There is a new Tex-Mex restaurant in Allen, and it is seated in that “cursed location”. You know the location, in front of the Pyramid Hotel where several previous restaurants have met their ultimate demise. Driving up, this restaurant looks quite impressive, with colorful signage, and an electronic billboard that boasts about their award winning, best fajitas in town.
Walking in it feels like a tourist trap. There is a little Mercado for guests to shop, as well as some children’s rides and games. This place is very family friendly, and is decorated with children in mind. There is even a special door for the little ones to enter the restaurant. While waiting for dinner, the kids can be taken into the mercado to look around, which means the parents might be leaving with a sombrero or two. The ambiance is loud, which if you have ever been to chuck-e-cheese, it is kind of like that. The kids like that they can be themselves, and parents like that they are not run out of the restaurant for their child screaming or running around. There is even a soft serve ice cream for the kids that comes with the meal.
The food has a very chain like quality. Their hand sliced fajita meat tastes like it came from Tyson. There is a butter lime cilantro sauce for the fajitas that tries to cover this fact up, but it is apparent that the “handmade” items are not actually from scratch. The first thing that patrons are served are the chips and salsa. They have three salsas, and the waitress might not tell you which one is which. The first salsa is a white “salsa” which is basically cheap ranch dressing with Habanero tobasco sauce added. It tastes funky, and is not good. The second salsa is a Fire Roasted Salsa, which is from a store bought brand, and is not spicy. Their homemade salsa is a chunky bland salsa with a lot of onion and too much cilantro. It also tastes store bought. None of their salsas are spicy.
The fajitas were decent, but were not even close to as good as some that come from other local establishments. Bell peppers and onions were freshly cut, not cooked, but the seasoning for the fajitas is in a little metal cup that must be poured over the fajitas at the table by the customer, which makes the fajitas taste highly unseasoned. Since the onions on the plate are not cooked at all prior to going onto the plate, there is no carmelization of the onions or peppers, which ultimately adds to the flavor of the dish. Meat is not overly fatty, but it tastes like store bought pre-cut meat. The steak is harder than usual, but it is still able to be cut with a fork. It is very similar to the Tyson brand that could be bought at the grocery store. They do offer a nice change from just beans and rice with their cheesy potatoes. These are well cooked, nicely seasoned and handmade. Their rice is fresh, and delicious. Three Amigos enchilada platter left a lot to be desired. So close together, the cheese, chicken and beef enchiladas mix together. Hide your forks from the charro beans that are placed IN the cheese sauce of the cheese enchilada, as they are runny and are not tasty. The chili placed on top of the seasoned beef enchilada is not well seasoned and is very dry and bland. This dish is not recommended. As far as the “handmade” desserts, there are several to choose from. The Pumpkin Cheesecake that is touted as being “homemade” by the kitchen manager, according to the waitstaff, is canned pumpkin that is mixed with cheesecake box mix put on a sopapilla crust. Their whipped cream is said to not be Cool Whip, according to the waitstaff, but it tastes identical to the boxed version that is bought in a store.
Mixology is very important to most adult guests. At any Tex-Mex establishment people want a good margarita. Hide your straws, and don’t get an on the rocks margarita at this place. Drinks here are by far the worst in Dallas for Margaritas on-the-rocks. The absolute worst drink on the menu is the 3G Margarita which is a vomit producing monstrosity. The bartenders do not know how to mix any of the margaritas on the menu, so just stick to the frozen ones at this place since they use a pre-mix for those. Stick to the beer, or the wine selection which is limited, but the happy hour specials are decent. These bartenders need training on how to make mixed drinks.
So, if Chuck-E-Cheese has tired you out as a parent, this is a nice break from that for parents. The food is mediocre, and the margaritas are not so great. The kids will have a great time with the decor, mercado and free ice cream. This restaurant could have achieved three stars, but with the margaritas tasting the worst in Dallas, the stars reflect the overall experience. Also, tricking consumers by saying that things are homemade and handmade when they are not from scratch is really shady. The margaritas on the menu also didn’t have a price, and when the bill is brought, they are $10 each which is insulting when they don’t taste very good and are mostly mix or flavoring. Boo. Most Tex-Mex restaurants charge between $6-$8 for the exact same type of frozen drinks, and there are better tasting on-the rocks versions close by. The feeling of just walking away from a tourist trap is how it feels when leaving. Average bill for a family of four is $70, which is $$ or on the lower end of expensive.
Cafe Del Rio is a privately owned chain of Tex Mex restaurants. They have four restaurants including locations in Lufkin, Beaumont, and Mesquite. Their “Best of” and “Award Winning” scores are based out of the Beaumont location, which is their prime location, and is kind of misleading to Allen customers. To find out more about Cafe Del Rio, visit their website.
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