Saturday, December 27, 2008

Fresco's Cocina ~ Watauga, Texas

When we first visited Fresco's, I think it was sometime in 2003, they were some sort of a hybrid between a QSR (Quick Service Restaurant) and a full service establishment. To say it was a confusing concept would be an understatement. We never knew what we were supposed to do. Order up front, but they would bring you the food. You were on your own for the chips and salsa, but they got you the drink. In a nutshell, it was a mess. And we vowed not to bother for a second visit. Fortunately for us, we don't listen to our own rules...

About a year later, Mrs. RJG was with a group of neighbors who had a girl's night out over at Fresco's. Not surprising since they have excellent happy hour specials and live music (or they used to at least - they may still, I'm not sure). And my wife reported back that they had wisely dumped the counter service and committed to a full service concept. So we waltzed back up there the next Saturday... and have been regulars for the last 4+ years and counting.

There are a few things that make Fresco's special, and worth the journey to Watauga, if not already nearby. Foremost is their "trio of sauces" that you can request to supplement the salsa that comes out with the chips. Actually, even if you didn't know about the "trio", the primary sauce is a medium heat level chipotle concoction that is unique and quite excellent. Amongst the trio, they offer a fiery chile de arbol,a honey jalapeno and a blazing hot habanero. The latter is a new addition, replacing a tomato based mild sauce. As you probably know by now, the RJG loves it spicy, and the chile de arbol made us happy enough. But the habanero clinches the deal. This may be the hottest salsa I've ever had at a Mexican restaurant - at least of those that weren't custom designed for me by a sadistic, angry chef. The flavors for everything I tasted were flying everywhere. My senses were alive. The Mrs. couldn't go on with the habanero - too much she said, and settled quite nicely with the other two.

Another aspect of Fresco's that we both enjoy is the high quality of the enchiladas. Their sauces are uniquely flavored, and aren't "run of the mill" tasting. And while I have no delusions that each enchilada platter is homemade, I will say that they are exquisitely prepared each time, and they're always ready for the large crowds they seem to get. The rice and beans are both superb as well.

And finally, and this is in their signature line, they really do have great margaritas. As I've said many times before, us denizens of DFW are spoiled when it comes to margaritas. Travel anywhere else in the US, and the frozen margarita is almost always a disappointment.

If you have friends in town, who like to drink and eat quality Tex-Mex, Fresco's is as good as any place to take them. Give them enough margaritas, and they'll be your best friend. Or, if you don't want them on your doorstep... take them to El Chico instead.

If you didn't know any better, you could be forgiven for thinking Fresco's is a national chain. They have the corporate signage, big restaurant and huge crowds that screams corporate. But once you sit down, it suddenly seems more local. This is clearly run by someone who cares about your experience, and not from some office tower hundreds of miles away, with a disgruntled manager running the place into the ground. I believe Watauga is their flagship, and they've recently opened one up in Burleson. If they continue to operate as they have done so far, there's no reason to think that Fresco's couldn't be one of DFW's most known Tex-Mex establishments.

And to think, we had never intended on going back. Looks like their shift from quick casual was a life saving one indeed.

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