Eats Beat

After 82 years, Mexican Inn Cafes still draws rodeo crowds for Tex-Mex

The Stock Show and rodeo were still in the Stockyards when diners began coming to Mexican Inn Cafe.

That was 82 years ago, and rodeo fans still find their way to the Inn’s newer No. 2 location despite construction on the Jacksboro Highway.

One recent night, a power failure knocked out that Inn right at dinnertime. But darn if rodeo fans didn’t show up at yet another historic building, the 80-year-old restaurant that now houses the Mexican Inn Cafe on Eighth Avenue.

It’s easy to explain why diners come back to this old-school restaurant:

The chips.

Only four years after a soccer coach from Oaxaca began selling San Antonio restaurants his little corn chips made with masa and a potato ricer — the origin of Fritos — Mexican Inn owners Helen and gambler Tiffin Hall brought their version to Fort Worth.

The first Mexican Inn is gone now from its home at Commerce and East Fifth streets.

But nine other locations now serve the most very basic Tex-Mex — fajitas, enchiladas, tacos, nachos and the restaurant’s distinctive arroz con pollo, the familiar chicken-and-rice dish but here topped with queso.

You can tell rodeo crowds are in town. They order beef enchiladas instead of cheese, or step up to the newer brisket enchiladas, available at Mexican Inn with the restaurant’s new white-cheddar queso.

(Go wild. Try the arroz con pollo with the white-cheddar queso.)

The nine Mexican Inn locations are open for lunch and dinner daily.

The oldest is at 612 N. Henderson St., 817-336-2164, but the oldest building is the location at 1625 Eighth Ave., 817-927-8541,

Columnist Bud Kennedy is a Fort Worth guy who covered high school football at 16 and has moved on to two Super Bowls, seven political conventions and 15 Texas Legislature sessions. Since 1985, he has also written more than 2,000 “Eats Beat” columns about Texas dining, restaurants and food.