Is Tex-Mex Food Making a National Comeback? Yes and No

Categories: Mexi Meals

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for chicostacosdouble.jpg
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.

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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.

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69 comments
yakytiyak
yakytiyak

You want authentic Mexican food go to Mexico.  If you want authentic Mexican American food go to any place in East LA  or come to my house.  

Patricia Cuestas-James
Patricia Cuestas-James

Adrian: just because I love chimichangas doesn't mean I have an Americanized pallet dear. I make tacos dorados, I make authentic moles, have you ever eaten nopales con chile Colorado? I make homemade tortillas, frijoles de olla, tamales, bunuelos, so many kinds of homemade salsas etc. You request it I can assure you I can cook it, after all my family roots trace down to our indigenous folks in Mexikah, so I enjoy and know the tastes and pallets of both worlds. As far as taco tote its just one level above taco bell at least in my opinion or even chipotle. Authentic Mex food you can find in the restaurants that have been around since the 20's in our cities. It's obvious that hotdogs aren't Mexican cuisine I am just referring to how they make them and as far as I know they have been making the Sonora hot dogs since the 50's or earlier than that. I have had them in Houston and they don't taste the same probably because they use American hotdog buns verses hotdog buns made in Mexican bakeries. So I know the best of Mexican and Mexican American Cuisine we are only 50 miles from the border...45 min drive..beside Tucson was Mexico before it was the good ol USA yeah my familia didn't cross the border it crossed us :)

Adrian Jimenez
Adrian Jimenez

Demographics are still very diffrent regardless of that. And I'm not trying to insult anyone. I'm just pointing out hypocrisy. A hotdog is not a native food of Mexico and that's great that they sell hot dogs in senora. You know what they sell in Juarez and have been doing for as long as I have been alive? Pizza and Hamburgers! And yes the people in Juarez have taken those foods and made it their own just like the folks in Senora. That doesnt mean that Chihuahua style pizza is now a plate that's considered native to Mexico. My point was this Guerro Canello and Sonran style hot dogs are Mexican influenced fast food just like chicos. Thats it!

JV Joaquin Vazquez Jr.
JV Joaquin Vazquez Jr.

'Stupid Hotdogs' have been sold in Hermosillo Sonora for over two decades. Keep the insults coming. You really are coming across as a douchebag.

JV Joaquin Vazquez Jr.
JV Joaquin Vazquez Jr.

I would dare to say any city that is within 1-2 proximity to a Mexican border has to have more authenticity. Never been to Texas so I would never judge it. Have you had Canelo's? I was a big skeptic until I visited my folks in Tucson not too long ago and got hooked. Don't bash it until you try it. I am in California which has a mishmash of all sort of 'authentic' Mexican food.

Adrian Jimenez
Adrian Jimenez

Puffy Taco? You mean Tacos dorados? I know you folks in Tucson think everything out the side of a truck is "authentic" Mexican food but Tacos dorados are typical in Chihuahua when you "sit down" for a meal. You know Chihuahua the state in Mexico directly attached to EL Paso? And El Paso already exported a better version of Guerro Canello to Tucson...It's called Taco Tote except they don't serve those stupid hot dogs.. And I will be the first to say that Taco Tote is Americanized Mexican food. But lets get down to what were are really talking about. Tex-Mex!!! Look I'm not sure if you realize how big Texas is but the sloppy Tex Mex you eat in central and East Texas is nothing like the food served in EL Paso. The El Paso's location is right on the Mexican border and we have a demographic that is about 80% Mexican-American. So with all honesty I think the Tex-Mex you are referring to is an abomination made for Gabachos who think Chipotle serves authentic burritos. Dallas, San Antonio, and Houston all have shit Mexican food so bash it all you want but El Paso has nothing to with that thanks to the lack of Caucasians and our proximity to "actual" Mexico. And the fact that you think a Chimichangas taste good is further evidence that you have the pallet of some White Arizona college student who thinks ethic food is Lindys hamburgers. Oh by the way thanks for the baseball team I'm sure all those hippies on congress can use The Electric Ballpark to hold conventions on how to make kale shakes LOL!!!

Patricia Cuestas-James
Patricia Cuestas-James

Those hotdogs are how they are made in Northern Mexico/Sonora and Guero's is far from being Americanized, not even close. Darn right we invented the chimichanga and it's darn good too...I'd rather eat that than a funky Texas puffy taco lmao what the hell is that??? I live in Texas now and there are plenty of joints out here that charge you for salsa/chips and yes in Texas they also eat carne seca they just call it machacada..same shit different name. Tucson has the best Mexican American cuisine in the U.S. and Texas is just too Americanized with their Tex Mex crap they serve...when I want enchiladas I want real chile rojo or verde not some of this gravy crap they slop on everything. Either way I'm a proud Xicana and I love our real food. You can keep your puffy tortillas, funky gravies and El Paso will never be able to hold a candle to our beautiful city of Tucson, Az :)

JV Joaquin Vazquez Jr.
JV Joaquin Vazquez Jr.

