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Why the Difference Between Tex-Mex and Cal-Mex Food Matters

Of course it does! If you live in California, you know the best Mexican food is in the Golden State. And if you live in Texas, you are just as convinced that the best Tex-Mex food comes from the Lone Star State.

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Why is one better than the other? Well, that depends on whom you talk to. Everyone has their own reasons. It could be that the tacos from California are crunchier. The food is healthier (because “everyone” in the Golden State is a health nut). But the Tex-Mex is cheesier. In other words, it’s all just a matter of opinion. And so, here are a few opinions of Californians and Texans on why their brand is the best.

Some Californians claim that Cal-Mex food is healthier, with more of an emphasis on fish and avocados and more veggies. The beans are served whole, not refried. Tacos are crispier. The California version tends to use more garlic than Tex-Mex.

Texans say Tex-Mex puts more emphasis on the cheese – like with the cheese enchilada and meat sauce. According to some aficionados, you can tell the difference because Tex-Mex uses Hatch peppers in rellenos, while Cal-Mex food uses Anaheim. Also, some say California chips are thicker than their Texas counterparts.

Some just feel that Tex-Mex uses more processed foods, while Cal-Mex uses more fresh herbs and cheeses, lean steak and chicken. Others take exception to the processed statement, but do acknowledge that Tex-Mex foods are generally heavier.

Some note that black olives are found more commonly in Cal-Mex, but rarely in Tex-Mex. And they describe fish tacos as more of a California thing. They also say that in California, you will find a greater variety of cheeses, while in Texas, the emphasis is mostly on cheddar.

Many Tex-Mex experts say that Tex-Mex goes heavier on the cheese, and he adds that it also has deeper, richer flavors, and is spicier.

But one thing many seem to agree on is that from one region to another in Texas, the Tex-Mex food can vary widely. For example, one person said he never had rellenos with Hatch or Anaheim peppers, but rather with poblanos.

Another Californian who knows food describes the two types as green and red. Cal-Mex, she says, is the green, based on fresh green chiles, while Tex-Mex is the red, based more on dried chiles. Cal-Mex uses more of the lighter meats and seafood, while Tex-Mex goes more for beef and pork. Cal-Mex is lighter, not as spicy and more subtle, while Tex-Mex is bolder, spicier and more in-your-face. Cal-Mex also uses more vegetables.

While this description is rather well thought out, it definitely isn’t the last word in this argument that will probably go on as long as people eat Cal-Mex and Tex-Mex. The one thing all agree on, however, is that both are delicious.

If you want to taste some truly delicious Tex-Mex food, visit the  Mattito’s location nearest you soon.

How to Transition to Hotter Tex-Mex Dishes

Some people love Tex-Mex food but have trouble handling the spicier stuff like chili peppers. This bothers them because they know that the hotter foods can really add to the taste and overall eating experience of Tex-Mex. So, the question is, how do they get used to eating spicier foods? Here are a few ideas from food experts.

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  1. Begin by just using a little bit.

Start out by adding a healthy dose of black pepper to a dish or crushed red pepper flakes. Or you could add a few drops of Tabasco sauce in with your ketchup. Just start with a little bit and get used to that.

  1. Enjoy the flavor.

You know adding a spice is going to make the food hotter. But don’t forget, the spice is supposed to add to the taste as well, so don’t forget to focus on the flavor as you are eating the food, not just the heat. Experiment with the spices to get the best taste – use trial and error to determine how much you need to add for the best flavor. In the beginning, use just one spice at a time to learn the flavor of each before you begin to mix them together.

  1. Turn up the heat – but do it gradually.

You can begin by adding chopped chilis to foods, milder ones such as poblanos and cubanelles. When you get used to those, move up to jalapeños and serranos.

Another technique – which is not for everybody, but one you may want to try – is to once in a while, go heavier on the spices than you normally would to make your mouth burn a little as a way of building up your tolerance.

  1. Keep the spicier stuff as a side dish.

You may be trying to build up your heat tolerance, but others in your family may not be. They may not appreciate the increase in spicier foods. By putting the hotter stuff on the side, everybody gets to take only as much as they want.

  1. Make sure you also have ready foods that counteract the heat.

Dairy products such as milk, sour cream or ice cream are good antidotes to counteract the heat if your mouth starts burning too much. So, keep them handy. Other foods that help to dial back the heat are cilantro and lime.

