The food gods must have ordained that the humble building formerly occupied by Samson’s Market and Bistro will never house run-of-the-mill concepts. Married owners Samson and Jenber Yosef were delightful ambassadors of Ethiopian cuisine for the seven years Samson’s remained open. The Camp Bowie Boulevard restaurant’s sole social media post before shuttering did not offer an explanation, but the date in late 2021 suggests that COVID may have played a role.
“To all of our valued customers and friends, we will be putting Samson’s Market and Bistro up for sale,” the Facebook message reads.
In the months following the closing, I noticed the building soon had a new occupant — Cairo Mex Food. A bright red, yellow, and blue sign with boldly printed “Cairo Mex” welcomes diners to another wholly new experience, one where distant cousins gyros and tacos are served under one banner. The windows are decorated with alternating stickers that show kabobs, tacos, and falafel. I arrived a little before lunchtime recently to find the space to be largely empty. A lone employee took my order before heading to the kitchen to prepare the dishes.
Amid the sounds of frying fish and grilling meat nearby, the smell of fiery sauces whetted my appetite.
The hamburger was a monstrously heavy opener. The double-patty, topped and layered with slices of American cheese, was savory and juicy. Thickly sliced red onion added a pungent bite while thinly sliced cucumbers stood in as a crunchier alternative for pickles. Accompanying the massive burger, thick fries generously coated with chile powder and pepper really sang.
The three-taco special didn’t disappoint. Single corn tortillas held together cheddar cheese, diced cucumbers, tomatoes, and red onions. The fajita steak version was dense and flavorful while the pork was aggressively spiced.
Every bite of the beef kabob was a treat. The waiter/cook had mercifully not overcooked the steak, which was served medium rare with just the right amount of char on the tips. I pulled the juicy cuts off the skewer and mixed them with the accompanying rice and minced veggies. The side of tahini sauce added a lovely creaminess to the experience.
Cairo Mex Food introduced me to Hawawshi. The Egyptian street food is basically a pita pocket filled with ground beef, onion, garlic, and spices. Cinnamon and coriander were prominent in the dense sandwich that had been grilled until the pita had become a hard shell. Lightening the dish was a side of pickled carrots and celery accompanied by another mound of crispy fries.
The restaurant didn’t disclose what type of fish was in the seafood dish. The thickly battered fish was golden-fried, and the white, flaky flesh was delicious even if it was a bit boney. The cooks had stuffed the center of the filet with a curry heavy on the cumin. Accompanying the mystery fish was a large side of diced veggies (tomato, red onion, cucumber) and a heaping serving of basmati rice. The dish benefited from a lathering of tahini sauce that also came on the side.
The rice pudding was nuanced and not overly sweet. The creamy dessert was packed with soft rice and topped with cinnamon and shaved bits of coconut. Several small squares of a sweet bread that had the consistency of cornbread nicely filled out the dish that didn’t leave me feeling weighed down.
Cairo Mex Food does a respectable job churning out tacos and quesadillas, but their standout dishes are the Middle Eastern options. Samson’s may be gone, but its replacement offers locals something equally nontraditional and memorable to explore.