Industry Experts Say Tex-Mex Is Dead, But It’s Alive and Well in Lubbock
I've seen a few articles flit by making a rather bold claim, that Tex-Mex is either "at risk," "dying" or "dead." If you were to talk to an industry expert or entrepreneur right now, they might try to steer you away from opening a Tex-Mex restaurant, instead favoring Cali-Mex, authentic Mexican cuisine, or some other Mexican fusion style.
What's the dang difference anyway?
Authentic Mexican food utilizes native ingredients that have been eaten by indigenous people for thousands of years. Corn, new world beans, white cheeses, seafood, tomatoes, peppers, potatoes, cacao, etc. A huge amount of our favorite foods are native to the Americas. Europeans were originally suspicious or even afraid of these ingredients. Imagine being too afraid to try a potato, nature's yummiest vegetable.
Tex-Mex is its own unique, regional cuisine. It's the creation of Mexicans in Texas who adapted their native cuisine to a ranch-driven economy, thus the introduction of yellow cheese and beef. Cumin from Asia was adapted into recipes after it was brought over by Spanish missionaries and even more so after settlers from the Canary Islands came to Texas. As time went on, diasporas from around the world settled in Texas, and a unique and delicious cuisine evolved.
Cali-Mex is in its hey-day, as it utilizes lighter ingredients, more vegetables and fruit, and seafood. As someone who has lived in both Texas and California, if you asked me to say which one I prefer, I'd have to say whole-heartedly: both.
Why Is Tex-Mex 'Dying'?
Short answer: it's not really. But here's the longer answer:
A lot of Tex-Mex chains have closed recently. And there's this fairly valid argument:
Increased migration from Mexico to the U.S., more exposure to a diversity of Mexican cuisine and attacks from food critics have put pressure on Tex-Mex restaurants in the U.S. to add more options to their menus or close.
Translation: the cuisine that's really dying is bad Tex-Mex food. Good riddance. Tex-Mex will never die, because it is its own unique cuisine that developed over hundreds of years. It's not a trend. Additionally, Tex-Mex makes the best out of fairly inexpensive ingredients. Have you seen food prices lately? Tex-Mex is staying on the plate.
Lubbock has many incredible Tex-Mex eateries. The first thing that comes to my mind, and many of us who grew up here, is 50th Street Caboose/Copper Caboose. I heard a legend that Caboose was the very first restaurant in Lubbock to serve the king of Tex-Mex dishes: the fajita. I'm not sure its possible to verify this. I can verify that a sizzling plate of Caboose's beef fajitas will make my mouth water instantly. My mouth is watering just thinking about it. Jalisco's is another huge favorite of my friends and I.
Both places usually have a bit of a wait during busy times, a clear indication of their popularity in a town with many, many options.
There are many wonderful Tex-Mex restaurants to try right here in Lubbock. I will certainly do my part to keep the cuisine alive. Not because it needs me, but because I need it.