Tex-Mex Is On

Revered Oak Cliff Tex-Mex restaurant isn't about to close any time soon

Oak Cliff Tex-Mex restaurant isn't about to close any time soon

Corazon de Tejas, Cuellar
Are you ready for some mole? Photo by Teresa Gubbins

Despite rumors to the contrary, Oak Cliff Tex-Mex restaurant El Corazon de Tejas is not on the verge of closing, certainly not in the near-term future.

John Cuellar, who owns El Corazon with his wife Susan, says that the restaurant is open "indefinitely," and that things are going so well that they've been shopping for a third location. They also have a sister restaurant, Cuellar's Fajita Ranch, which they opened in Plano in 2016.

"One of the main points I want to make is that these early condolences are extremely premature, and we're going to be serving for the indefinite future as we have for several decades," Cuellar says.

The condolences Cuellar is receiving come from diners who've read about the Dallas City Plan Commission's approval of a request from Alabama-based Orange Development to replat 4 1/2 acres on Zang at Beckley. City Council member Scott Griggs shared a demolition permit on his Facebook page for 110 W. Davis St., where El Corazon is located, speculating that the outcome would be a CVS store.

"El Corazon has FILED a DEMOLITION permit," Griggs' post says, displaying some creative use of the Caps Lock key. "The property is zoned CR and is NOT in either the Gateway PD or Bishop Arts PD, both of which provide some protections to form. Also, El Corazon is not in the demolition delay district.

"I am opposed to a standard construction CVS (the re-plat was filed by a CVS associated company) that will damage the character of our neighborhood at this location. While you can never legislate building and use, I don't know why CVS couldn't adaptively re-use the building as a CVS."

El Corazon is in a space that was previously a branch of El Chico's, before it became Tejano in 1978. In February 2013, the Cuellars reimagined the restaurant by renovating the space and updating the menu, adding dishes such as fajitas in beef, chicken, and vegetarian versions.

Cuellar says that he's been talking to developers but that making any conclusions at this stage is premature.

"I've been in discussion with developers and real estate brokers, and when that happens a lot of misinformation gets circulated," he says. "We have opened the door for negotiating and we're getting expressions of interest in ownership of the premises. A demo permit is a step by one of the many parties that have expressed interest in our property. But some developers request that we sign nondisclosure agreements, so I'm not in a position to talk about it."

The intersection of Zang and Davis is being completely overhauled, with apartment/retail developments from Alamo Manhattan and Crescent already underway.

Even before Cuellar was approached about the space, they were scouting for a third location — "and that could be in Oak Cliff," he says. "Business is booming, both in Oak Cliff and Plano. You may dislike rumors, but I love this. I didn't realize how many friends we had."