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The Best New Restaurants in Dallas 2012

Which kitchens were the cream of this year's crop?
photography by Kevin Marple

photography by Kevin Marple


Last year, Tex-Mex was pushed to the side by a swell of restaurants offering authentic regional Mexican cuisine. Mole, huitlacoche, and guajillo peppers replaced chili con carne, cilantro, and jalapeños. While the trend was a treat for many well-traveled diners, restaurateurs quickly learned that “authentic” translated into “expensive.” Classic Mexican cooking is complicated and time consuming. It wasn’t long before many restaurants added tacos and enchiladas to improve their bottom lines.

Chef Gabriel DeLeon was shot down early in the Mexican food revolution. He opened Masaryk Modern Mexican Kitchen and Tequila Lounge in 2009 and closed nine months later. And he’s no newcomer to the cuisine. His family has been involved in Esparza’s Restaurante Mexicano in Grapevine and La Margarita in Irving for almost 25 years. As soon as DeLeon was tapped as executive chef at Mi Dia From Scratch, he smartly divided the menu into three styles: upscale regional Mexican cuisine, Tex-Mex, and Santa Fe-inspired dishes.

DeLeon is obsessed with doing things the hard way. Almost everything—from the chili powder rubbed on the duck to the blue corn tortillas to the marshmallows in the Mexican s’mores—is made in his kitchen. His devotion to the “From Scratch” part of the restaurant’s name comes through in every bite.

Mexican enthusiasts will find a true cochinita pibil typical of those served in the Yucatan Peninsula. Pork shank is rubbed with achiote, wrapped in a banana leaf, and slow-roasted. On the side you’ll find a scoop of black beans and toasted avocado leaves alongside a pile of esquites, DeLeon’s rendition of traditional elotes.

DeLeon satiates snobs from Santa Fe with his Ox Eyes Stacked Enchiladas. Blue corn tortillas are layered with beef, cheese, and onions and topped with red and green chile sauces and a fried egg. Break the yolk, and, as it oozes down into the rest of the dish, it creates a potent, spicy protein sauce guaranteed to cure any ailment.

Guacamole is prepared tableside, and the server offers more than a dozen ingredients to customize your dip. DeLeon also offers street tacos. My favorite is the grilled skirt steak, onion, roasted jalapeño, queso fresco, and micro cilantro on corn tortillas made—as the name of the restaurant promises—from scratch.

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