Villa Montez

Villa MontezVilla Montez is one of my absolute FAVORITE places to eat in Tyler.  A beautiful location, delicious food, and wonderful service all make Villa Montez one of Tyler’s most desirable dining establishments.  Tyler definitely has its fair share of Mexican restaurants, so if you’re like me you may be hesitant to try yet another one…  However, Villa Montez isn’t what you would expect at all.  Instead of identifying itself as strictly Mexican, Villa Montez boasts a Latin menu offering some traditional favorites as well as a few surprises.

Everything I’ve had a Villa Montez has been outstanding, but a few choices in particular have stood out.   Being a tuna lover, I absolutely love the sashimi grade Mazatlan Aji Azado appetizer.  Also, if you are feeling adventurous, I’d recommend sampling the Brazilian Coconut Soup.  For my entree, I adore the Yucatan Sweet Pork Salad.  What could be better than a fresh green salad with guacamole atop a layer of beans, rice and deliciously sweet and tender pork?  It’s perfection!  Villa Montez also offers an impressive selection of choice steaks, and I’ve heard the shrimp enchiladas are to die for.  Make sure to order one of their specialty margaritas with your dinner.  Just like the food, they are spectacular!

I seriously do not have enough wonderful things to say about Villa Montez.  I suggest that anyone who hasn’t tried it out yet to do as as soon as possible, and if you have been before go again!  The recently expanded patio makes the perfect back-drop for a romantic dinner or a night out with family and friends.

Villa Montez
3324 Old Henderson Hwy
Tyler, Texas 75707
(903) 592-9696

Chuy’s Mexican Food

While Tyler was definitely not hurting for another Mexican restaurant, that has not stopped Tylerites from flocking to the brand new Chuy’s on South Broadway. Parking spots are scarce and waiting lists are long, but the food is worth the wait if you’re willing to put up with the crowd.

I’ve always been a believer that, for the most part, restaurant style Mexican food is pretty much the same anywhere you go.  An enchilada is an enchilada, fajitas are fajitas and a quesadilla is a quesadilla.  Therefore, the biggest opportunity Mexican chains have to set themselves apart from the competition is their chips, salsa and margaritas.  Chuy’s obviously understands where I am coming from because their chips and salsa do not disappoint.  They make their salsa fresca fresh every hour, and their chips are always crispy with just the right amount of saltiness. And there’s the creamy jalapeno sauce aka crack dip.  It tastes like ranch on steroids.  Of course, I also have to mention their complimentary queso, beans, and taco meat station every happy hour… Can’t beat that!  I do think Chuy’s house margaritas leave something to be desired (there seems to be a funny, artificial lime flavor that I don’t care for in their mix) but the mojitos are so awesome they almost make up for the margaritas.
The food is pretty good, too.  The chicka-chicka boom-boom enchiladas have been the best thing I’ve ordered so far, with the appetizer platter coming in second.  If you haven’t been to Chuy’s yet (which can’t be very many of you), you definitely should give it a shot.  I’d recommend waiting until an off hour if you want to park remotely close and not wait an hour for a table, but all the hype is well deserved.  I give Chuy’s dos thumbs up!

Mariscos DJ’s

Mariscos DJSWe knew we wanted to go out for dinner this past weekend in celebration of my sister’s birthday.  We’d been hearing so many good things about the new Don Juan’s seafood restaurant, Mariscos DJ’s, so picking the restaurant was a no brainer.

I was a bit concerned that we might not be able to get a table since this was a Saturday night, but the restaurant was actually very quiet.  There were only a handful of other groups there, so we got to choose a prime table on the patio.  I promptly ordered a margarita, and my sis opted for a mojito.

I feel as though I have a pretty good handle on ‘authentic’ Mexican food and feel comfortable ordering and making selections even when limited English definitions are provided.  Mariscos DJ’s is a whole new kind of authentic for me.  Of course I could understand shrimp cocktail, shrimp fajitas, and a few other more commonly known foods, yet there were a few items that didn’t ring even the faintest bell.  So, I put myself to the mercy of our fantastically sweet and kind server and asked him what he’d suggest.

