photos c/o John Shipes Photography
Disclaimer: Cuellars' Fajita Ranch is a client of my agency, Gangway Advertising - which is why I asked Cody to graze the menu on my behalf. I agree with him that the White Wings are ah-ma-zing! I hope you enjoy his review! XO. Cynthia Smoot
The First Family of Tex-Mex opens Cuellars' Fajita Ranch in Plano
by Cody Neathery
Richly embedded into the fabric of not only the city of Dallas, but the entire state of Texas, is a family who stands out as a true treasure that not only helped define, but helped sculpt the food genre we now celebrate as Tex-Mex. Since 1928, in the small town of Kaufman outside of Dallas, the Cuellar family has paved a way in society and laid the groundwork of our heritage by means of food. This became pivotal for the Hispanic culture by continuing an introduction and by celebrating a vibrant culture's culinary landscape with eventual expansion as a chain of restaurants we know as El Chico. Since then, their business blossomed across Texas and subsequently, the South and Southwest region as one of the earliest Tex-Mex chains. Continuing the success found over the decades, Gilbert Cuellar Jr. and family recently opened their newest concept, complete with sacred familiarities and new ideas in the suburbia of Plano.
Cuellars' Fajita Ranch opened the doors of its massive barn-like structure in Plano last month with a creative energy of intertwining pieces of their Oak Cliff staple El Corazon de Tejas with pieces of outdoorsy wood-fired cuisine described as "Ranch-Mex." Touring the restaurant provides a visual history of family pictures and of their earliest restaurants nailed upon the wall. It's easy to slip into a family atmosphere they created from genuine love of their craft. Before we begin, order a savory watermelon margarita, a noted beverage from El Corazon, and relax. Among the appetizers of queso and stuffed peppers your eyes may rest upon their White Wings option. These small boneless pieces of chicken breast are similar in size to a pork medallion, except these are heartily stuffed with Jack cheese and jalapeños. Once stuffed, they're wrapped in bacon and sautéed with your choice of buffalo or chipotle-BBQ sauce or a tangy dry rub.
When traversing through an extensive menu of Ranch-Mex, recommended is to try a plate off their meat-centric portion. Offering beef, sow, or fowl, the mesquite-grilled chicken is one that co-owner, Gilbert Cuellar, personally suggested. Topped with chipotle sauce, the meat is graciously layered with spinach that provides an earthy taste then quickly punctuated with the smothering melted cheese. If the setting has you in the mood for something a bit more south of he border, the tacos nortenos will settle this craving. Cradled in the fold of handmade flour tortillas is your choice of meat, fajita chicken or beef, although requested for the first time to their knowledge was smoked brisket as the filling. These simple ingredients alone would be satisfactory to any taco fan, but when taking it up a notch with a thin layer of refried beans, cheese, and avocado certainly ensures this to be one of the best tacos in the area. Cuellars' Fajita Ranch doesn't necessarily reinvent wheel, because for one, they helped invent it. On the other hand, they provide culinary proof that their take on Mexican food is still relevant while still maintaining the same quality as it has over the years.
Cuellars' Fajita Ranch is located at 3310 N Central Expy, Plano, TX 75074, (972) 905-5638, http://fajitaranch.com. The restaurant is currently serving dinner only, but will launch weekend brunch service on August 13. We will be checking back in on that!
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