which gives you fire-grilled, fajita steak or chicken with blended cheeses and Anaheim pepper, in a lightly fried flour tortilla. This is then topped with chile con queso or ranchera sauce, and served with sour cream and fresh guacamole.