Hey hey no need to insult my fine people of Tucson (or any place for that matter). I'm sure Tex-Mex is in your parts is good but Guerro Canelo is the good stuff. And that version of the hotdog actually did come from Sonora. And..Sonoran beef is some of the best in the world.

clownly1m
clownly1m

While there are some delicious tex-mex dishes out there fast food tex-mex should be avoided at all times. 4 years in El Paso and not once did I enjoy the regional cuisine. For good tex-mex I had to travel to Laredo, McAllen and Brownsville to name a few. El Paso did have great Carnitas down-town and killer Chinese food, go figure! 

Boris Garcia
Boris Garcia

Nothing like authentic Mexican food , estilo d.f .

Adrian Jimenez
Adrian Jimenez

Are you really trying to pass off hotdogs as authentic Mexican food? Ahahahahahahahahaha!!! See that's the difference between me and you. I never said Chico's was "authentic" Its a weird fast food that popped up in El Paso that some Mexican immigrant invented that's it.. Lets also not forget that Tucson gave us the Chimichanga and a restaurant that served an embarrassing version of Mexican food to President Clinton. Seriously what kind of Mexican restaurant charges extra for Spanish rice and Chips and Salsa? What kind of cheap skate Mexicans you got in Tucson? Guerro Canelo is as Americanized as Chicos tacos period. And anyone who eats that gross ass Carne Seca has no place to talk. Oh by the way those hotdogs you defend. Here in El Paso they are called Juarez Style Hot Dogs LOL!!!

David Salas
David Salas

Theres mexican food, mmmmm. Theres tex-mex, hmmmm. There theres taco bell ??????.

Patricia Cuestas-James
Patricia Cuestas-James

Adrian J: Chico's does not even come close to describing Mexican food. Rolled tacos or flautas are Mex American first of all and that sauce is fricking disgusting...tastes like outdated rotten tomato sauce with tabasco, YUK. Chico's French fries have a better chance at getting a decent review lol. I do have place to talk when it comes to El Guero Canelo Restaurante Mexicano. That is an authentic MEXICAN restaurant and how Sonoran hotdogs are taking over and their way of eating taquitos whether it be carne asada, barbacoa, etc. Guero Canelo's has been on Man Vs Food and Chico's? Yeah was endorsed by a chef on the food network...why? Oh yeah that's right because he is from El Paso and grew up eating that stuff and the only reason why.

Karl Irish
Karl Irish

I'm living in Houston temporarily and I can tell you tex-mex blows. Resist the hype please.

Fleoo Calavera
Fleoo Calavera

Well this debate will have to go on without me, closest place to get tex-mex from where i live in whittier is like 30 mikes away! So much for Tex Mex being here eh?

Minhpd AnNam Mít
Minhpd AnNam Mít

that whole san antonio restaurants row texmex thingie was a sham in da 90s.

Lex Lexington
Lex Lexington

Everything seems to cycle every 20 years. Tex mex - yuck now and 20 years ago

Alberto Pineda
Alberto Pineda

Breakfast tacos and queso yes! Everything else is horrible

Al Wölfhaus
Al Wölfhaus

Texans don't want Mexicans in their country. I sure as hell don't want Texas in my Mexican food.

Anne Bagasao
Anne Bagasao

LOL...Frozen Margarita. I can't stop laughing.

Moses V. Arebalo
Moses V. Arebalo

I would love to believe that it would survive, but unfortunately the Trendy Hipsters ruin the Good Traditional businesses

Tommy Lowery
Tommy Lowery

For the best "Tex-Mex" food, you need to go to www.nickstasteoftexas.com. Family is from San Antonio, Texas. It's the real deal!

Adrian Jimenez
Adrian Jimenez

Patricia Cuestas-James what I always say about chicos tacos is that if you can't handle chicos then you have no chance of being able to handle real Mexican food. And being from Tucson you have no place to talk....guerro canelo?

Corky Frausto
Corky Frausto

Looks like they were made with the bright yellow commodity cheese that was so good.

Adrian Jimenez
Adrian Jimenez

Patty Alsberge I've been to New Mexico and putting green chili on everything isn't what I would call a knock off of Mexican food.

Patty Alsberge
Patty Alsberge

The return? When did it go away? And I guess those media folk have never been to New Mexico where red & green rule.

clownly1m
clownly1m

I can't handle Chico's and I eat and cook nothing but Mexican food. Only people that seem to stomach it are those that grew up with it. It's a matter of conditioning, like how most of us prefer our mother's cooking and family recipes. We tend to associate "authenticity" with what we are used to or were first exposed to.


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