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A four-year-old boy ran between the crowded tables and the counter separating the narrow dining room and the busy kitchen at Dallas’s Tortilleria La Potosina. The child dropped to his knees and slid into the refrigerator case. He repeated the action several times, dodging customers picking up to-go orders and workers delivering supplies. He laughed. I winced. Did he really not feel pain from slamming his knees into the tall appliance? Eventually, he walked over to me, waved, and asked in Spanish if I spoke English. I answered in Spanish that, yes, I spoke English. “Do you speak English?” I asked him. He shook his head, giggled, and ran off to slide into the fridge again. An older gentleman, balding with tan skin, caught the kid’s upper arm as the boy bent toward the floor and pulled him to his feet. The man was his grandfather, Julio Infante, who co-owns seven-year-old Tortilleria La Potosina with his wife, Martha Salazar. It’s truly a family affair at this tortilla factory and restaurant in southeast Dallas’s Pleasant Grove neighborhood.

It was a warm and sunny November day when Dallas Morning News restaurant columnist Brian Reinhart and I first visited the location just off Buckner Boulevard. We arrived ahead of the lunch rush, as the kitchen was finishing prep for the crush of customers. We were enthralled by the photo-heavy menu hanging above the counter: images of enchiladas, tacos, tamales, gorditas, and bocoles made me excited to dig in.

First up were the enchiladas Rioverdenses. Named after the town of Rioverde in the Huasteca region of the Mexican state of San Luis Potosí, the enchiladas featured crispy guajillo-dipped tortillas slathered with refried beans and topped with fistfuls of queso fresco, shredded lettuce, and tomato slices, then finished with a flurry of cotija cheese. They were followed by enchiladas Huastecas verdes, which consisted of tortillas soaked in herbaceous green salsa and stacked in five layers. The enchiladas Don Cayo, named after Infante’s father, included red and green salsas. Enchiladas Potosinas were folded, fried, and loaded with cheese and crema. Served alongside all of the enchiladas were rice, refried beans, and a slab of pleasantly chewy cecina—grilled, dried salt beef garnished with caramelized onions. Brian called the plates brimming with salsa “bird baths.” Indeed, the urge to dive in mouth first was difficult to resist.

We also ordered three bocoles, fluffy griddle-darkened gorditas made with lard. One was stuffed with a luscious rajas con crema—roasted strips of poblano chiles and onions stewed in a cheesy cream stew. Another was filled with barbacoa guisada—pit-cooked beef stewed with chiles and bell peppers. Why were they called bocoles when they resembled gorditas? “Because they are made with lard,” Martha explained. “Different ingredients, different names. It’s that simple.” The tacos rojos, a specialty of the Huasteca region, featured tortillas made with red chiles mixed into the masa. They were filled with queso fresco, and were folded and concealed under more queso fresco, lettuce, chorizo, cubed potatoes, and squiggles of crema. They were a joyful mess to eat. Brian and I vowed to return.

Our second visit was in December. It was then that I made the connection I should’ve made a month ago. Tortilleria La Potosina was the same business Tortilleria Terrell proprietors Gabriel Rodarte and Virginia Salazar once owned with Virginia’s parents, Infante and Martha Salazar. Gabriel and Virginia had mentioned Tortilleria La Potosina, but with so many Dallas–Fort Worth businesses using “La Potosina” in their names, I didn’t give it much thought.

Enchiladas Rioverdenses (left) and enchiladas Huasteca (right) at Tortilleria La Potosina in Dallas.Photograph by José R. Ralat

After finishing plates of enchiladas, bocoles, and tacos filled with pork draped in a thick salsa verde, I walked to the counter to pay the bill. I asked the woman with her thick black hair in a net if she happened to be the mother of Virginia Salazar, co-owner of Tortilleria Terrell. “How did you know? Have you been to my daughter’s place? Did you like it? I hope you liked it.” Martha peppered me with questions. In turn, I asked her why there was a drastic difference between the two family businesses. Because Tortilleria Terrell focuses on tacos, and La Potosina specializes in enchiladas and other dishes from their native San Luis Potosí, Martha responded.

The Pleasant Grove tortilla factory opened on December 19, 2014. Previously, Infante worked in social welfare, assessment, and logistics for the Mexican government, but he wished to work for himself in the U.S. He moved to Texas in 1996. In 1998, Infante and Martha Salazar opened a small jewelry booth in the Garibaldi Bazaar in Dallas. Sixteen years later, they pitched in with their daughter and son-in-law to establish La Potosina. Rodarte, a third-generation tortilla master, taught his father-in-law how to nixtamalize corn.

The process takes six to eight hours. First, corn kernels are cooked in an alkaline solution of water and calcium hydroxide for an hour. The kernels are allowed to cool and then are mixed into masa. Infante feeds the masa into a tortilla machine that cuts and precooks the tortillas for packaging. Diners are then treated to freshly pressed and cooked tortillas.

The Salazar women cooked almost everything else, except the barbacoa, which was also Infante’s responsibility and prepared offsite. The partnership didn’t last long, however. Rodarte wanted to strike out on his own and fulfill his father’s dream of running his own tortilleria. The two businesses continue to thrive in distinct ways.

While Tortilleria Terrell is looking to expand into a second brick-and-mortar, La Potosina expanded to sell to Mexican lunch trucks servicing construction sites. The loncheras, as they are called in Spanish, line up in front of the building to await their supplies: lightly aromatic corn tortillas, various fillings, salsas, and garnishes.

I watched the truck drivers load up from one of the five tables at Tortilleria La Potosina, where I could also see a rotating cast of characters enter and exit: local workers, families, a lone young man, a couple of elderly folks. They were all digging into bocoles and enchiladas, although I overheard a few customers also order tacos. I sat quietly reveling in this gem of a spot doling out treasure after treasure.

Tortilleria La Potosina

8238 Scyene Road, Dallas
Phone: 214-815-3995
Hours: Monday to Saturday 6 a.m. to 7 p.m.