Here at Mattito’s, we know that not everyone can “stand the heat” – yet. So we’re happy to accommodate everyone’s tolerance for spicy food. Just let your waiter know how “hot” you want it! Visit a Mattito’s location near you soon.

The way to eat more Tex-Mex in 2017 is to mix things up. Get some variety into your Tex-Mex menu by trying new versions of old favorites and experimenting with different dishes. And don’t just stick to the main course. Try out different Tex-Mex soups, salads, appetizers and desserts.

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For example, you have probably had enchiladas before, but have you had chicken enchiladas adobo? For these enchiladas, you use multigrain tortillas with fire roasted tomatoes and adobo sauce, which uses apple cider vinegar and guajillo chiles.

Another tasty dish that will get you eating more Tex-Mex is a Mexican sweet potato and veggie medley. You can make it in no time at all. You simply sauté the sweet potatoes, then add corn and black beans. For a topping, you use chipotle-flavored sour cream, avocado slices and fresh cilantro.

Here’s another quirky Tex-Mex dish – Mexican meatball stew. All you have to do is toss the ingredients into a slow cooker. For this stew you need Italian style turkey meatballs, corn, black beans, stewed tomatoes, along with oregano and roasted garlic to spice things up.

For a salad that’s a little different, you might want to try a Mexican citrus salad with avocado. This delicious delight has a little bit of everything – lettuce, jicama, grapefruit, orange, red onion, avocado, pumpkin seeds, queso fresco, black pepper, honey, shallots, orange juice, and lime juice.

If you are in the mood for fish, you can try tilapia tacos with chipotle cream. In addition to the tilapia, these tacos feature sour cream, tomatoes, onions, cilantro, garlic, cumin, cinnamon, and lime juice.

Polenta is a traditional Italian dish, but Mexican polenta pie gives it a Latino twist. In addition to the polenta, this meal has ground turkey, Monterey cheese, along with salsa, black beans, tomatoes, cilantro, sweet pepper, chili powder and cayenne pepper.

If you are looking for something to put on your chips, you can make a delicious salsa verde using avocado, lime, cilantro, onion, and tomatillos.

Another mouthwatering recipe is a tortilla and black bean casserole. This dish has picante sauce, onion, sweet pepper, tomatoes, salsa, black beans, cumin, Monterey Jack cheese, olives and Greek yogurt.

All of these delicious recipes can be found at

If you want to eat more Tex-Mex in 2017, we sure won’t stop you here at Mattito’s! Visit the Mattito’s location nearest you today. We look forward to helping you keep that New Year’s Resolution!

3 Pieces of Tex-Mex Wisdom to Help You in 2017

There are certain things that every wise Tex-Mex lover knows about how to eat Tex-Mex. It is a wisdom that comes from long experience, from cooking many Tex-Mex meals and visiting many Tex-Mex restaurants. Here is a little bit of that wisdom to help you along in the New Year.

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  1. Always serve tortilla chips and salsa before a Tex-Mex meal.

Every Tex-Mex lover knows that the meal should always begin with chips and salsa. It is the wisdom of the Tex-Mex way. And the chips should be hot.

Another piece of Tex-Mex wisdom about nachos with a topping is that each ingredient in the topping should be on each nacho chip. Some places will give you a plate of nachos with a mound of toppings on top, so the chips at the bottom have nothing on them. This is not the Tex-Mex way.

  1. Every dish should have beans and rice.

You simply cannot have Tex-Mex without beans. They are required. They come on the plate with an entrée, but also find their way more subtly into many other Tex-Mex foods, such as nachos, tostadas, quesadillas, enchiladas, and burritos.

There are many different versions of the beans, such as ranchero or charro beans with bacon, chilies and tomatoes, even beans with beer. But the most common way of serving beans in Tex-Mex is the refried version, where they are mashed with lard and heated on a skillet. (A healthier option is a side dish of black beans.)

A real Tex-Mex dish comes with generous portions of rice and refried beans, so much in fact that they are almost overflowing the plate. The beans and rice should be on the same plate as the entrée so that you can mix it all together. And every wise Tex-Mex eater knows that is how you really should eat a Tex-Mex meal, by mixing everything together.

