Los Jimadores, 4335 River Oaks Blvd, FW. 817-625-0999. 7am-10pm Sun, 11am-10pm Mon-Thu, 10am-11pm 7am-11pm Fri, Sat.
Out in Billings, Brooklyn, and, hell, even Dallas, there are food writers who would be chomping at the bit for the chance to work Fort Worth’s Tex-Mex beat. We have some of the best restaurants in the genre, and ours is a culinary art steeped in family and tradition dating back more than 100 years. A critic will enjoy some very fine meals covering the constellation of eateries, old and new, that are tied into this worthy lineage, but it’s easy to take the scene for granted. Delicious, inexpensive, and reliable, the gastronomy is predictably good — but you can run through a lot of shoe leather without ever being particularly surprised.
Such were the thoughts that accompanied my guest and me as we arrived at Los Jimadores Tex-Mex Tequila Factory on a recent weekday for lunch. First impressions of the modest structure near Jacksboro Highway on River Oaks Boulevard didn’t suggest that we were in for anything remarkable. The one-room dining area, with its pitched wooden ceiling, was pleasant but utilitarian. The bar at the back was standard issue. We settled in for what we assumed would be a meal we’d enjoyed 100 times before.
A bit of research on my part might have raised my expectations, as the Fort Worth location is the third in the Los Jimadores family. Two other shops, in Bedford and in North Richland Hills, have given the family-owned chain the wherewithal to expand into Cowtown proper — and that’s usually a sign that someone is doing something right.
With the proliferation of local distilleries, it’s worth mentioning that no evidence was evinced that any actual tequila production was going on at the “Tex-Mex Tequila Factory,” though its margarita operation seemed a well-oiled machine. A –jimador is a skilled agave farmer, but the skill on display at Los Jimadores was in crafting a truly refreshing margarita on the rocks that could be enjoyed on a workday without eliciting an intervention back at the office. (Only one party to a lunch date need drink a well-balanced margarita to improve the quality of the conversation markedly.)
A basket of fresh, hot tortilla chips appeared in a twinkling along with a complimentary dish of refried black beans and a ramekin of house salsa, both served warm. Free chips and salsa are (of course) a staple of Tex-Mex hospitality, so it’s always encouraging when the humble appetizer is, well, appetizing. The salsa in particular, with a smoky char and just enough Scoville units to perk up the palate, promised good things to come.
The twist that sets Los Jimadores apart from the crowd arrived with our guacamole. And though it was very good — chunked avocado spiked with pico de gallo and limejuice, garnished with a crown of hot-pink pickled onions — the accompanying homemade corn tortillas stole the show. There is no comparing even the best machined tortilla to one that has been hand pressed only minutes before it is served and toasted on a flat-top comal- until a golden patina encrusts the soft, chewy masa on the inside. It would be like holding up a slice of Wonder Bread to a heritage sourdough boule.
We’d have been happy to make a meal of the tortillas, but our entrées arrived before we had finished gushing about them. (For a new restaurant, Los Jimadores has its timing down perfectly for a working lunch — 45 minutes from door to door.)
My guest had ordered a combination plate from the lunch menu, a beef enchilada with a crispy taco, served with rice and beans. The phenomenal homemade corn tortillas are not, alas, used in all the entrées (though they may be found around the kitchen’s soft tacos), but the enchilada was delicious all the same. The beef was well seasoned and not greasy, with a gilding of the kitchen’s red chile sauce. The crispy taco was crunchy and light. Spanish rice had the golden, fragrant aura that comes only from real chicken stock, and the refried beans had the honest taste of lard at their back.
I had ordered the fajita plate, and the tender mix of steak and chicken strips atop a mound of sautéed onions was brought to me on a lunch-sized cast-iron skillet. (The portions and the prices were reasonable, something those of us with patchy impulse control ought to appreciate. There’s nothing worse than feeling overfed when you have to head back to work.) I was delighted to find that homemade flour tortillas, nearly as delicious as their corn cousins, came with my fajitas.
There is certainly nothing wrong with a new Tex-Mex restaurant opening with a mind to pick up the torch and do things the way they’ve been done for decades. The past several years have seen a handful of new eateries do just that — and all luck to them. But it’s even better to see a place set itself apart by returning to even older techniques, especially when the results are as dramatic and delicious as the hand-made tortillas at Los Jimadores.
Guacamole appetizer $6.99
Lunch fajitas $10.95
Lunch enchilada and taco plate $7.50