jorges_relleno Chile relleno. photography by Matthew Shelley

I’m generally wary of restaurant imports, because I feel like Dallas chefs and restaurateurs get this city—and our tastes—in ways that outsiders can’t. Not that Dallas diners are so dramatically different than the rest of the world, but we like what we like, and, sometimes, we don’t like strangers. Besides that, who wouldn’t want to support the local guys?

That said, I’m even more wary of Tex-Mex imports, because I’ve yet to be impressed by one (case in point: Abuelo’s). Besides that, we have some pretty damn good Tex-Mex here, thanks to founding families like the Cuellars (El Chico) and Martinezes (El Fenix), who paved the way for today’s favorites such as Mia’s and Herrera’s.

So I admit that I walked into Jorge’s Tex-Mex Cafe in One Arts Plaza with a tortilla chip on my shoulder. Jorge’s is the latest in a chain of restaurants opened by the Veloz family; the first one opened in Midland in 1957, and various members of the Veloz clan operate locations in Midland, Amarillo, and Austin. The Dallas location is the fanciest of all—“fancy shmancy!” reads the web site—and it’s run by Jorge Veloz, wife Angie, and stepdaughter Michelle Mireles, who have attempted to create an atmosphere that would please the “social Dallas population.” And, unlike many of the Dallas Tex-Mex establishments, Jorge’s uses low-fat oils instead of lard, and here crispy tacos and flautas are grilled instead of fried.

I admit that on a cool night, with live music playing in the circular drive, sipping a Splendita on the rocks—approx. 160-calorie margarita made with Splenda—in a wicker chair on Jorge’s patio sounds like a good idea. I’m a fan of the development. I’ve often enjoyed a glass of wine and a cheese plate on the patio at Dali Wine Bar, and recently I had one of the best meals of my life at Tei-An. Sadly, I can’t say I had one of the best meals of my life at Jorge’s.

jorges_600 A rainbow of frozen cocktails at the bar. photography by Matthew Shelley

For starters, the salsa was blended with such fury that it was foamy, although it did have the taste of fresh tomatoes. We dined on a Tuesday, which is $1 mini taco bar night, so we ordered four mini tacos as appetizers: chicken, carne guisada (stewed beef), carne con chile verde (stewed pork in spicy green chile sauce), and brisket. When they say “mini,” they mean mini—even a girl can down it in one bite. And it took us five minutes to figure out which one was which—and, even then, we only properly identified one (the chicken) by sight. By taste, too, the tacos were indistinguishable, and the baby hard taco shells reminded me of semi-stale, store-bought versions we used to make tacos when I was a kid.

Entrées fared better. Spinach enchiladas were fat with fresh—not frozen—spinach and smothered with mild green chile sauce and cheese. A side of grilled, fresh veggies, such as zucchini and squash, was a nice surprise, especially because the refried beans were bland. However, the Mexican rice, that oft-forgotten side, was actually quite tasty. The ground beef-stuffed chile relleno arrived swaddled in a delicate egg white batter, so it was fairly light—and spicy. The heat from the poblano pepper left my lips tingling. Also on the plate was a single mound of perfectly fresh green guacamole that had me wishing we’d ordered some guac to start.

The ice cream burrito dessert—fried flour tortilla stuffed with the tiniest scoop of ice cream and served with an enormous scoop of ice cream, all “drizzled” with strawberry something-or-other—was a total disaster. Don’t even bother. Instead, have another Splendita on the rocks. That’s more worth the calories.

Get contact information for Jorge’s Tex-Mex Cafe.