The Avila Special at Avila's ($10.95)
Whatever your thoughts on Guy Fieri, his decision to stop at Avila's on Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives was a well-informed one. Though it's small and unassuming from the outside, Avila's is comfortable and well appointed indoors. They describe their food as "traditional dishes with homestyle flair," and the Avila's Special is a perfect example.
Taking several staples of Tex-Mex and adding them all to one dish, the Avila's Special consists of one chicken enchilada topped with tomatillo sauce, one chicken enchilada topped with sour cream sauce, and one cheese enchilada with ranchero sauce. It's like a sampler platter of enchilada staples, and if you happen to mix the sauces, odds are you'll consider it a happy mistake—an amalgam of all of them happens to make a great topping for those leftover chips.
4714 Maple Avenue, Dallas TX 75219; 214-520-2700
Many combos at BEE (first enchilada $4.99, second $3.99)
BEE, which acronymizes Best Enchiladas Ever, certainly set the bar high with a name like that. They have a unique "enchiladeria" concept. The customer is presented with a card to fill out; there are four different kinds of tortillas, 10 types of fillings (including quinoa and tofu and shrimp diablo) and 11 various sauces. Then there are the different cheeses and toppings you can add at the end. As for being best enchilada ever? You just have to find the right combination. Pictured here is the tilapia in a corn tortilla with their crema sauce (top), and pork carnitas in a blue corn tortilla with the roasted amarillo sauce.
202 West Davis, Dallas TX 75208; 214-941-1BEE (1233)
Goat Cheese Enchiladas from Blue Mesa ($10.95)
Blue Mesa's take on the cheese enchilada is astoundingly inventive, delicious, and fantastically rich. Using cheese made in Dallas at The Mozzarella Company, Blue Mesa stuffs two large blue-corn enchiladas to the point of bursting, then covers them with a jicama coleslaw and even more goat cheese. The slaw helps to keep this dish from being absurdly heavy, and gives it a little vibrancy from which the cheese-stuffed tortillas benefit greatly.
Two locations: 7700 West Northwest Highway, Dallas, TX; 214-378-8686. 5100 Belt Line Rd, Dallas, TX; 972-934-0165
The Chicken Enchiladas at Cowboy Chicken (2 for $3.99, 3 for $5.99)
Calling the enchiladas at Cowboy Chicken "chicken enchiladas" might be a little redundant considering that rotisserie-cooked chicken is the main player in all their entrees. But these are special enough that a linguistic misstep can be forgiven. Using their signature chicken, which is pulled and rolled in corn tortillas, Cowboy Chicken then smothers their enchiladas with a "signature" sour cream-tomatillo sauce. The tomatillo adds freshness that lightens up what could otherwise be a too-heavy and overbearing sauce, and still leaves the (very good) chicken with room to make an impression. It might not be a Tex-Mex restaurant, but these enchiladas wouldn't look out of place on most of the Tex-Mex menus in Dallas.
5315 Greenville Avenue, Dallas, TX 75206; 214-234-0505
The Cheese Enchiladas at El Fenix ($8.49; $5.99 on Wednesdays))
El Fenix calls itself the birthplace of Tex-Mex, and they've got some justifiable reasoning. Founded in 1918, El Fenix has been serving enchiladas to Dallas for more than 90 years. Served piping hot in what feels like a matter of seconds after ordering, El Fenix's Cheese Enchiladas are a staple in Dallas. Covered with chili con carne and served with a side of rice and beans, they are everything they need to be, and nothing more. Simple cheddar cheese both in the enchiladas and on top gives the cheese a pronounced voice against the chili, and the corn tortilla ... well, it's a corn tortilla. These enchiladas aren't gourmet and they're not trendy, but if you want to define Tex-Mex, this is a good place to start.
Lights Out Enchiladas at Enchilada's ($8.99)
The restaurant's name is Enchilada's. They serve other things, too, but come on. The only real decision should be which enchiladas to get. Go with the Lights Out Enchilada Platter. With two chicken enchiladas served with both Enchilada's sour-cream sauce and their queso, the Lights Out Enchiladas are a big, rich and powerful tour de enchilada force. The chicken might get a little lost— the texture is certainly still there—but the chicken's not really the point of this dish. It's more that the enchilada provides a good medium with which to eat the sauce and the queso, which quickly mix to become a super sauce, as it were.
These enchiladas are a little over the top, but that's one of the things we love about Tex-Mex. There are no strict rules, so who can say they're wrong?
Two locations: 7050 Greenville Avenue, Dallas, TX; 214-691-1383. 1304 Elm Street, Dallas Texas, TX 75202; 214-748-8585
The Beef Enchiladas at Herrera's ($6.50 for two a la carte)
Herrera's is another Dallas Tex-Mex institution, though at 40 years-old it's still 53 years El Fenix's junior. Regardless, they make their beef enchiladas as traditionally as Tex-Mex gets, filling the corn tortillas with seasoned ground beef and ladling chili con carne over them. Like El Fenix, these enchiladas aren't created to be something spectacularly unique. Rather, the individual parts are somewhat pedestrian, but as a whole, they make an enchilada that combines all the classic flavors and feelings of Tex-Mex cuisine.
4024 Maple Ave, Dallas TX 75219; 214-528-9644
Mi Cocina's Spinach Enchiladas ($8.95)
Mi Cocina is ubiquitous in Dallas as the more-upscale-than-the-usual-Tex-Mex-place Tex-Mex Place. The ambiance is indeed a little more urban than its peers, but Mi Cocina's dishes are for the most part true to the Tex-Mex style. The spinach enchiladas are no exception. Tightly wrapped in two fairly sizeable corn tortillas, Mi Cocina adds Monterey Jack and onions to the spinach before stuffing. They bathe the tortillas in ranchero sauce before topping them with more cheese. The spinach contrasts greatly to the otherwise heavy components of the dish. It's a well constructed dish that won't disappoint. That is, as long as you like spinach.
3699 McKinney Avenue # 200, Dallas, TX 75204; 469-533-5663
Brisket Enchiladas at Mia's ($8.95)
Allegedly the inventors of the brisket tacos, Mia's took their creation a step further with the enchilada. Wrapped in corn tortillas and covered liberally with ranchero sauce and a small handful of monterey jack cheese, Mia's brisket enchiladas are representative of Tex-Mex: full of flavor and creativity. And as far as the price tag goes, $8.95 gets you two hefty enchiladas and a generous side of rice and beans. When you order these, you're not going to leave hungry.
4322 Lemmon Avenue, Dallas TX 75219; 214-526-1020
Dallas loves its Tex-Mex, and there's perhaps no greater dish that illustrates the philosophy behind the hybrid Mexican and American styles of cooking than the enchilada. Technically defined by Webster's as 'a usually corn tortilla rolled around a savory mixture, covered with chili sauce, and usually baked,' in Texas an enchilada is typically defined as 'a tortilla wrapped around something and then covered with something.' It seems as though there are as many Tex-Mex places in Dallas as there are people, so whittling it down to just nine was a tall task. Nonetheless, these are some of our favorite examples of the versatility, creativity and history the enchilada can capture.