Javelina Owner Matt Post.

Dallas Man Claims His Tex-Mex Joint Javelina in New York is The Real Deal

Matt Post, a Woodrow Wilson High School and Dallas Tex-Mex restaurant graduate, opens Javelina in New York. Apparently his Tex-Mex is driving New Yorkers loco.

If you grew up in Texas, moved to New York, and tried to find comfort in a Tex-Mex combination plate, you know what I am about to write. Many restauranteurs have tried to open Tex-Mex joints but have failed. What comes naturally to those of us who worship lard-based dishes and chili without beans is a stretch for New York “chefs” who are hell-bent on spinning their own version of Tex-Mex.

Let’s call it a draw: Texans can’t make bagels and New Yorkers fail to effectively reproduce a simple plate of cheese enchiladas.

A few weeks ago, I received an email with “Dallas native starts a Tex-Mex craze in NYC” in the subject line. I took the bait and opened the note.

Blah, blah, blah, “Matt Post is a Dallas native who” blah, blah, blah, “launched New York City’s current Tex-Mex craze when he opened Javelina, a high quality ingredient-driven Tex-Mex restaurant” blah, blah, blah “Since Javelina opened, the city has become obsessed with Tex-Mex” blah, blah.

A few days later, I ran across this story in the New York Post titled “The Hot New Queso Dish That is Driving New Yorkers Loco.” The dish? Bob Armstrong Dip, a signature item on the menu at Matt’s El Rancho in Dallas and Austin.

I imagined a New Yorker cover illustration showing crazed New Yorkers fighting over vats of orange tubs filled with melted Velveeta. I perused the Javelina menu. I decided to check the pulse and called the owner, Matt Post.

I also dispatched two Dallas gals who grew up eating at Mia’s, Mi Cocina, and Matt’s to check it out. The day after I interviewed Post, New York Times critic Pete Wells ripped Javelina a new quesadilla. His issues were mostly with erratic service and cold queso, two irritants not easily dismissed. But what does he know? He refers to “chile sauce” on top of the enchiladas when every food writer south of the Mason-Dixon line knows that it is chili sauce.

But I’m getting off topic.

Post has no prior restaurant experience. He hired Rich Caruso as his chef. Caruso, an Italian from Brooklyn, graduated from The New York Restaurant School and ran the kitchen at the NYCs popular Rosa Mexicana before he was picked off by Hill Country, the Texas-style barbecue joint in the city. Post nabbed Caruso, and they set out across Texas to develop the menu.

Javelina opened in Gramercy Park at the beginning of March. It has been mobbed since the first day. Post was smart. He rounded up over 300 Texans and conducted 25 private tastings. The testers were given ballots and asked for feedback. Caruso adjusted recipes, according to the comments. Tweets, Facebook posts, and Instagram notices spread across the boroughs. Texans came, and they are still coming.

My Dallas gals respected Caruso’s efforts at Javelina. They admit their tastebuds are frantic for anything remotely reminiscent of home. Here is what they had to say about Javelina.

Everything was very rich and packed with toppings and ingredients. The brisket tacos weren’t crisp like Mia’s; they were more Mexican-style with lots of toppings which made it a little more soggy.

The queso at first had a Velveeta-y taste, but it may have been our taste buds adjusting after a queso draught that New Yorker Texans are all too accustomed to. Margaritas were on point and tasted like home. Fajitas were served on a steaming dish; the steak was perfect and better than typical Dallas joint. Chiles rellenos was star dish – deep fried and Austin-style like Matt’s which is plentiful with pecans.

We WILL say that we never crave Tex-Mex in New York because it’s not an option. But even after overdosing last night we want it again.

I’m waiting to hear from other New Yorker Texans. Post and Caruso have something on the menu from all regions of Texas. Check out the photo gallery above.  Anybody else been? And Pete, if you want to dine with my experts, they’d love to educate your palate.

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Comments

  • Salzburg

    Hey Nancy. It’s good enough for me. I grew up in Dallas ( interned at D!) and moved to Brooklyn five years ago. We waited forever to get in but the queso is just like Dallas.

