A DFW restaurant that's earned national acclaim has opened in Denton: El Rincón del Maiz, previously of Garland, is now located at 1431 E. McKinney St. in Denton where it's winning over locals with its Tex-Mex classics and vegan dishes.
Now in a small center east of Denton Square, the family-owned restaurant from husband-and-wife Carlos Guillez and Michell Torres, and their son Gerardo Guillen, first opened in a former Sonic Drive-In November 2021.
They quickly drew praise including making a 2022 list by Bon Appétit of the Best New Restaurants in America (which strangely identified them as "the Saporito family"), as well as winning the 2023 CultureMap Tastemaker Award for Best Neighborhood Restaurant.
"We were so encouraged," Carlos says. "We'd decided to open because my wife was such a good chef that everybody would tell her, 'You need to open a restaurant.'"
But they discovered that the majority of their clientele were coming from outside Garland.
"Pretty much all of our customers were from areas north of Dallas, and some were driving 30 to 45 minutes," Gerardo says. "People kept saying, 'You need to move north.'"
They almost ended up in McKinney but negotiations were taking too long, and then the Denton spot opened. It's only a half mile from the Square, and has enviable proximity to TWU, UNT, the Denton County courthouse, and the Denton sheriff's office, all representing a built-in audience for their award-winning food.
Their recipes come from south Mexico including dishes like panucho — refried tortillas topped with black beans, choice of protein, coleslaw, and red onion; and enomoladas — corn tortillas with chicken, mole, red onion, and sesame seed.
A longtime home cook, Torres is also vegan. When she crafted the standard Mexican menu, she created an entire vegan menu, as well, using plant-based items like jackfruit and cauliflower to substitute for meat items, served on eye-catching tinted tortillas in flavors such as cilantro, beet, chipotle, and chocolate.
Since moving to Denton, they've added new dishes such as vegan pozole; vegan menudo made with mushroom; and vegan huevos con chorizo, featuring scrambled tofu, a vegan version of chorizo, and black beans, with choice of fried plantains or spicy potatoes.
These days, they're reveling in packed crowds on weekends, and they still haven't even gotten their liquor license yet (it's pending).
And here's one sweet irony: "We've seen customers from Garland coming to Denton," Gerardo says.