In 1926, a Mexican immigrant named Adelaida Cuellar—now affectionately referred to as "Mama"—set up a tiny stand at a county fair outside Dallas, selling homemade tamales and chili con queso. The spicy specialties soon drew throngs of hungry patrons, and by 1940, she and her 12 children had transformed the stand into a café. Today, her legacy lives on at El Chico's many locations, where the staff rolls fresh tortillas into steaming enchiladas and salts the rims of towering margaritas. Waiters hoist platters of Tex-Mex favorites such as spicy beef burritos, crispy tacos, and guacamole prepared right at the table from fresh, self-puréeing avocados—a technology Mama never could have imagined during the early days of black-and-white tomatoes.
The owners and chefs at Santa Fe Cattle rely on old family recipes that demand steaks are aged and cut in-house, rolls are baked fresh each day, and signature sauces are mixed onsite. These touches transform the menu’s casual, regional eats into dishes worthy of John Wayne’s personal dressing-room buffet. Steaks, fajitas, and sliders are plated next to housemade sides of cole slaw, Santa Fe taters, and of course, a bucket of peanuts—which guests shuck directly onto the floor. The peanut shells add character to each one of the restaurant’s 20 locations, which evoke old-west saloons with touches such as brick walls draped in horse saddles and weathered wooden floors.
At Cinnabon, the aromas of scrumptious baked goods waft through the air as chilled beverages help to sate the snack appetites of weary mall-walkers. Munch on a variety of cinnamon-infused treats, from the classic Cinnabon, temptingly filled with Cinnabon’s famous makara cinnamon ($2.99), to the Caramel Pecanbon, topped with an edible medley of luscious caramel and tasty pecans ($3.49). An assortment of goodies can be toted home in one of the store’s CinnaPacks, good for at least four classic rolls or nine Minibons ($9.99; combo packs add $1.50, Pecanbons add $2). Revitalize the taste buds with a frosty Chillatta, a frozen drink available in chocolate mocha, strawberry, strawberry banana, and tropical blast, each more refreshing than a game of patty-cake against a polar bear ($3.99–$4.79).
The eclectic elegance inspired by Rinie’s sprawls from a multifarious menu of American-Italian dishes fused with bursts of Thai and Asian flavoring. Rinie’s travelogue of cuisine heightens the epicurean senses as the lighting dims, setting the scene for toothsome proposals to rich risotto or crab cake appetizers for two ($9). Succulent entrees of north atlantic salmon come baked in a rich curry sauce or pan fried and topped with white wine dill sauce, both served over asian rice ($18). Spicy chicken pad thai dressed in sweet chili sauce grazes the lips seductively before moving into the mouth’s apartment with rice noodles, vegetables, and a futon for when guests visit ($16). Lovers can lap from Rinie’s copious wine selection, though this Groupon is not valid toward alcohol purchases.
One of Lawton’s only fine dining establishments, Red River Southwestern Chophouse keeps its menu sizzling with top-quality steaks and Southwestern delicacies. Kick-off the feast with an edible drum roll of New Orleans crab balls ($12.99), boursin cheese jalapeños ($7.99), or a mountain of Maryland crab cake ($13.99) before diving into house specialties such as the chilean seabass floating atop a creamy, saucy sea of lobster risotto ($28.99). Otherwise, wine and dine simultaneously with the venezuelan brisket cooked in a red-wine marinade and served over potatoes mashed in-house by a squadron of well-trained spud masseuses ($15.99). Red River's steak specialists also makes more cuts than a blind samurai, curing carnivorous cravings of every size with the lean 8-ounce top sirloin ($14.99), the hefty 16-ounce prime cowboy rib eye ($28.99), and all seasoned slabs in between. Regardless of their surf or turf allegiances, diners can unite over sides such as fried okra, creamed spinach, and wild mushrooms (all $7.99). To make sure everyone gets a taste of every dish, Red River serves its succulent shareables family-style, which means each plate comes with a buzzer in case a feud breaks out over what 100 people consider a chore that kids hate to do.