El Corazon de Tejas Revises its Name

The new name change is already in place for El Corazon Vintage Tex-Mex (photo by Rick Lopez)
The new name change is already in place for El Corazon Vintage Tex-Mex (photo by Rick Lopez)

Either El Corazon de Tejas is having an identity crisis, or it’s finally getting in touch with its feminine side.

This week, the restaurant rechristened itself as El Corazon (Vintage Tex Mex), its second name since a top-to-bottom rebranding was unveiled in February to showcase the Cuellar family’s  “progressive” vision of Tex-Mex.

This week, a new sign for the restaurant went up, replacing Ed Hardy-style signage with a classic Southwestern motif. “A lot of people thought it looked like a tattoo shop,” general manager Mariana Cuellar Baldridge said Friday. “This is the sign we were waiting to put up. Our family has been making Tex-Mex for more than 100 years, so this name pays homage to my great grandmother’s recipes.”

This is the fourth incarnation of the Tex-Mex institution in Oak Cliff. It opened as El Chico No. 8 in 1955 before it became Tejano Restaurant in 1977.

I’m not sure this new name will stick. Many of my friends who grew up in Oak Cliff still call it “Tejano’s,” even though they’ve dined there several times since the relaunch. My gringo friends also think “Tejano” is easier to pronounce than “corazon.” Luckily, none of this offends the management.

“We’re happy that they came to us since we were Tejano, but we want them to know us as El Corazon,” Baldridge said. “It’s good they still come by.”

There’s no changes in ownership, but the menu’s undergone a few revisions. For instance, the new portobello fajitas weren’t selling at first.

“As soon as we took them off the menu, everyone wanted them again,” Baldridge said. “But anything that’s ever been on our menu — even things that were taken off — we still make it.”

Monikers aside, there’s a bigger explanation behind the name game. El Corazon is the last restaurant owned by the descendants of Adelaida “Mama” Cuellar, whose five sons created the El Chico franchise in Dallas.

“This restaurant was started by a woman, and the word ‘Tejano’ doesn’t go with Mexican food anymore,” Baldridge said. “But we’re all about ‘the heart’ now. And we wanted to put a woman back on the stage.”

Rick Lopez lives near the Bishop Arts District. And already misses the stuffed avocado.