Friday, September 5, 2008
*** CLOSED *** Fernandez Cafe ~ Fort Worth, Texas
April 2012 update: From Bud Kennedy's Eats Beat: "Breakfast hasn't been the same in west Fort Worth without Fernandez Cafe. Former server Olga Garcia finally brought back Fernandez's burritos and hot-hot sauce this week, reopening the restaurant months after buying it from Betty Ruiz.Garcia has kept the same Fernandez menu, including the unusual west-side tradition of chicken and tortilla-cut dumplings Thursday nights."
Looking for the best Tex-Mex enchiladas? Here's an insider tip from The Regular Joe's Guide: Fernandez Cafe.
This is one of the rare great places that I've found using a coupon, but were it not for said coupon book, then I may still not know about Fernandez Cafe. It was the summer of 2003, and our neighbor was selling those big books filled with coupons. They're a good deal, if you actually use them. I decided right then and there that the book would be our guide to discovering places in Tarrant County. At the time, Mrs. RJG and I had only lived in the area for about 5 months, and we had exhausted all the restaurants within a reasonable proximity of our home. Of course, we went back to some of Mr. RJG's favorites back in Dallas where I'd lived up through 1993. But those were long journeys and most of the places I once knew were gone, or had deteriorated.
I still remember Mrs. RJG's comment as we pulled into the parking lot of Fernandez Cafe: "Are you sure?". Ya know, that's a good sign right there. You want someone to ask the question "Are you sure?". Adds a little edge to it. Mrs. RJG likes a good hole in the wall, but a dirty or unclean place will put her in a bad mood quickly. Once we passed through the doors, our worries were proven unfounded. Sure, it's an old place, but a well cared one. And clean. And friendly. So far, so good.
It's chips time. Nice red based hot sauce, heavily spiced with a little kick. The chips are superior. They taste like real corn, thin and crispy. Nothing beats homemade corn chips. Mr. RJG then asked what he always asks "You have a hotter salsa?" They do. And boy do they! It's a completely different sauce, loaded with little green chilies. Even better flavor and leaves your mouth on fire. Just the way Mr. RJG likes it. Mrs. RJG was dying. And crying. Awesome.
Then came our dinners. Enchiladas are a test dish for me, similar to spaghetti at an Italian restaurant. My rule remains: If you can't make the basics, then why should I expect that you can make something more difficult?
One of my favorite moments in life comes from having my mouth on fire after eating a blazing hot sauce and then digging into the Mexican rice that is steaming hot. There's few sensations better than that! And the plates were sizzling. Like a fajita platter, only these were enchiladas served on a regular plate. The rice is divine. And a word about the beans. I've gone to charro beans over the years, as most refried beans seem like lard to me. Not Fernandez cafe. The BEST refried beans I've ever had. You can taste the bacon in them. Umm-umm-umm. Damn, I feel like going over there now....
And then there's the enchiladas. Cooked to order. No "tray of enchiladas" here. Are you kidding me? These are so ridiculously flavorful. Especially when your mouth is on fire from the salsa. Mr. RJG has long felt that the trite saying "if it's too spicy, you can't taste it" is an urban myth that is spouted out by those that are either afraid, or haven't built tolerance, for spicy food. I'm here to tell you the facts: You taste your food EVEN MORE. Maybe you're one of those who says that. OK, there are a few people who have medical conditions that don't allow them to eat it very spicy. Otherwise, it's a matter of building up tolerance. It's like anything else. You don't lift 150 pounds without working out. You build up to it. Same with spicy food. Go slow, and add a little more spice each time. Don't do too much at once. Eventually your body adjusts to it. It's worth the effort. Don't be afraid to sweat and have a runny nose. While I'm at it, I will give you another tip that I learned long ago: Want to know why you sweat and have a runny nose? Because your immune system just kicked in. The spice sets it off, thinking something needs to be fixed. Mr. or Mrs. RJG don't get sick - ever. We feel a cold coming on and off we goes for some blazing Thai and Mexican food. Works every time.
Sidetracked again... alright, bottom line here: Fernandez Cafe may be the best Tex-Mex restaurant in DFW. That's quite a statement right there. We haven't been to a fraction of the places in DFW, but of the dozens we have been to, Fernandez is #1. We've been going for 7 years now. It's no small trek either. But when we're craving enchiladas, we go here. And for you vegetarians, they also have many dishes that cater to your dietary needs. I've heard nothing but good things about it.
You can find the Fernandez Cafe on Vickery, about a 1/2 mile west of the ever popular Railhead BBQ. It's tucked into a tiny strip center that time forgot. There's also a Mexican restaurant right next door, as a stand alone building. Anyone been there? Any good? Might not matter, as it would be tough to drive all that way and not get a Fernandez Cafe enchilada.