An award-winning State Fair of Texas vendor and restaurateur has opened a new concept featuring Tex-Mex and smoked meats.
Called AG Texican, it's a new restaurant from Abel Gonzales that just debuted at 7101 Harry Hines Blvd., where it's open for breakfast and lunch Monday-Saturday.
Gonzales, internationally famous for scoring repeat wins in the State Fair of Texas annual Big Tex Awards, previously opened an Italian restaurant in the same location, but COVID-19 impacted business and it closed in March 2021.
"We had a hard time during COVID-19," he says. "We shut down for a little while to wait it out, then decided to take the opportunity to re-do it entirely and figure out what we wanted to do. Italian food wasn't really a success in this neighborhood so we said, 'Let's make something different.'"
Beyond learning a lesson that many restaurants before him have learned — that Italian can represent a real challenge in Dallas — he also knew he wanted to be open for breakfast and lunch only.
"That's when most of the business comes in this area," he says.
Gonzales, a longtime State Fair vendor who rose to fame in 2010 with his prize-winning fried butter, is also a hospitality industry veteran with a catering business who grew up in the restaurant industry, working in the kitchen of his father's restaurant, A.J. Gonzales' Mexican Oven, in the West End. Abel also previously owned a restaurant on Ross Avenue called Republic Ranch; the space is now home to XOXO Restaurant, a pink-themed favorite for girls' night out.
But his trademark cuisine has always been barbecue and Texan food.
He's having fun doing a creative mash-up of breakfast tacos — chorizo & egg, potato & egg, bean & bacon — plus gourmet doughnuts with toppings such as fresh strawberries.
Lunch includes Tex-Mex classics such as quesadillas with choice of brisket, pork, steak, chicken, grilled veggies, or cheese; gorditas and flautas; tortas with choice of smoked pork or smoked brisket; and sides such as cilantro rice, bacon-beer beans, and jalapeño potato salad.
There's also a daily special for $10 to $12, with options such as half smoked chicken and smoked chili rellenos.
During the holidays, they did a dry run of sorts with a tamales to-go operation, with fillings that included smoked brisket, smoked pork, green chile chicken, and a turkey & dressing tamale. They sold like crazy.
Smoked meats are a big part of the concept, Gonzales says.
"It's purely a breakfast and lunch place, but we're doing smoked brisket and pork and sausage, so you can get your morning taco with regular sausage or smoked sausage, or a smoked brisket taco with fried egg," he says. "It's that irresistible combination of Texas and Mexican food."