This was The Original’s No. 1 combination in 1932: 2 crispy tacos, queso, rice and salad. Bud Kennedy bud@star-telegram.com
This was The Original’s No. 1 combination in 1932: 2 crispy tacos, queso, rice and salad. Bud Kennedy bud@star-telegram.com

Food & Drink

In Fort Worth, The Original is 90(-ish) and a Roosevelt dined there

By Bud Kennedy

bud@star-telegram.com

October 11, 2016 10:59 AM

Nobody knows exactly when The Original Mexican Eats Cafe opened.

But it’s pushing 90, so owner Robert Self figures this week is time to celebrate.

He estimates The Original opened in 1926. But based on our archives and census records, I think the Piñeda family moved here and opened it in 1930.

Also, we’re not sure which Roosevelt is the namesake of the “Roosevelt Special” platter.

Previous owners have always said it was named for frequent patron Elliott Roosevelt, the son of President Franklin D. Roosevelt. Elliott and then-wife Ruth owned a Benbrook-area ranch before and during World War II, when The Original was a frequent stop for the president and dignitaries visiting the local air base and defense plant.

Self said he believes the “special” is named for FDR and was the president’s favorite Tex-Mex plate on visits here, as made by owner Lola San Miguel Piñeda, from a Múzquiz, Mexico, family via Laredo and Waco.

She and her husband, former Spanish soldier Gerónimo Piñeda of Barcelona, had managed a different Waco restaurant named The Original in 1917, then started their own restaurant in Waco in 1920. They were listed there in the 1930 census.

Gerónimo Piñeda’s 1930s Star-Telegram ads for The Original described it as opening in 1930, but succeeding owners have listed opening dates in 1928 and 1926.

In a 1932 clipping, Piñeda described the combination “No. 1” plate: “tacos, Mexican rice, chile con queso, Spanish salad, toasted tortillas, Mexican candy [a praline] and a bottle of ice cold Pearl beer” — 50 cents.

This week, the price of a beer is 90 cents to celebrate the 90-ish birthday. Margaritas are $5, and a party Saturday will feature mariachis, piñatas and free ice cream.

If you haven’t gone to The Original lately, it’s become an iconic old-school Tex-Mex restaurant known for beef enchiladas in Texas chili con carne and particularly for crispy tacos made in the shell, the way Lola Piñeda made them in the 1930s.

The menu also offers contemporary dishes such as cheese-jalapeño tamales, broccoli enchiladas and pan-seared steaks or chicken.

It’s open daily except Mondays at 4713 Camp Bowie Blvd.; 817-738-6226, originalmexicaneatscafe.com.

The baklava is back

Not many festivals in Northeast Tarrant County are 25 years old.

But back when Euless was still partly rural and traffic on the Airport Freeway was light, a church in the city started the Mid-Cities Greek Festival.

Back at the original 1992 festival, dinner platters were $10. Now, they’re $20 for a lamb chop dinner with dolmades and spanakopita (spinach pie) or $15 for a Greek chicken dinner.

Gyros start at $7, or go for the baklava and loukoumades; lunch and dinner Friday and Saturday, lunch Sunday at 303 Cullum Drive, Euless; 817-283-2291, midcitiesgreekfest.info.

Mezcal and more

TorTaco Mesón Mezcal is open, and prepare to be surprised.

TorTaco is more of a high-energy bar with signature cocktails than a typical taqueria. But the inventive tacos and tortas are worth checking out, particularly the brisket burnt-ends torta.

TorTaco offers a menu by Meso Maya chef Nico Sanchez with a choice of $4 tacos, $7 tortas or $8 bowls, all with fresh ingredients such as pepper steak, pork kimchee or hamachi and housemade sauces.

Sides include pineapple-goat cheese ceviche, four-cheese jalapeño mac-and-cheese or a roasted-jalapeño crab dip.

The bar has a choice of 29 mezcals, 15 premium mezcals and a menu of mezcal and tequila drinks.

TorTaco is open for lunch and dinner daily at 910 Currie St., 682-990-0735, with another local coming in downtown Dallas in the former San Salvaje space; tortaco.com.

Bud Kennedy: 817-390-7538, bud@star-telegram.com, @EatsBeat. His column appears Wednesdays in Life & Arts and Fridays in DFW.com.

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