Mariscos DJ'sI don’t know what my food was called or even what exactly it was, but it was very tasty indeed.  I’m going to describe it in a way that may sound odd, but trust me, it was delicious.  You see, I don’t know of an appetizing way to spin the words fried fish chunks, because that’s exactly what mine turned out to be.  It was nugget sized pieces of really tasty fried fish on a plate surrounded by sliced cucumber.  There was also a side of what I discovered was really, really,  hot green sauce.

We were most impressed by our first visit to Mariscos DJ’s.  In addition to the unique food and the warm service, the architectural details of the restaurant building were especially remarkable.  Lots of intricate details were incorporated into the décor making it clear just how much love and hard work went into it.  I am already looking forward to my next visit.

Mariscos DJ'sMariscos DJ’s
1201 E. Ewrin
Tyler Texas 75702
(903) 533-1220

La Plazita Mexican Restaurant

La PlazitaYet another delicious, authentic Mexican restaurant has found its way onto my radar, and I’m sure glad it did.  La Plazita, located on Hwy 64 towards Tyler Pounds Airport, is small, clean, and serves some of the best salsa I’ve ever tasted.  The staff is friendly and helpful, and the food tastes great.  I ate here for the first time this week after hearing rave reviews from my husband and some of his friends.  In fact, my husband has become so obsessed he bought a huge jar of the salsa, brought it home for me to sample, then after I’d tasted it and became hooked he took the whole jar to work with him leaving me pining for more. Aside from the fantastic salsa, I can personally vouch for the empanadas and the enchiladas.  When I return I think I’ll either have the tacos or the carne asada.  La Plazita is open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and is not to be missed by any of my fellow authentic Mexican food lovers.

La PlazitaLa Plazita

11980 State Highway 64 West
Tyler, TX 75704-6938
(903) 526-4193

Mercado’s Mexico Restaurant

mercadosLit up like a giant circus festival with it’s colorful exterior and flashing neon lights, Mercado’s Mexico Restaurant somehow manages to draw a crowd each and every night.  It even seems as though each time we have out-of-town guests come visit, their first request is Mercado’s.  Personally, I just don’t get it.

Mercado’s, and its sister Tyler restaurant Posados, serve ‘Mexican’ food, and are both extremely popular.  However, in my opinion, Mercado’s and Posados are both struggling to make the leap from just decent to good.  The food is decent, the service is decent, the atmosphere is decent-ish…   It’s everything you would expect from a Tex-Mex chain and nothing more.  The food is traditional Tex-Mex that will somehow leave you with an aching, heavy stomach even if you just order the lunch chicken salad.

I’m not sure the best way for me to describe exactly what my problem with Mercado’s is.  I guess I just feel like an enchilada here is exactly like an enchilada at any other Tex-Mex restaurant anywhere else.  It has a highly generic feel to me.   It’s ok food heaped with cheese and grease to make it taste good.   And I don’t deny that I do like some of their stuff…  For example, I like a crispy chicken taco with black beans and rice, but it has taken me years to find the one thing on their menu that my stomach can tolerate.   I love quesadillas, but the cheese is so rubbery and greasy at Mercado’s that I can hardly stand to eat theirs.

Maybe I’m missing something.  If someone can clue me in on what I’m not seeing in Mercado’s and Posados please let me know.  It would make my life much more tolerable, because so many people I know like to eat at Mercado’s and Posados so often.  To me, it just seems that we have such a wonderful selection of fresh, delicious, authentic Mexican food around here, there is no reason to settle for an impostor – especially if it’s an impostor that will give you a stomach ache.

Mercado’s Mexico Restaurant
2214 W Southwest Loop 323
Tyler, TX 75701-8433
(903) 534-1754

Los Gueros Taqueria

Los GuerosTyler has a pretty decent selection of small, mostly Mexican, hole in the wall restaurants that are pretty darn good and definitely worth checking out.  Like I mentioned before, I am a fan of authentic Mexican food.  A big fan.  I like Tex-Mex if it is good and fresh, but not any of that frozen, generic tasting, cheese loaded stuff found in far too many places around here.  I much prefer a simple taco to a plate of enchiladas, and how about some free beans instead of a basket of chips and salsa?   Actually, I love chips and salsa, but it’s nice to change it up on occasion.