  1. Chili gravy is the essential ingredient of Tex-Mex.

Some call it the mother sauce of Tex-Mex, and savvy Tex-Mex eaters say it is the key to a good Tex-Mex meal. Chili gravy is a sauce generally made with chili powder. It began as a sauce made with ancho chilis in San Antonio.

You normally find the gravy covering a plate of enchiladas, but it is also commonly seen among tamales. The gravy had its origin in chili con carne, which was first sold at the San Antonio Chili Stand in 1893.

So, if your enchiladas aren’t covered in the stuff from end to end, you are not eating Tex-Mex correctly.

If you are looking for a great place to get the best in Tex-Mex food, try Mattito’s, where the tortilla chips are hot and the margaritas are cold.

5 Signs You’re Ready for a Tex-Mex Christmas

The holidays are here, and if you are a Tex-Mex lover, you are looking forward to some good Tex-Mex food over the holidays. All of us have our own favorite Tex-Mex holiday dishes. But when the weather turns cold, it’s nice to sit down to a meal of something warm and spicy.

Here are a few signs that you are ready for a Tex-Mex Christmas.

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  1. You have a craving for Mexican hot chocolate.

One Christmas favorite is Mexican hot chocolate. This drink uses Mexican chocolate, which gives you a taste of cacao, almonds and cinnamon all in one. Add some milk and a little chili powder or cayenne pepper, and this is a holiday treat few can resist.

  1. Your mouth waters at the mention of tamales.

Another traditional Tex Mex-Christmas dish is tamales. The shell is made with masa harina, a traditional flour made from specially treated corn. You can fill them with just about anything – pork, chicken, beef, fish, beans, vegetables, or cheese. Add a spicy sauce and you are ready to go.

You can also make sweet tamales, filled with things such as fruit and nuts. Raisins mixed with cinnamon and nutmeg also are used.

Tamales are steamed, so to keep them from falling apart, they are usually wrapped in dried corn husks, available at Mexican markets or large supermarkets.

  1. You are looking forward to some piping hot menudo.

Menudo is also a traditional Christmas meal, made with tripe, broth, lime, onions, cilantro, oregano, and chili peppers. It is a soup that you allow to simmer a long time then serve with tortillas.  Some people believe it can cure a hangover.

  1. Your sweet tooth is demanding some buñuelos.

For dessert, there are buñuelos. These are a light, fried Christmas cookie. The recipe for making them is fairly simple. It uses eggs, sugar, butter, milk and flour.

  1. You can’t wait to taste the Christmas ponche.

The Christmas holidays would not be complete without ponche, a traditional Christmas punch. Some make it with piloncillo, a type of unrefined sugar, but brown sugar works also.

You can use a variety of fruits to make the punch – apples, oranges, guavas, raisins, and prunes. You put the fruit in a pot with water and boil then reduce to a simmer, adding sugar and rum. It’s served hot.

We’re closed here Mattito’s on Christmas Day, but if you’d like to enjoy a holiday dinner on any day before or after, visit a location near you. Feliz Navidad!

Tex-Mex Food Ideas for Diabetics

You may love Tex-Mex food, but if you are diabetic, you have to watch what you eat, particularly keeping an eye on the carbs and fats.

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That doesn’t mean you have to give up on Tex-Mex completely because there are options out there that are low in calories and low in carbohydrates, foods such as beans, grilled vegetables and chicken. There is also salsa, made with tomatoes, herbs and spices.

Here is a little checklist you can use to help you know what to eat and what not to eat

Here’s the bad stuff for diabetics:

  1. Meals made with fried tortillas, such as chimichangas, taquitos and empanadas
  2. Refried beans with cheese
  3. Sour cream
  4. Too many tortilla chips
  5. Cocktails
  6. Meals made with ground beef
  7. Big platters of nachos

Here’s what you should eat instead:

  1. Fillings made of beans, grilled chicken or grilled steak
  2. Meals made with soft flour tortillas, such as burritos, tostadas, and carnitas
  3. Grilled lime-flavored shrimp
  4. Bean enchiladas with a little cilantro and onions
  5. Salsas
  6. Sautéed veggies
  7. Guacamole in small quantities is OK, as is avocado salad
  8. Grilled chicken or steak fajitas
  9. Salads with grilled chicken
  10. Tortilla soup

So, for example, if you want that margarita, you can replace the Triple Sec with orange extract and vodka. You still get a little sweetness and liquor but without all the extra sugar.

