Tex-Mex is one of the Lone Star State’s claims to fame, just like Dr Pepper and frozen margaritas. Tejano home cooks are responsible for the transition from Spanish and Mexican cooking into a more versatile version that we have now come to know as Tex-Mex. Tex-Mex, however, isn’t totally untraditional and the best Tex-Mex joints in Texas straddle the line between contemporary and traditional Mexican food. If you need a refreshing read on what the typical dishes in Tex-Mex cooking are, check out our guide here. Through Monday, April 16, USA Today is holding their 2018 Readers’ Choice vote for the best Tex-Mex in Texas.
Users can vote for their favorite Tex-Mex joint once each day until April 16 to determine what the most loved Tex-Mex joint in Texas is. Before we get into the list, I will say that it features a few local joints, but mainly picks options from the Dallas-Fort Worth metro area, San Antonio, and Austin. There are a few outliers in Amarillo and Grapevine, but from our solid Texas opinion, this list is missing many local favorites. We’ll be putting out our own tried-and-true list of the beloved Tex-Mex joints in the state in the coming month, but for now, let’s get into the options of Mexican restaurants and Tex-Mex joints for the USA Today vote.
These Tex-Mex restaurants aren’t ordered particularly, especially since the final user vote will decide the rankings.
20. Casa Medina Mexican Restaurant
Like any good Tex-Mex joint, Casa Medina’s chile con queso is so good, you could bathe in it. The classic ordering style of combo plates is prevalent here, meaning you’re bound to find a plate that includes your favorite Tex-Mex dishes.
19. Gabriela & Sofia’s Tex Mex
When you hear brisket enchiladas, you’re probably sold on Tex-Mex in the Lone Star State. The margaritas here are also delicious and nearly placed on our Best Margaritas list, but one final team vote knocked it off the list.
18. E Bar Tex Mex
Heavy on the Texas influence, E Bar serves up full plates of fajitas, tacos, and stuffed jalapeños to hungry guests craving a spicy kick.
17. Avila’s Restaurant
More Mex than Tex, this traditional joint throws it back with classic carne asada, pork guisado to die for, and a luscious mole that you could basically drink by the cupful.
16. Tacos Mariachi
A taco heaven that throws down original classics like barbacoa and pollo al pastor while mixing in specials like portobello mushroom and octopus, this inventive taco joints takes cues from traditional Mexican seafood fare. One of the favorite dishes here is the poblano chile con queso because of course it is.
15. Veracruz All Natural
I live down the street from this food truck in Austin and let me just say that the hype about Veracruz is true, but amplified by the fact that it’s surrounded by about 10,000 other taco joints that don’t do authentic Tex-Mex nearly as well.
The breakfast tacos are the biggest draw, with wait times up to an hour on the weekends, but everything is made fresh inside, from the corn tortillas to the chicken fajitas.
14. Torchy’s Tacos
Multiple locations in Texas and Colorado
Torchy’s is on everyone’s list to visit when they come to Texas, and there’s a reason it’s a recommended chain. The Taco of the Month is always inventive and fresh, while the mainstays like the Trailer Park hold their own. The queso isn’t to be missed, and neither is ordering your taco “trashy” with queso on top. Pure comfort food, this is also one of those great places to go for a margarita and meal to catch up with old friends.
13. La Fonda on Main
San Antonio, Texas
I could sing praises about the refried beans at La Fonda for hours because that’s just how good they are. This locally-loved Mexican cafe serves up tomatillo sauce, grilled fajitas, and a special that includes everything and the kitchen sink. San Antonians will agree that this is quality Tex-Mex.
San Antonio, Texas
Another San Antonio mainstay, Rosario’s serves up modernized Tex-Mex in countless varieties, from the nachos to the enchiladas. There’s a reason cowboys and locals like recommend Rosario’s to anyone visiting.
11. Mia Dia from Scratch
The table-side guacamole is one reason this place deserves your vote, but it certainly isn’t the only. The flavors of Mexico, and Mexico City specifically, are present in each Tex-Mex dish, making for an authentic and tasty dining experience.
10. Enchiladas Ole
Fort Worth, Texas
If you love enchiladas, then obviously this is the place for you and the brisket enchiladas prove it. As USA Today points out in their description, the kitchen uses no preservatives, additives, or lard when preparing the Tex-Mex menu. This is one of the best places you can go for clean eating to satisfy your Tex-Mex craving.
9. The Original Ninfa’s on Navigation
A stalwart in Tex-Mex, Ninfa’s is responsible for the first recorded incidence of the fajita by folding beef into a tortilla. Not for the faint of heart, fajitas a la mexicana are the spicy kick your fiery heart desires. Just be sure you can handle the heat…
8. Garcia’s Mexican Food
San Antonio, Texas
One of the most iconic Tex-Mex joints in San Antonio, Garcia’s is a family-run business that has built a reputation on dishes like the brisket nachos and the best chile relleno you’ve ever tasted. Don’t forget a squeeze of fresh lime juice.
Multiple locations in Texas
Launched in Austin in 1999, Tacodeli quickly expanded into the ideal breakfast taco joint with its fresh ingredients, salsa bar (the salsa doña is a fan-favorite), and tacos that focus on fresh quality over preservatives.
6. Mi Tierra Cafe y Panaderia
San Antonio, Texas
Mi Tierra serves up Tex-Mex 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The accessibility isn’t the only reason why it’s on this list. The huevos rancheros, served with ham, a pork chop, smokets, or pork patties, just might be the best in Texas.
5. El Manantial Restaurant
This Amarillo favorite is known for its huge menu that features almost every Tex-Mex dish you could imagine and does each well. The enchilada sauces are particularly delicious, but is it enough to earn your vote?
4. Valentina’s Tex Mex BBQ
When you combine a barbecue food truck and a Tex-Mex food truck, you get Valentina’s. The tomato serrano salsa might burn your lips off if you’re not used to the heat, but it’s better that way because when you’re eating a brisket taco, your lips just slow you down.
3. Joe T. Garcia’s Mexican Restaurant
Fort Worth, Texas
The margaritas at Joe T. Garcia’s are something to write home about, and they’re strong enough to knock you off your feet if you have too many. In fact, they told the Star-Telegram in 2016 that on the average Thursday night, they sell about 55 gallons of margaritas and use 870 pounds of limes in a week. Now that is a lot of tequila, y’all!
2. Matt’s El Rancho
The Bob Armstrong dip is a play on chile con queso with ground beef and guacamole atop a bed of cheese for dipping. The combo plates are unique and the margaritas are strong, making this establishment born in 1952 a Texas mainstay. Even if you dislike the hustle and bustle of Austin, you can’t deny the flavors at Matt’s.
1. L&J Cafe
El Paso, Texas
An El Paso classic with an iconic sign, this Tex-Mex establishment near the border will celebrate its 100th anniversary in 2027. The family-run joint still boasts the same classics, like shredded beef tacos and chile con queso with green chili, and there’s no doubt that this will make the top 5 of this list if it doesn’t claim the top spot.