Dallas is about to experience a shift in the world of Tex-Mex, with one restaurant about to close and another up-and-comer picking up where it left off.
The outgoing restaurant is Fernando's at Travis, which has been dishing out its trademark Tex-Mex with a touch of Mexican-style dining for seven years.
The original Fernando's opened at Northwest Highway and Midway Road in 2005, where it has become an unfussy staple for the chi-chi Preston Hollow crowd. In 2011, owners Anne and Fernando Padilla expanded with this second location in the Knox Street district, taking over the second-floor spot on top of (the now closed) Villa-O.
After the Padillas opened a third location at the CityLine complex, they decided to step out of Travis Walk.
But in winning news for Tex-Mex fans, El Vecino — the Tex-Mex newbie opened in Lake Highlands in 2017 by John and Kim McBride — will take over the space.
"Anne and Fernando approached me a while back concerning the location and we were able to work it out," John McBride says. "They wanted to consolidate their brand, keeping Fernando's at Midway/Northwest Highway and at Cityline, and I was very interested about bringing El Vecino to the Knox/Travis area."
McBride is the great-grandson of Mike Martinez, who co-founded the El Fenix chain. McBride and his family sold El Fenix in 2008 to Firebird Restaurant Group (which also owns Meso Maya, La Ventana, and Tortaco).
In 2013, he opened The Lot, a restaurant and beer garden on Grand Avenue, off the Santa Fe Trail. In 2017, he opened the first location of El Vecino, in Lake Highlands, at the corner of Buckner Boulevard and Northcliff Drive.
El Vecino, Spanish for "the neighbor," is prototypical neighborhood restaurant serving basic Tex-Mex with a full bar, quesadillas, guacamole, fajitas, the whole enchilada. It's won favor with the locals and was also a finalist for Best New Restaurant in CultureMap's 2018 Tastemaker Awards.
After nearly a year open, the McBrides had been considering expansion, and when the Padillas approached them, it made perfect sense.
"We think this is a good move for all of us," McBride says. "They will close on Sunday, June 3 and I will take possession Monday, June 4. We'll be closed for approximately three weeks for remodeling.
"East Dallas has been incredibly supportive of us and we look forward to serving another set of neighbors on Travis," he says.