If you want to make a taco, try slow cooking some skinless chicken breasts in a crockpot with enchilada sauce and green chilies and onions. You can put them on whole wheat tortillas with lettuce and tomatoes and a little (just a little) sour cream and cheese.

You can make nachos without using any tortilla chips at all. Just grab some pickled jalapeno slices, sprinkle a little cheddar cheese on top and microwave.

If you like enchiladas, you can try them with roasted vegetables. In this recipe, you fill the corn tortillas with a medley of roasted and cooked vegetables, such as pinto beans, mushrooms, onions, bell peppers, tomatoes, and mix them up with a variety of spices such as paprika, cumin, chili powder, cilantro, and garlic.

Or you could try a version of guacamole made with zucchini instead of avocado. It’s about 100 calories and six grams of fat lower than the real thing.

This is the beauty of Tex-Mex: it can be modified to fit any taste and just about any diet. If you visit your local Mattito’s and you have dietary restrictions or desires, just let your waiter know: we’ll do everything we can to ensure our Tex-Mex cuisine is served in the way you want and/or need.

Image by Elizabeth (Flickr: Chicken Soft Tacos from Panchero’s) [CC BY 2.0] via Wikimedia Commons

In Mexico, Christmas is celebrated from December 12 to January 6.

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From December 16 to Christmas Eve, children take part in what is called a Posada procession. Posada means inn or lodging in Spanish. There are nine of these processions. They are meant to celebrate the search of Joseph and Mary for a place to stay. During this time, the houses are decorated with evergreens, moss and paper lanterns.

The children hold candles and go from house to house singing songs about Joseph and Mary asking for a place to stay. But the children are told there is no room for them, until at one house they are invited in. The children say prayers of thanks, and then there is a party. Each night, the Posada party is held at a different house.

On Christmas Eve, everyone goes to a church service, and afterward, there are fireworks. Christmas Eve, after the final Posada, is also the time when families have the main Christmas meal. One dish that might be served at the meal is a Christmas salad. Here’s the recipe, courtesy of

For this dish, you will need:

  • Six Granny Smith apples
  • Two cups of diced pineapple
  • One-half cup of diced celery
  • One-third cup of raisins
  • One-third cup of sweetened, shredded coconut
  • One-half cup of walnuts, roughly chopped
  • One-quarter cup of mayonnaise
  • One tablespoon of sour cream
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

To make:

  • Slice the top off of each apple, about one-quarter of the way down, and set the tops aside. Then, use a melon ball scoop to scoop out a cavity inside the apple. The salad ingredients will go inside the apple.
  • Next, mix all of the ingredients together in a large bowl. Chop up the apple pieces that were removed from the apples and add them to the other ingredients. Sprinkle the mixture with salt and pepper.
  • Spoon about three tablespoons of the mixture into each of the hollowed out apples. Then place the tops back on the apples. If you have any of the mixture left over, you can refrigerate it for about a day. Serve the salad cold.
  • Also, if you want to prevent the inside of the apples from turning brown while you are mixing the ingredients, you can put them in a bowl of water with the juice of two limes.

Making holiday dishes takes time and effort. While the holidays traditionally have family gather at home with someone (and you know who you are) needing to prepare that feast beforehand, why not visit a Mattito’s once or twice during the busy holidays season to relax and enjoy some great Tex-Mex food? We look forward to helping you celebrate this holiday season.

Image by Lyricmac – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0.

December 3 is National Apple Pie Day: Tex-Mex Apple Pies

You can’t get more American than apple pie. But if you are looking for something a little different to celebrate National Apple Pie Day on December 3, you can try a Tex-Mex version of this American staple. It’s just as delicious as the ones grandma used to make. Read the rest of this entry »

We Give Thanks

This is the time of year for giving thanks, and we at Mattito’s have a lot to be thankful for. Here is a short list of some of the things for which we are grateful.

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4 Hot Chili Lessons Learned the Hard Way

There are a lot of different ways to make chili. Some people like it with beef and beans, some just with one or the other. Some like it with big chunks of meat, while others prefer to go vegetarian.

But no matter how you make it, there are some common mistakes you need to avoid. Some people have learned about these mistakes the hard way – they didn’t do it right and their chili just didn’t have the taste it should have.

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3102 Oaklawn Dallas, TX 75219
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