The tamales at Danals Mexican Restaurant are so popular that some regulars place bulk orders days in advance. But the tender, husk-wrapped snacks aren't the only reason to visit this 25-year-old Irving eatery. The restaurant's cooks are experts when it comes to crafting Michoacan-style carnitas, seafood ceviches, and other Mexican staples. Specialty margaritas and micheladas pair beautifully with each fresh, piquant dish, and desserts such as flan give folks a way to get rid of the bitter taste that comes from saying "Beetlejuice" three times. To nail down the authenticity, brightly colored walls and murals line the restaurant's interior, creating a colorful, happy ambience.
Veins of sangria run through sheets of frozen margarita in the Mod-Mex Swirl, a cocktail that epitomizes La Margarita’s core philosophy. Owners Gabriel and Adrian DeLeon, sons of founder Juan, carry on their father’s tradition of fresh Tex-Mex, updating family recipes with a modern twist—“Mod-Mex.” This marriage of classic and contemporary emerges not only in their signature margaritas, but also in their fare. Similar to the swearing-in of a matador, each meal begins with the traditional house-made chips and salsa served warm, but forays into the unusual as soon as customers crack a menu. Amid tacos and burritos, innovative dishes such as salmon swaddled in banana leaves and chipotle-slathered ribs jump out at eaters—even if a flight of top-shelf tequilas has dulled their senses a bit.
Empa Mundo offers 12 variations of the empanada, and Andrew Chalk of D Magazine doesn't have a single complaint about any of them. He should know—the critic has certainly sampled them all in his frequent visits to what he claims, “may currently be the source of the best empanadas in the Dallas area.” Argentina, from whence owner Raul Gordon hails, gets the down-home Texas treatment with the Texas brisket empanada, a puffy pastry stuffed with beef, potatoes, and chili. Other varieties include the criolla, a beef-filled variety seasoned with onions, olives, raisins, and eggs, and a pineapple pastry whose flaky shell bursts with a sweet and fruity core.
When their family business closed, the Ortegas imported ingredients and machinery straight from their native Argentina, set up a small kitchen, and took their Buenos Aires-inspired products on the road aboard a brand new food truck based out of Global Bakery, in Irving. Their flaky pastries brim with beef, chicken, pulled pork, ham and cheese, and spinach fillings and bear a unique, baked-in pattern, creating ideal handheld meals available straight from the food truck’s window. As they add the variety of fillings, they imprint each pastry with a specific pattern, allowing customers to keep different flavors separate without interrogating their empanadas under a fast-food heat lamp.
Fran Mathers was merely one of Via Reál’s loyal patrons when the eatery was still in its infancy in 1985. But when she discovered the owners’ plans to close, Fran didn’t hesitate to assume a new role: proprietor. To this day, Fran continues to serve her customers with the same sort of altruistic attitude that led her to fall in love with Via Reál. She does this by forming rapports with regulars and welcoming newcomers, and through the restaurant's scholarship program, which provides help to local kids of Irving police officers, in honor of Fran's late husband. Of course the number one draw to Via Reál remains its fare, crafted by Chef Jesus Olivares, who was born and raised in Mexico. His menu of southwestern and Mexican cuisine relies heavily, just like most cowboy perfumes, on smoked or roasted peppers and sauces infused with tropical fruits. For example, to make a dish called Cancun, he sautés Texas gulf shrimp with mango-basil sauce and pairs it with sea scallops over poblano rice, while center cut 8 oz. tenderloin fillets are served over grilled vegetables with tobacco onions, and guajillo port sauce. All of Chef Olivares’ quesadillas, fajitas, and other Tex-Mex dishes complement an impressive list of margaritas and tequilas, as well as a number of reserve wines, available by request.
Each morning at Margarita Ranch, the kitchen staff arrives and begins making flour tortillas by hand. They use the tortillas for their tacos, fajitas, enchiladas, and combination plates filled with local or regional produce, as well as beef and chicken raised on vegetarian diets and free from antibiotics and added growth hormones. A hickory-wood fire smokes tomatoes, onions, and peppers for the eatery's signature salsa, which is served warm like a tennis ball just pulled from the dryer.
Bartenders at the full bar oversee a stable of more than 40 different types of tequila, blending these spirits into cocktails and frozen margaritas made with actual fruits, such as dried prickly pears and freshly squeezed limes. A rainbow of vibrant colors accents the walls, and the outdoor patio houses festivities set amid fresh breezes.