Matt’s Famous El Rancho, Austin
To order the Bob Armstrong dip—a concoction of queso, taco meat, guacamole, and sour cream first thrown together for the former land commissioner—is to invite a lifelong addiction. And maybe a modicum of forgiveness for the restaurant’s evolution from charming little frame house to sprawling enchilada palace.
Mi Cocina, Dallas
Many a Dallasite’s designer suit has been ruined by errant globs of picadillo queso at this chichi Tex-Mex joint (an oxymoron to be sure). All fifteen locations are regularly overrun by the well-dressed, who come to see, be seen, and swill the lethal sangria-and-frozen-margarita brew known as a Mambo Taxi.
L&J Cafe, El Paso
Moonshine and slot machines have been replaced with legal libations and red enchiladas at this purple building, which has been a favorite haunt since Prohibition. It’s also haunted by residents of the neighboring Concordia Cemetery (or so the lore goes), who would die for one more taste of the secret-recipe green-chile sauce.
Joe T. Garcia’s, Fort Worth
First-timers give themselves away by asking to see a menu at this 1,200-seat Northside institution. Everyone knows you order either the family-style dinner (two cheese enchiladas, two beef tacos) or the fajitas (chicken or beef), which are brought out before you’re even two sips into your margarita.
Molina’s Cantina, Houston
When your family’s good name relies on how gooey your cheese enchiladas are, you make sure yours are the gooiest. Raul Molina’s descendants uphold their patriarch’s reputation with the tasty enchiladas de Tejas (smothered with chile con carne and chopped onions) and the Original Jose’s Dip, a deep bowl of ground-beef-spiked queso named for the waiter who used to sneak dollops of spicy taco meat to his favorite customers.
Mi Tierra Café y Panadería, San Antonio
Twinkle lights, teeny sombreros, and huge piñatas all scream “tourist trap,” but you won’t want to leave once you’ve tried the beef tip tacos and gotten a whiff of the goodies being whipped up in the on-site bakery. So stay for as long as you please: Since Mi Tierra is open 24/7, the kitchen never closes and the fiesta never ends.