From the moment you pull up, it’s not hard to tell that Don Juan’s Romantic Mexican Food opened in 1966. A certain brand of flashy midcentury Americana lights up every inch of the stucco building, declared a Grand Prairie Significant Landmark by the city's historical commission. Hand-painted signs—one shaped like a gargantuan sombrero—advertise “luncheons” and “dinners.” The menu hasn’t changed much, either: for more than 45 years, the cooks have been making chili, hot sauce, guacamole, and many other ingredients from scratch using the same recipes the founder perfected when the restaurant first opened. Tacos, burritos, and tamales join Tex-Mex favorites such as enchiladas, chili con queso, and taco salad in a deep-fried shell. For dining on the go or on the lam, the restaurant sports a drive-thru (one of the first in town) in addition to a robin’s-egg-blue counter with matching swivel stools.
Orbs of freshly made dough chug along the lustrous metallic conveyor belts of Marquez Bakery and Tortilla Factory's enormous tortilla-making mechanism, polka-dotting the chainlink pathways as they're flattened, baked, and morphed into the eatery's trademark fare. The chefs at the family bakery load the disks with traditional Mexican meats, such as chorizo and chicharrón, by hand, whisper "goodbye" to each morsel, and send them off to catered events or the onsite restaurant. They also sate sweet teeth with meticulously constructed custom cakes, harking back to founder Jose Marquez's legacy of selling donuts, pies, and sweet bread from his own home.
The gastronomic maestros at Machete Bar and Grill whip up authentic Mexican dishes in a bright and festive setting. Silence a growling stomach or snoring incisor with a plate of homemade chili rellenos filled with chicken, shrimp, cheese, or beef ($10.99). Fajita chimichangas come deep fried and plated with rice, beans, and guacamole ($9.49), while traditional quesadillas are jammed with meat and melted cheese before being doused with guac, sour cream, and pico de gallo ($9.79). The Amayas Deluxe provides a smorgasbord of grilled shrimp, chicken-fajita meat, and grilled quail ($14.99) to slay fuming hunger dragons as dashingly as Beowulf trying to impress a new girlfriend. Machete Bar and Grill’s brightly colored walls sport the work of local artists, giving rambunctious eyes something better to do than wink suggestively at impressionable salt shakers.
La Calle Doce's menu merges succulent seafood and tantalizing spices in authentic recipes from Acapulco, Veracruz, and other seaside sources. Chilled ceviche takes advantage of free swim to meld lime-juice-doused morsels of fish with tomato, onion, and cilantro ($9.95). The pescado a la parrilla suffuses a whole grilled catfish with herbs and spices ($13.95), and the camarón à la veracruzana teams sautéed shrimp with a quartet of bell peppers, onions, tomatoes, and cilantro ($14.95) before they break up to seek solo careers in bowls of pico de gallo. A range of beef, chicken, and traditional Tex-Mex dishes curb tastes for the terrestrial, and a variety of classic Mexican drinks, such as horchata ($2.50+) and tamarindo ($2.50+), subdue spicy selections.
Hermilo Acosta—or Milo, as his friends call him—first got his foot in the food-industry door more than 17 years ago, when he worked as a busboy. Since then, he’s moved up the culinary ladder, doing everything from serving to managing, and garnered enough industry know-how to own and run Los Jimadores. Milo usually walks around the dining room to chat with patrons as they wash down tacos and seafood plates with the restaurant’s signature margaritas. You might hear him explain that los jimadores is the Mexican term for experienced farmers who cultivate the hearts of blue agave plants, which can weigh up to 200 pounds and are used to make tequila and pump cocktails through bartending robots.