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Enchiladas Ole serves Mexican done better, “the way I remember making enchiladas with my mother,” Mary Perez says. Courtesy Enchiladas Ole

Now thru Fri, Oct 15, it is officially National Hispanic Heritage Month. The theme for 2021 is resilience and hope and how holding onto both will lead to a great tomorrow. With our Best Of 2021 issue coming out in two short weeks — have you voted yet? (click now) — here are some Hispanic-owned restaurants that have won awards in our recent past. These businesses will help feed our resilience and fuel our hope for the future.

 

1.) In the Best Latin/Caribbean Food category last year, our Critic’s Choice winner was Ático (2315 N Main St, 682-255-5112). Since the initial craze for tapas missed our city about 20 years ago, this rooftop haven at the SpringHill Suites by Marriott overlooks the Stockyards and makes up for lost time. The kitchen’s patatas bravas (spicy potatoes) are almost filling enough to be an entree, with steaming hot hunks of potato housed in an exterior crunchy enough to put your French fries to shame. Delectable Tennessee ham comes on a charcuterie board with pickled vegetables whose sourness offsets the funk of the meat, and Catalan-style flatbread makes a nice vehicle for other meats and cheeses. Don’t forget to top it off with Pedro Ximénez sherry poured over vanilla ice cream, the way the Spaniards do it.

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2.) Our Critic’s Choice winner for Best Mexican Food in Best Of 2020 was Paco’s Mexican Cuisine (1508 W Magnolia Av, 817-759-9110). Chef Francisco Islas hails from Pachuca, Mexico, located between Mexico City and the coast, so the menu covers both the urban classics and coastal favorites. Birria tacos are all the rage right now –– and you can grab both the cheese and carne de res versions daily –– but have you ever tried a birria tamale? Albondigas (meatball soup) and traditional guisado hang out on the menu with tortas, street tacos, and other bits and pieces of classic Mexican cuisine. The restaurant has expanded to include a bar area, so you can sop up your drinks with birria tacos until 2am.

 

3.) We also had a Best Taco category in Best Of 2020. Our critic and the readers both picked Mariachi’s Dine-In (5724 Locke Av, 682-760-9606) as the winner. Originally nestled in the back of a nondescript gas station, Mariachi’s new brick-and-mortar location still offers the same authentic Mexican food and the occasional trending foodie fad. The bump in sales from Mariachi’s birria tacos — along with a focus on to-go orders — kept the small taqueria afloat, Chef Angel Fuentes told us. The simple but delicious dish has been so instrumental in helping his business that he plans to name his first child Birria Fuentes. He’s joking — we think.

 

4.) Don’t forget the tamales! Our 2020 Critic’s Choice for Best Tamales was Esperanza’s Restaurant & Bakery. Though Esperanza’s has two locations in Fort Worth (2122 N Main St, 817-626-5770 and 1601 Park Pl Av, 817-923-1961), all of the tamale-makin’ action happens at the Northside spot. With classic, incredibly tender pork tamales made fresh daily, the Joe T. Garcia’s spinoff has been satisfying tamale lovers year-round (not only during the holidays) for years.

 

5.) Sometimes, you just need a quick taco. In the Best Taqueria category in Best Of 2020, our Critic’s Choice winner was Los Taco H’s (3025 Cleburne Rd, 817-585-3522 and 2108 E Rosedale St, 817-564-4329). Since prices range from $1.89 to $2.39 apiece, you can pretty much afford to try every taco on the menu, but if you’re a lightweight, go for the suadero (beef) and pastor (marinated pork). All tacos are served on double-ply soft corn tortillas, packed with plenty of meat and loaded with the kind of flavor it takes all day to coax up. There are plenty of vegetarian options, too. The self-serve section of house-made salsas and necessary taco toppings is a must, particularly the tomatillo and creamy jalapeño salsas. Oh, and on Tuesdays, pastor, chicken, and carnitas tacos are just a dollar all day. What are you waiting for, an invitation?

 

6.) As we are in North Texas, we cannot ignore the sub-category that is Tex-Mex. Last year, our Critic’s Choice winner for Best Tex-Mex was Enchiladas Ole (2418 Forest Park Blvd, Fort Worth, 817-984-1360 and 9005 N Tarrant Pkwy, NRH, 817-849-2451). Owner Mary Perez whips up enchiladas like the kind her mama used to make with her when Perez was little. No preservatives (and, if you care about such things, no lard) means that everything is made fresh daily. Whether you want your enchiladas slathered in hatch chile sauce, mole, or verde sauce, you’ll find what makes you happy here. The simple perfection of cheese enchiladas in a lake of rich red ancho chile sauce with tiny chopped onion is not to be missed. While this place is for enchilada purists, you’ll also find queso, taco salad, tostadas, quesadillas, nachos, and a Keto avocado plate if you’re hating on the corn carbs these days.

 

7.) Speaking of Tex-Mex, in Best Of 2019, we also had a Best Mex-Mex category, and our Critic’s Choice winner was Birrieria los Chivas de Oro (4221 Hemphill St, 817-927-2400). The Zacatecas-style Mexican eatery serves uncommonly fresh fare, and the kitchen boasts a true flare for presentation. Our favorites include the shrimp ceviche cooked in lime and orange juices and maybe the best caldo de pollo (chicken soup) in town. Visit this authentic, popular Southside spot for the food, stay for the hilarious murals depicting oversized golden goat testicles.

 

8.) Back in 2019, we honored one of the area’s top influencers, Chef Juan Rodriguez of Magdalena’s (502 Grand Av, 817-740-8085), with the Critic’s Choice award for Best Chef. Rodriguez steadily climbed his way up through kitchens over the last 15 years, from becoming the youngest chef in Reata’s pantheon to owning his own catering/supper club venue, but it was his performance on Food Network’s Chopped that should have tipped you off. In addition to repping his hometown proudly (hey, we are FW-D), the techniques Rodriguez displayed while making culinary magic out of galangal, marsh snail vinegar, croissants, and a Swedish princess cake were miles ahead of his competitors. He was tagged as the guy to beat, and even though he didn’t win the episode (thanks in part to that baker chick’s dislike of dairy), Rodriguez won hearts with his style and humility.

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