_IMG_4040Before Oak Lawn was christened Dallas’ gayborhood, it was known as Little Mexico. What remains of the ethnic enclave is now dominated by condos, clubs and restaurants, but teases of the old nabe endure.

They’re found in the taco joints and eateries slinging south-of-the-border fare at the margins along the Crossroads.

Below are a handful of gayborhood-area taqueerias that are still carrying on the culinary tradition of the old neighborhood, be they glitzy or hole-in-the-wall. When you’re walking home from the bars, it’s nice to keep a good taco joint in mind.

           — Jose Ralat-Maldonado

El Tizoncito, pictured left. The third in a small, local chain of taquerias owned by Mexico City native Leo Spencer, this Lemmon Avenue spot offers traditional pork al pastor, prepared on the vertical spit called a “trompo.” The al pastor is the foundation for El Tizoncito’s signature dish, the alambre, finished on a flattop grilled and joined with bacon, poblanos and grilled onions. But before you dig into the choriqueso appetizer, a bubbling vermillion marriage of chorizo and cheese atop a trio of tortillas, your table will receive a epazote-scented black bean soup (frijoles charros) instead of hackneyed chips and salsa. El Tizoncito, meaning “little coal,” will fire up your taste buds and cart them off to Mexico’s capital.
5150 Lemmon Ave., Ste. 111. 214-521-0201

Hermanos Cruz Restaurant. Hermanos Cruz gives the intrepid taco enthusiasts a gamey reward, lamb barbacoa. Because the rinky-dink hovel with little in the way of furniture design—empty display cases, cheesy pastoral scenes teetering on walls, is that plant fake?—has nada to provide when it comes to ambience. Studded with fat and sweating sweetly, one bite of the lamb and Dallas Tex-Mex institutions Ojeda’s and Avila’s restaurants up the road will become distant memories … unlike that night at nearby Kaliente with what’s-his-name.
4525 Maple Ave. 214-586-6778.

Mia’s Tex-Mex. It’s all about the beefy bits at Mia’s Tex-Mex, a Dallas icon since 1981. The specialty Butch’s Original Brisket Tacos platter is required pre-Round-Up Saloon tank filler. A pair of soft brisket shares tortilla real estate with Jack cheese, onions, and poblanos served with brisket gravy and all the fixin’s. Of course, any mention of Mia’s can’t leave out the Tuesday night chiles rellenos special with rice and beans. Reservations are strong recommended before karaoke, and you know where to get some fooder before Wild West Wednesdays.
4322 Lemmon Ave. 214-526-1020

Taco Diner. M Crowd’s spiffy mod answer to taquerías, Taco Diner offers contemporary Mexican cuisine with moreTacoDiner than 10 takes on the humble taco that are anything but. This location—one of six—anchors an inner corner of the West Village mixed-use development. The pastor, with its luminous citrusy and sour qualities is fine enough to crawl under the tortilla with. The Tacos Campeones (champion tacos) platter is hunky. The shrimp, moreover, isn’t shrimpy—if you know what we mean. Pair your dish with the Don Julio “Shaker” or the Mambo Taxi cocktails—the latter with frappe sangria and brandy. Get woozy, and rock your taco.
3699 McKinney Ave., Ste. 307 214-521-3669

Tortas La Hechizera. From this freestanding restaurant near the intersection of Maple Avenue and Inwood Road come eats bantam and big. The tacos are average-sized jobs filled with fajita, carnitas, the standard meats. Meanwhile, sandwiches, like digit-sucking diversion pambazo (bolillo bread bathed in sticky red chile sauce then stuffed with potato, chorizo, queso and lettuce) are the sort that test jaw muscles along Maple Avenue taco district. Wash your meal down with a tamarind agua fresca.
5611 Maple Ave. 214-688-0236.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition August 3, 2012.