  • Spencef Michlin

    I grew up in Dallas and took a job in NY in 1968, planning to stay for two years. Stayed 15. The only Mexican restaurants I knew were Xochitle in midtown, which served pretty good Mexico City style food and the execrable Tortilla Flats in the Village, which served horrid “Tex Mex.” Years after I returned to Dallas, someone took me to Rosa Mexicana just after it opened. It was really quite good then but I never returned. When you’re a Texan viisiting NY, what’s the point? Did love the margaritas and guacamole at El Parador on 34th St., though,

    • firstgentrekkie

      Tortilla Flats did have one redeeming feature — it served Dr Pepper. I, too, grew up in Dallas and moved to NYC in 1968 to go to college. I did not know about Xochitle, but I made many a pilgrimage to Christopher and 10th.

  • Stephanie Casey

    Tortilla Flats and Burritoville were the only places I could get authentic Tex-Mex chips when I lived there in the mid-90s. I almost had a breakdown when T Flats stopped frying them in-house and instead purchased huge bags from who-knows-where. Then it was always Burritoville where “chips were free to stay but not to go.”

  • threecurl

    “Chili without beans” is repetitive. If there are beans, it’s not chili.

  • NYC-TexMex

    I recently moved to Manhattan from living 30 years in Dallas. Went to Javelina prior to the NYT review, and unfortunately Pete Wells is spot on. The queso is OK…most other things are not. Service was erratic as noted in the review. Salsa was flavorless. Actually, the sauce on the cheese enchiladas was indeed “Chile Sauce”, which seemed closer to a bad/burned version of a red chile enchilada sauce…I wanted a good chili con carne, not to be found. Also, when I asked for a beef puffy taco…rather than pork (who has ever heard of a PORK PUFFY TACO!?!?!?) I was told that the “Chef” would not alter his recipe. Real Tex-Mex restaurants, even when they say no substitutions on their menus, will let you make substitutions. I tried to piece together a beef puffy taco by suggesting that they could use picadillo from their chile rellenos…only to be told that the chile rellenos are pre-made and they can’t use that beef. All in all, a highly disappointing experience…will not return. On a brighter side, El Original recently opened on 10th Ave & 50th. Looks and feels like home. Lisa Fain (writer of Homesick Texan fame) consulted on the menu, and it works. For New Yorkers they just might not get it when we talk about what we want in Tex-Mex, but El Original delivers. It is not 100% home (I have to fly LGA to DAL for that), but 85% is better than anything else right now.

  • JulieA

    People who are professional writers should know and use proper grammar – it’s “restaurateur,” not “restauranteur” and “draught” is a British term for draft beer, not for a “drought.” Third article I’ve read today with spelling and grammatical errors by “supposed” professional writers. Sad.

  • Jodie Zoeller Bloom

    You should also check out El Original in NYC. Homesick Texan blogger Lisa Fain is part of this one. It’s gotten some good and some bad reviews. As a follower of Lisa’s blog and owner of some of her books, I have to say that if she’s involved, it is bound to be authentic Tex-Mex.

  • Garland Boy

    Javelina was good, but the service is an issue and they don’t even serve iced tea (a criminal offense for a Tex-Mex place). El Original is much better and more authentic. They even have sopapillas and pralines! If I closed my eyes, I felt like I was back in Dallas. Both places have been unfairly butchered in extremely snobby fashion by the big-name NYC reviewers, but I don’t care. I’m just ecstatic to have quality Tex-Mex in NYC!

  • Kevin Gardner

    Underwhelmed by two visits to El Original and one to Javelina for many of the reasons cited by others here, including the poor service, lack of spice and modest depth of flavor. Both places do some things right (flour tortillas, queso, drinks) but mains & sides need real work — no way they’d be around long in the DFW area. Hoping for improvements given the people involved and need for decent Tex-Mex here.

  • Liz

    Born and raised in San Antonio. Been on the east coast for 15 years now. It’s a shame they call this Tex-Mex. Chips were stale and you only received a tiny portion. Queso was alright. Started off good then turned into a yellow paste within minutes. My margarita on the rocks had no rocks and there was one sad jalapeño floating around like a lost life saver. Service was terrible. Tacos were overpriced and they didn’t even have fresh flour tortillas. Blasphemy. No $8 combo platter here either, kids. Be ready to shell out $30 for mediocrity. It my be called Tex-Mex but nothing felt like home. I far prefer Lobo in Cobble Hill when I get homesick…or I just drive to Jersey and pick up some Velveeta and Rotel and make my own.

  • Susan

    I am from Dallas, but lived in NYC for several years and back in Dallas now. I have many Texan turned New Yorker friends who have tried Javelina and I’ve heard only rave reviews!! I’ll go myself one of these days, I’m sure!