Tuesday, February 3, 2009
*** CLOSED *** Herrera's ~ Carrollton, Texas
In the 1980s, me and my running pack would occasionally head down to Maple Avenue to devour some delicious Tex-Mex. That's where we would find our quartet of favorites, and they're all still operating to this day: Herrera's, Avila's, Rosita's, and Ojeda's. This was the era when Tex-Mex was a burgeoning phenomena, and long lines greeted visitors to all of these places. So much was the rage, that even National Geographic featured the original Herrera's when they inhabited a tiny pueblo hut.
So when the RJG relocated to Carrollton in 1991, I could not believe my luck that Herrera's was going to open their first location outside of Dallas, and their 4th overall, right near where I lived! Situated in a former Mexican restaurant that no one seems to remember, Herrera's became an overnight sensation in the area. Today, some 18 years later, it's a surviving institution in an era where restaurants barely last out more than 2 years. When visiting back to the "old neighborhood" on trips from Colorado, Herrera's was a regular stop. Ironically, now that we are back in DFW, we probably eat less at Herrera's then we did as visitors from another state. But the main reason for that is the Herrera's chain has always stayed east of I-35E / Stemmons Fwy.
Herrera's version of Tex-Mex is from a different time and mindset, and is definitely geared towards the "gringo", though over the years they've added more traditional fare. Which means it's kind of "heavy Mexican", so be prepared to waddle out. But the RJG remains steadfastly old school, and places like Herrera's will always have a special place in my heart (presuming it's not clogged afterwards).
To the routine we go:
Chips - always excellent. Real corn taste and crispy. You can eat them alone, without salsa, and be happy.
Hot sauce: Huge plus, and always has been. Of the quartet of restaurants mentioned above, Herrera's has always been the most reliable in delivering taste and a fiery quotient. I've noticed a tendency for the Carrollton store to wimp out more than the originals on/near Maple, but it still doesn't require the RJG standard "Do you have a hotter one?" I also like that they deliver the sauce in large containers, and they provide separate bowls. This keeps the conversations going, without the RJG constantly eyeing some poor passer-by and yelling frantically "CAN I GET MORE?"
Bean and bacon soup: The one and only. This is complimentary with your meal. A delicious soup made from whole beans and bacon. Many places call this "charro beans" and can be used as a substitute for refried beans. But none is better than Herrera's, and I prefer it as a free appetizer.
Entrees: Stick with the basics. Highly recommended is the soft cheese taco, basically a flour tortilla smothered in a delicious melted yellow cheese. Their ground beef is heavily spiced, and I love their tacos (even though they do use some filler, I like the mushy consistency). And they actually separate the taco from the rest of the platter - hooray!! We do not recommend anything to do with chicken. The RJG's Mom calls it "rooster"; the wife says it's "gross" and I have to agree. I don't know what Herrera's does with the white meat, but can't say I've ever seen it in one of their dishes. Mrs. RJG also recommends their chorizo and eggs.
Beans: Heavy and lardy. Get something else to substitute.
Rice: Decent, but tastes a little too much like "rice" if you know what I mean. Somewhat akin to how chicken can taste "chickeny". Get it? They could stand for some more seasoning.
I think in 1991, Herrera's had to be considered one of the best Tex-Mex restaurants around. In 2009, Herrera's is more in the middle of the pack, but still second quadrant. Does that mean Herrera's has gone downhill? Not at all. They haven't changed, but the competition has, and we're all the victors for that.
You can find the Carrollton location of Herrera's on Josey, not far south from Keller Springs Rd. (north of Belt Line). We've also been to the original on Maple (not technically the original as they moved across the street) and the one on Denton Dr., just off of Maple. They once had one in Addison on Restaurant Row (Belt Line), but couldn't compete with the stiff competition. And I think they also closed the one near Bachman Lake in the old Joy Inn Chinese restaurant spot. We've never been to their South Dallas location off of Illinois.
A nice mini-chain that is a Dallas institution. The RJG still recommends it!