This brings me to notable hole in the wall numero uno, Los Gueros Taqueria on Vine Street.  My husband has been raving about this place for years…  Even claiming that their (free!) beans are better than his mothers.  Finally, I agreed to meet him for lunch there this week, and WOW have I ever been missing out.  You walk in, order, then take a seat and wait for your food to arrive.  I ordered one #7 Taco which I believe was something like beef, avocado, and melted white cheese and a small Maria’s salad which was lettuce, tomato, avocado, chicken, beans, carrots served with dressing.  We helped ourselves to the free beans, took a seat and waited for our food.   The food came quickly, and everything was just as delicious as I expected. I was especially impressed with the salad, which was HUGE and a meal in itself.

Los Gueros Taqueria
929 South Vine Avenue
Tyler, TX 75701-1463
(903) 526-8226

Lindo Mexico Restaurant

Lindo MexicoNotable hole in the wall numero dos would be another taqueria, Lindo Mexico on East Gentry. The thing that makes this place notable is the freaking unbelievable prices. For two crispy chicken tacos with rice and beans and a set up of chips with salsa and queso the price is only $3.99. And the food is great! This is another place my husband talked me into trying, and I am so glad he did. Also, they serve breakfast and the parking lot is usually full so it must be pretty good.

Lindo Mexico
2410 East Gentry Parkway
Tyler, TX 75708-9072
(903) 526-5464

Taqueria El Lugar

El LugarNumero tres isn’t so much of a hole in the wall anymore, though it did start out that way…  El Lugar – what every hole in the wall dreams of becoming, started with one small location on Gentry, but now has locations on Troup, in Bullard, and on 5th Street.  I’ve never eaten anything from El Lugar other that the legendary Super Quesadilla, but I’ve heard everything on the menu is delish.  One major drawback is they don’t accept credit cards – cash only.  At least this is the case at the Gentry location which happens to be closest to my office.  If they took cards I would eat there MUCH more than I currently do…  I just never carry cash.

Taqueria El Lugar
1726 E Gentry Parkway
Tyler, TX 75702
(903) 597-4717

Taqueria El Lugar
3320 Troup Highway
Tyler, TX 75701-8395
(903) 526-1188

Taqueria El Lugar
2121 East 5th Street
Tyler, TX 75701-3515
(903) 526-6118

Taqueria El Lugar
155 US Highway 69 N
Bullard, TX 75757
(903) 894-9242

Don Juan Mexican Restaurant

DSC04890Tyler definitely has its fair share of Mexican restaurants, some good and others not so good.  Don Juan’s, however, is one of the great ones.  In fact, I am willing to make the proclamation right now that it is my favorite Mexican food restaurant in Tyler.  Of course, I love Villa Montez, too, but that is technically Latin food, not Mexican so I don’t consider them to be in the same genre.

With two locations, both on Erwin Street, Don Juan’s proximity to the hospitals and downtown offices make it a very popular lunch spot.  The biggest downfall to their location on the square is the limited parking, but it is so worth making a couple of loops around the Square or taking a short walk to get there.

Don Juan'sThe location on the Square, my favorite of their two locations, is brightly decorated with painted chairs and lots of colorful pinatas.  Though everything I have eaten there has been fab, my favorite thing to get there is two pork, cilantro and onion tacos with a small shrimp cocktail…  Soooo good.  I also love the sopes, the tortas, the quesadillas, the queso with sausage, and pretty much everything else on the menu.  I know Mercado’s has lots of fans out there, but I honestly don’t see how it even compares to Don Juan’s in service, ambiance, and food taste and quality.  To me, Mercado’s screams generic Tex-Mex while Don Juan’s offers deliciously authentic Mexican food.

I hope I didn’t offend any Mercado’s lovers out there, but I just had to do my part in spreading the word on the awesomeness of Don Juan’s, and unfortunately, Mercado’s was my collateral damage.  I know a lot of people are scared or intimidated by authentic Mexican food, but they shouldn’t be!  It really is fantastic food, and their Margaritas aren’t shabby either.

Don Juan on the Square
113 East Erwin Street
Tyler, TX (903) 526-0702‎

Don Juan
1313 East Erwin Street
Tyler, TX (903) 526-2999‎