A sweet family-run restaurant with roots in Terrell has opened in East Dallas with Tex-Mex and a little something extra. El Cantante Cocina Mexicana is open at 4314 Live Oak St. with fajitas, combo plates, and an amazing cake business on the side.
The restaurant is in the location previously occupied by Muddy Waters, the dive bar that closed in 2015. Their clean bright re-do, with a pale gray exterior and no-nonsense interior, has managed to erase any trace.
Juan Gonzales and his family previously had a restaurant of the same name in Terrell before they decamped for Dallas. They started out doing steaks and pastas, before reverting to a good, basic Tex Mex lineup with fajitas, burritos, enchiladas, and a beautiful chicken mole.
"Our most popular dish is probably the La Condesa plate, with beef and chicken enchiladas, a crispy taco, a tamale, rice, and beans," says Alicia Gonzales, Juan's daughter. "We're more like a family restaurant that happens to serve Tex-Mex. We have good prices."
Their chile relleno is thoughtfully done, enrobed in its fluffy, eggy coat and topped with green tomatillo sauce. One dish is named after Alicia's mother: The Maria's Wrap has a tortilla enclosing chicken, ranch dressing, and chopped lettuce. "It's like a salad inside a tortilla," Alicia says.
They're open for lunch and dinner, with a BYOB policy for now; they hope to acquire a liquor license in early fall.
One thing about El Cantante that's not like the other Tex-Mex places in town is their amazing cakes, which they do for catering and other events. These are showpiece creations with multiple layers and the kind of elaborate iced designs you see on cooking competition TV shows.
"My mom's cousin Carlos Leon used to work at a bakery," Alicia says. "They're just starting the cake business. So for now, every time someone comes and wants to host a party of 14 guests or more, we include a free cake. We hope people will see it and want to come back for the cakes."