Even before Alfonso Hernandez moved from the Mexican state of Zacatecas to Abilene in 1997 at the age of eleven, he knew he wanted to be his own boss. Doing what or where, he hadn’t decided. He later moved to Bryan with his mother, who relocated to be closer to family after his parents divorced. Then, in 2015, Hernandez’s father asked for his son’s help running his bakery and burrito joint, the eponymous Alfonso Hernandez Bakery, in Abilene.
The elder Hernandez opened the bakery in 2007, after working as a baker at local stalwarts like La Popular. But, 8 years in, the business was faltering and needed a fresh approach. The younger Hernandez was 26. To the menu, he immediately added northern Mexican guisados like asado rojo, chile guajillo–soaked chunks of pork; carne con chile, green chile–slathered stew meat; carne guisada, the Tex-Mex stew to rule them all; and barbacoa.
One of his proudest additions was flour gorditas, best when filled with the asado rojo. Hernandez says his mother’s gorditas, which she sold outside an elementary school, were the inspiration. “I remember she would sell a lot,” he recalls. “So, I thought, ‘I’m gonna try and add it to the menu.’ It worked out. People liked it.” Then Hernandez realized he loved running a restaurant. “I became passionate about it. I like it when you give people your food and they actually like it.”
In 2021, the younger Hernandez moved to Mansfield because his wife, Denise Hernandez, got a job as an adjunct professor of public health at nearby University of Texas at Arlington. His love of restaurants followed him. He quickly amassed a collection of kitchen equipment in his garage in the hopes of opening his own Mexican restaurant. A place in Pantego, near Arlington, fell through. Hernandez was itching to get something going. “I was kind of desperate to open already,” he says of that time. Then he came across a former fried chicken spot on Cedar Ridge Drive in Duncanville. He purchased the building in October 2022 and finally opened Alfonso’s Breakfast Burritos this March. It’s become a hit in the community.
The first day was a mess, though. “It wasn’t slow, but it wasn’t busy either,” Hernandez says during a phone interview. “It was exhausting.” He admits he made a mistake by beginning staff training the day before opening. “One day wasn’t going to be enough; I knew that,” he says. So the second day of training was the first day of service. “I had to train the cashiers. I had to train the ladies in my kitchen because I’m the one who knew the recipes, and I had to train the guy who makes the dough for the flour tortillas,” he says. It was brutal. Thankfully, the food met Hernandez’s standard. More importantly, it met customers’ standards.
During my visit, a woman who was having a late breakfast with her husband and parents softly told me that Hernandez’s guajillo-infused menudo was as good as her mom’s. As a joke, I raised my index finger to my lips and whispered, “Shh, don’t let her hear that.” The woman laughed. Her mother nodded. Then everyone, including Hernandez, chuckled.
I didn’t go for the menudo, but a friend and I did try a substantial order of burritos, all of them large and most of them filled with a single guiso, as is the custom in West Texas. While hearty, the sausage, bacon, and egg breakfast burrito was too salty for my taste. That being said, the flour tortilla, produced via a BE&SCO countertop machine, was light, chewy, and almost transparent in spots, with a slight flakiness. On the spectrum of regional flour tortillas, the ones at Alfonso’s Breakfast Burritos sit somewhere between the thicker South Texas ones and the thin but sturdy West Texas variety. My favorite part of the tortillas are the nubby edges.
I’m not the only one who’s noticed, according to Hernandez. “A lot of people tell me the tortillas remind them of South Texas,” he says. He’s as surprised by the statement as he is by the near-instant support of the community. When I visited, there was a line to the door of folks waiting to order and a cluster of customers waiting for to-go orders. One gentleman in the queue shared that his wife has been frequenting Alfonso’s three to four times a week and ordering the same thing. “They know her order!” he said, laughing.
“Everybody tells me that this is exactly what Duncanville needs,” Hernandez says. Customers also tell him the tortillas remind them of their grandmothers’, a compliment of the highest order. “Hearing those stories from people is wonderful,” he adds. The tortillas are also wrapped and folded around earthy, slightly fruity guajillo-stewed asado rojo made from fried and simmered pieces of pork butt. A twist of nuttiness peeks in at the end. The asado rojo is as comforting as it gets.
It’s followed up by the carne con chile. The beef is enveloped in a salsa of banana peppers, jalapeños, serranos, and green bell peppers and represents fine home cooking. The barbacoa I had was juicy without being overly fatty. The two disappointments were the slippery chicharrón en salsa roja and the omission of a chile relleno burrito, which is my favorite. “We just took it off the menu,” Hernandez says, explaining it wasn’t among his top sellers. But the menu is too deep and exciting to quibble over a couple of duds.
Customers should ignore the separation of the menu into categories such as “breakfast burritos” and “meat burritos.” In West Texas and in Mexico, there is little distinction between specific morning, midday, or evening foods. If you want asado rojo on the way to work, go for it. “Everything is ready when we open,” Hernandez explains. This is a relief.
Dallas isn’t a breakfast taco town. The sole great nonchain spot, Tía Dora’s Bakery in Oak Cliff, stopped selling its South Texas–style options during the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic. The area doesn’t have many breakfast burrito options, either. As such, the rapid success of Alfonso’s Breakfast Burritos is a welcome and surprising one, especially for Hernandez. “My mentality was that it’s going to start slow. It’s going to take a couple of months, you know?” he explains. But in one month of being open, Hernandez’s restaurant is making what a much more advanced business makes in a day. “That’s crazy,” Hernandez says. I hope the craziness continues.
Alfonso’s Breakfast Burritos
306 N. Cedar Ridge Drive, Duncanville
Hours: Monday–Saturday, 6:30 a.m.–8 p.m.