Rafa’s Cafe Mexicano – Dallas, TX

The Tex-Mex landscape in Dallas is bountiful and at times overwhelming. There are so many great places to eat in what many consider the birthplace of popular Tex-Mex. Long time resident Rafa’s Cafe Mexicano on Lovers Lane between the Tollway and Inwood certainly deserves your visit as it is my favorite in Dallas. 

Years ago a I met a friend for lunch in this little spot in the Highland Park area. I had never heard of Rafa’s although I was born and raised in Dallas.  I thought I knew the Dallas food scene, especially when it came to Tex-Mex. After my experience, I realized I was missing out all these years and quickly moved Rafa’s up my list. It’s all because of plate #19. 

The #19 is perfect. And very reasonably priced. For lunch it runs $9.99. Although it’s listed as a lunch special, you can still order the #19 for dinner for $2.00 more. A deal even at $11.99.  Why?  You get a small carne asada steak, cheese enchilada, sport nachos, rice and beans. The plate is amazing!! 

The carne is what keeps me coming back. The flavor of the beefy steak with a kiss of sweetness is the product of a long marinade. I’ve asked on multiple visits about the marinade. The only confirmations I’ve gotten were soy sauce, red wine, red wine vinegar, pineapple juice, and garlic. Someday I winger the proper marinade recipe. This carne is the best in Dallas!  

The cheese enchilada is also perfect. The Rafa’s chili con carne and melted cheese that tops the enchilada is the perfect compliment to the carne asada. They have the best chili con carne. The deep slow roasted flavors from the chili and beef zing with each cheesy bite of the enchilada. Even the sport nachos and retried beans are great. 

I miss Rafa’s. I’ve been there dozens and dozens of times since my discovery. Now that I live in Austin, Rafa’s helps me appreciate those trips to Dallas more. When I am in town, I try to squeeze in a #19 whenever possible. And you should too. 

The origins of Tex-Mex were the marriage of Mexican food and cowboy trail food. And the #19 is the perfect example of that.  You get a great steak and enchilada topped with chili made in the traditions that the old cowboys ate at the end of a long day. However the margaritas or beers are a welcome addition. 
F – 3.5

V – 3.5

R – 3.5

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