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How the Taco Became an American Staple

Tacos are as ubiquitous around the United States as, well, Taco Bell. (We won’t go here about whether or not a Taco Bell taco is a real taco: that is a discussion we will not join….)

According to Jeffrey M. Pilcher, a University of Minnesota professor of history who has studied the history and politics of Mexican food, the taco’s origin is unknown.

Interviewed in a May 2012 article at, Pilcher said he believes the originated in the silver mines of Mexico during the 18th century. Why? Because, according to Pilcher, the word “taco” was used to refer to the small charges miners would use to extract the ore and what we’ve come to know as a taco – albeit one wrapped in a soft tortilla – looks like the charge.

The first time a taco appears in a dictionary or other reference work was in the later part of the 19th century, Pilcher said. In fact, the first time the word “taco” appears is as tacos de minero, or “miner’s tacos.

Pilcher reports that the first time the taco is mentioned in the U.S. is in a newspaper in 1905, which coincides with the time Mexican immigrants came up to the U.S. to work the railroads and in the mines.

The taco first was thought of as being low-class street food. As American tourists started coming to Texas with the railroads in the 1880s, they came looking for a way to sample the “danger” that was believed to be Mexico without actually having to visit the country, and tacos were one of the things they would try.

As the children of the early Mexican immigrants grew up, they begin to become wealthier and gain civil rights, Pilcher says. And, while they are eating more American-type foods, they also continue to eat Mexican-style food with more “American” ingredients, such as lots of cheese in the taco, hamburger instead of offal meats, tomatoes, and iceberg lettuce.

In many ways, the taco became an American staple because of the Taco Bell restaurant chain, Pilcher says. Glen Bell, Taco Bell’s founder, “borrowed everything about the taco from his Mexican neighbors,” according to the article. The taco in a hard shell became a fast-food staple because it was invented by two Mexican restaurant owners in the 1940s, Pilcher says, and Taco Bell’s owner was then able to incorporate it into his restaurant. In addition, that hard taco shell was “crucial” to the taco moving from Mexican-only communities to the community at large, Pilcher adds.

If you’re looking for great tacos, be sure to visit the Mattito’s restaurant nearest you!

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Easter Traditions in Mexico

Pascua is what Mexico residents call Easter and some would argue that it’s a more important religious holiday in Mexico than is Christmas.

Mexicans celebrate Easter with a combination of Christian and native indigenous traditions and rituals, mirroring the country’s Spanish and indigenous history. Christian missionaries – during the time when Mexico was a Spanish colony – allowed indigenous peoples to meld their customs with more traditional Christian Easter rites. Thus Easter celebrations often include a lot of traditional dances!

Palm Sunday through Easter Saturday is known as Semana Santa (Holy Week). Pascua comes next and includes Easter Sunday through the following Saturday.

Mexico residents love to stage Passion Plays that depict events from the Bible such as the Betrayal, the Procession of the 12 Stations of the Cross, the Crucifixion, the Resurrection, and more. The depictions usually include elaborate staging and costumes, with the volunteers who stage these plays working on them for almost an entire year.

Probably the most elaborate of Easter traditions is the burning of an effigy of Judas. Filled with firecrackers, the effigy is set aflame on Holy Saturday and usually is a popular way to express disdain for an unpopular person, often a politician.

Palm Sunday is celebrated with people offering gifts of crosses woven from palm fronds. Weavers offer the gifts outside church and church goers follow a priest into the sanctuary with the fronds, where he blesses them. The fronds often are later hung on doors to ward off evil.

Lent, known as Cuaresma in Mexico, is celebrated with certain foods – and many were created with Catholic dietary restrictions in mind. With red meat prohibited during Lent on Fridays, many fish-based foods became popular during Lent. Many of these fish-based dishes have become quite elaborate.

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/

Mexican Easter Foods

For anyone looking to experience some authentic Mexican culture, food is always a good place to start. There are many traditional foods eaten in Mexico, especially around the holidays. Here are some of the Easter traditions shared in Mexico.

Cheese made of milk, eggs, sugar, vanilla, and nutmeg is a common snack during the Easter season. It is formed into a ball and then sliced for individual servings. Fish is a very popular dish leading up to Easter. One of the most popular traditional foods is a fish soup made with lima beans. Shrimp is also quite popular and is eaten with a traditional sauce called Pipian, usually made with pumpkin seeds.

Aside from fish, other Easter traditions in Mexico include a lot of vegetables. A leafy cactus known as Nopal is used in a number of Easter recipes including salads, tacos, and egg dishes. Dried white corn is made into a dish called Chacales by breaking the corn into pieces and making into soup. One of the most popular vegetable dishes served at in Mexico at Easter is dried squash fried with onions and tomatoes served with melted cheese.

