Review: El FenixAuthor: Show | Filed under: Food Reviews, Location: Arlington, TX, On The Road
1620 E. Copeland Road
Arlington, Texas 76011
This place bills itself as “the original Tex-Mex,” claiming to have started the so-called Tex-Mex movement back in 1918 and that their style has “been copied, but never duplicated.” Considering this high (self) billing, I was a bit surprised to see that lunch hour on a Sunday — with a home Cowboys game at 3:15 and a home Rangers World Series game that night, mind you — was pretty light. Both of those teams I mentioned play in venues that are within walking distance of the restaurant. I sat right down at the bar but noticed there was no wait for regular seating either. A bad omen, perhaps? Or just a haphazard coincidence? Either was possible. The atmosphere was basically exactly as you’d expect from a Tex-Mex place, and props to them for having three flat screen TVs hanging inside the bar (it was a U-shape, so each side of the bar was provided its own view of an HD NFL game).
What I Got: El Fenix Dinner; $13.99. It has: Guacamole, one cheese enchilada, one meat taco (I went ground beef; a decidedly boring choice, I know, but I like it), one soft cheese taco and two tamales topped with chili con carne. Rice and refried beans come as sides.
The problem most certainly wasn’t the quantity, as that was a pretty big portion of food for that price. It was the quality that was lacking.
Look, it wasn’t horrible. As WIBIA might say, I wasn’t offended by anything. I just…man, for saying it’s never been “duplicated” I felt an awful lot like I’ve had this meal dozens of times in the Indianapolis area. The cheese (queso, basically) that was melted over the enchilada was actually pretty good, but the chili con carne was bland and had no spice. The beef taco was a run-of-the-mill taco and the shell didn’t even have a decent crunch. I could have made it myself, except I’d at the very least actually fill the shell with a decent helping of meat instead of a minuscule spoonful. I feel like the tamales might have been done pretty well, but the chili con carne had already ruined them. Same thing for the soft cheese taco, which was also buried below the lackluster con carne (that taco is at the top of the plate, going horizontally, under the sauce). But, really, what’s the point of having a cheese soft taco unless what covers it makes it worthwhile?
Would I Buy It Again? No, I wouldn’t. As I said above, nothing was offensive or worthy of being sent back, but it was average at best. Considering I’m an Indiana resident saying that about a Tex-Mex place in freaking Texas, that’s pretty bad. I also didn’t care for the non-flexibility of the combinations. A lot of the stuff I wanted was listed on different dishes, and I couldn’t go a la carte. For example, I’m not a huge fan of guacamole, but chose this one because the offerings with sour cream (which I prefer) didn’t have enough items I really wanted. I don’t understand what the point is of having like twenty different combinations if you can’t be sure that all of them will cater to every customer. If I’m a boring Midwesterner who only wants some combination of burritos, enchiladas and tacos with sour cream and not guac, why can’t I do that? I wouldn’t even be picky on the meats in that case. Why not just assign prices to an a la carte menu with all these items? It saves menu space and each customer can happily choose an item. But it’s cool, I won’t have the issue again, because I’m not going back. I should have found it a bit curious that it was the closest Tex-Mex place to my hotel but my concierge — who knew I was going on foot — didn’t say a word about it when I asked for Tex-Mex restaurants (I ended up going anyway because I was pressed for time that day).