Favorite son Ricardo Avila has now left to open his own restaurant called, appropriately enough, Ricardo Avila's Mextopia. We'll be sure to try it soon! Avila's has become all the rage since Guy Fiori featured the little place on Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives - a favorite show of the RJG as well. This lead to a lot of business for Avila's, and thus they made some changes to the restaurant itself. The good: They opened the fence next door which allows for much more, and easier, parking. They also now have some outdoor patio seating (nothing more than a couple of park benches, but it's still cool). On the down side, they changed the dark red painting to a lighter blue shade. It doesn't feel as intimate as before. And, as with any place that gains notoriety, the neighborhood feel of the place has deteriorated somewhat. There's more of a wannabee yuppie thing going on. "Slumming on Maple with the Wilson's" just ain't for the RJG. I felt the food quality held serve (and on this night the salsa with the chips was really kickin'!), but Mrs. RJG said it was greasier than prior. I sensed our dinner companions, once again Mr. and Mrs. RP as we haven't seen them in about a year, were also slightly disappointed. I think as the DDD effect wears off, things will return to normal. And it will be easier to park in any event....
Avila's is a long time RJG favorite. I first discovered the restaurant while taking a training course close by at the InfoMart. This was in 1989 (three years after opening), when most of the restaurants in the area catered to the Tex-Mex crowd. And most of the classic restaurants remain: Rosita's, the original Ojeda's, and the original Herrera's (different location though). Today the area is much more hardcore Mexican and many of the newer restaurants appeal more to the taste of the old country. Avila's is located in the old Little Mexico area, on Maple, just north of Wycliff.
On this occasion, Mrs. RJG and I joined some dear and longtime friends Mr. and Mrs. RP. They had surprisingly never been and we decided to make an evening of it. Mrs. RJG has named this her favorite Mexican restaurant in Dallas, and it's a mandatory stop prior to going to any Dallas Mavericks basketball game. Given the distance from where we reside in NE Tarrant, it's always a treat for us to dine here.
Avila's is the perfect setting - situated in an old house, where you can park in back or on the old front lawn. The restaurant is painted dark, and has mood spotlights. Sometimes there's an old man who soothes the sole with some fine acoustic guitar in the Mexican/Spanish style. The opposite of the loud obnoxious Mariachi bands. One could see the temptation for the owner to pipe in techno/electronica, as it has that super cool European / New York City feel. Thankfully he doesn't and the guitar player couldn't be better.
One thing that hasn't changed: The food. It's classic Tex-Mex, but prepared extremely well. Variations of tacos, enchiladas, etc... plus some feature dishes. The hot sauce doesn't pull punches, and you all know by now that Mr. RJG likes that! There are only a few places in the US where Mr. RJG can say the Mexican food is truly better than Avila's. Mr. RP said the mole was the best he's had. And Mr. RP is one of the few people I know who's traveled more than myself.
For you folks, like us, who live in NE Tarrant - make it a destination some evening. It's never overly crowded, but never empty either. Oh, one more thing, after many years of holding out on the margarita trend, they finally applied for a hard liquor license, and will be serving them shortly! This is the only Mexican restaurant where Mr. RJG gets wine. Given the setting, it seems more appropriate than beer for some reason.