Is Tex-Mex Food Making a National Comeback? Yes and No
Double-order at Chico's Tacos in El Paso
It seems Tex-Mex, after years of being ridiculed by Mexicans, Mexican-Americans, Americans--almost everybody except Texans themselves--is on the verge of being the It Food of 2014. Last week, The Daily Beast did a story on how young chefs are starting to include puffy tacos, queso, breakfast tacos and even migas in their menus, and how hipsters are embracing it due to their many trips to the Lone Star State in the past decade. And earlier this week, the Washington Post also gave love to Tex-Mex food by chef Pati Jinich, who admitted to her previous disgust with the tradition.
Those two articles are surely the first in a rush of stories that'll anoint Tex-Mex as a wonderful food--and I have no problem with that, given I'm the tradition's biggest non-Texan acolyte. But does this trend mean that Tex-Mex is making a permanent comeback? Yes, and no.
On one hand, I do think Tex-Mex specialties are going to start popping up more and more across the country--and deservedly so, because those meals are great. In particular, I think breakfast tacos are poised to permanently join the national conversation on Mexican food, because they're so simple and delicious--but they'll have to fight California's breakfast burritos for supremacy for America's morning Mexican meal, as those cylindrical gods are currently spreading across the country as well.
And that's why I don't think Tex-Mex's comeback will be as penetrating or influential as its previous success stories, from chili to combo plates to frozen margaritas to fajitas. Tex-Mex had little to no competition in its long reign as the region that most influenced what was considered "Mexican food" in the United States, a reign that lasted nearly a century from the 1880 to the 1980s. But nowadays, Tex-Mex must compete against the foot soldiers of Cal-Mex (Mission burritos, food trucks, multicultural tacos, fish tacos) and regional Mexican cuisine for America's palate, trends that started in earnest during the 1990s and have quickly spread across the country, with no signs of fatigue whatsoever.
Don't shoot the messenger--I love Tex-Mex, and will defend it to the death against any and all Baylessistas. But while there's definitely enough room for all, the course of Mexican food history is going Cali's way--and there's nothing Texas can do about it. Enjoy your moment while you can, Tejanos, and watch as America ditches ustedes just like they did Dubya--except in this case, they'll be wrong.