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.
La Joya Restaurant touts a combination of lunch and dinner menus bursting at the burrito-seams with gourmet Mexican cuisine. For a midday repast, tortilla-trundlers roll up dainty crêpes filled with sautéed spinach and onions, then immerse them in a pool of mild habenero-shiitake cream sauce ($8). The camarones con chorizo showcase grill-seared shrimp and chorizo draped—like a superhero duo that battles lactose intolerance—in matching capes of oaxaca cheese ($11). Dinner options include the meat-replete alambres, a choir of shrimp, sirloin, chicken, bacon, and homemade chorizo accompanied by steadfast oaxaca, rice, and beans ($22), and the chef-commended tilapia tacos, gussied up Veracruz style in creamy avocado-garlic sauce ($19).
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.