Uncle Julio’s is spreading out, and also ratcheting up flavor.
The Irving-based Tex-Mex chain plans to expand beyond the current seven states. It’s now promoted as “Mexican from scratch.”
Founded 30 years ago at the height of the fajitas-and-swirls frenzy, Julio’s is doing a few things new to Tex-Mex chains.
For one, Julio’s now takes reservations. No more hourlong waits.
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Uncle Julio’s always served good thin chips and fajitas, but the enchiladas and tacos were an obvious afterthought, once even hidden in a tiny “classics” corner of the menu.
Now, those highly profitable dishes are promoted front and center, featuring a $16 Juanita’s combination plate with two enchiladas, a tamal and a taco.
The “from scratch” presumably applies to sauces such as the creamy Hatch green chile sauce on the chicken enchilada or the unique “agave queso” on the beef enchilada.
On the pork tamal, the vaguely named “New Mexico red sauce” (or is it “El Paso sauce”?) was less successful, lacking the bite of red pasilla chile.
The Uncle Julio’s menu also offers grilled salmon, tuna and shrimp for about $20, along with chiles rellenos, carnitas and tilapia tacos.
The side-dish choices on the Juanita’s plate were rice, beans or black beans, not exactly a 21st-century menu. And Julio’s needs more salsas.
The chain showcases desserts including a $20 “chocolate piñata,” which looks fun. But the coconut flan (less then $6) is not to be overlooked.
Uncle Julio’s has locations in west Fort Worth and Grapevine, and plans another in far north Fort Worth; unclejulios.com.
Uptown comes downtown
Avanti Ristorante, a Dallas Italian and Mediterranean mainstay, is open at its new downtown Fort Worth location and brings some Uptown flash to CityPlace.
The location has some Dallas elegance, with an urban-chic dining room and chandeliers. Full lunch and dinner service is scheduled to begin next week; 150 Throckmorton St., Suite 140, 817-991-6455, avantirestaurants.com.
Popsicles and paletas are everywhere, including Curly’s Frozen Custard.
The drive-through custard stand in west Fort Worth will add popsicles and creamy pops May 1 in about 10 flavors, including piña colada, mint cookie, PB&J and (just in time for summer) peaches-and-cream.