Like in all cultures, desserts are popular in Mexico during the Easter season. The most popular during Lent is a dessert Capiriotada. This is a bread pudding made with toasted French bread, butter, cheese, milk, raisins, and peanuts. The pudding is then covered with a syrup made from brown sugar and cinnamon. Another popular dessert is Empanada, which are fruit turnovers usually made with either apples, blackberries, cherries, strawberries, or apricots.

If you are interested in these foods and many more, we offer both a catering service and a party rental room at our restaurant. While all these dishes are culturally unique, we encourage everyone interested in Mexican culture to give them a try!

The Americanization of Mexican Food

Take a look down just about any main thoroughfare in any American town and you’re bound to see at least one Mexican restaurant.

From Alaska to Maine, from North Dakota to Louisiana, Mexican food is embraced by just about every person who lives in the U.S.

But a lot of what we eat isn’t true Mexican food, at least not as it is served in Mexico. Read below to learn more about how Mexican food has been modified to cater to American palates.

  • Fajitas don’t exist in Mexico! In fact, they didn’t even exist in the U.S. until the 1960s. Fajitas are named for the cut of meat (skirt steak) used when making the dish. Those who created the fajita thought “fajita” would be easier to say than the actual Spanish word for skirt steak: Arrachera.
  • American Mexican food has gobs – and we mean gobs – more cheese on dishes than the food eaten in Mexico. Mexican dishes served in Mexico use cheese as an ingredient, not a topping.
  • Fruit-flavored margaritas are not a true Mexican creation. Yes, the margarita hales from Mexico – but we’re talking about a drink made of lime and tequila and maybe a bit of sweetener. But when it’s served in a bowl-sized glass and blended with a lot of fruit, you’re looking at an Americanized margarita.
  • Combination platters are a U.S. construct. Mexicans eat tacos or they eat a chile relleno. They don’t combine them.
  • Real burritos in Mexico aren’t stuffed with rice and beans as well as meat. Mexican burritos are really just rolled tacos – meat, tomatoes and lettuce – but with a rolled tortilla.
  • Meat – beef – isn’t used as much in Mexican dishes. The main ingredients of most Mexican meals are beans, corn and rice. More and more beef started being added to “Mexican” food north of border due to Texans’ love of beef.

If you’d prefer a more “Mexican” dish than is usually served here at Mattito’s just let us know. We’re happy to substitute beans and rice for beef, to go easier on the cheese and to serve you a tequila and lime margarita in a small glass. Stop by and be our guests today!

Image courtesy of Grant KEKO64/

What is Tex-Mex Food?

Tex-Mex food is a blend of Anglo (American) food combined with Spanish/Mexican recipes.

Tex-Mex as a word or term first appeared in print in dictionaries in the 1940s, which means it was probably used by people for several years before. What is now known as Tex-Mex cuisine has been around for hundreds of years.

The first Tex-Mex restaurants appeared in Southwest cities with large populations of residents of Mexican descent or heritage. The Tex-Mex “fad” began in the 1970s by appealing to a younger generation eager to eat was touted as up-to-the-minute and trendy.

Diana Kennedy, a renowned food authority of the day, published The Cuisines of Mexico in 1972, letting readers know that what many Americans called “Mexican” food wasn’t real Mexican food. She called this Americanized cuisine “Tex-Mex.” reports that the term had an “exciting ring….evok[ing] images of cantinas, cowboys and the Wild West.” Kennedy’s cookbook helped spark a huge desire for “Tex-Mex” cuisine. Restaurants offering Tex-Mex food opened in Paris, throughout Europe, and all the way to such far away places as Abu Dhabi.

The Texas Historical Association’s website states that Tex-Mex foods are a “combination of Indian and Mexican” foods.

In addition, the

Tex-Mex Cookbook (2004) states that “dictionaries don’t agree on whether Tex-Mex means Americanized Mexican food in general or specifically the kind from Texas.”

Ok. Fine. But how is Tex-Mex food different from traditional Mexican food?

One thing that’s very different is the abundance of tacos, tortillas and nachos in Tex-Mex food compared to Mexican food – traditional Mexican meals don’t include these nearly as much. In other words, Tex-Mex cuisine has a lot more starch!

Meat also is used more in Tex-Mex dishes as is cumin (used a lot in chili con carne).

When you have a need for Tex-Mex cuisine, we hope your first choice will be the Mattito’s restaurant nearest you.

Image courtesy of Grant Cochrane/

Healthy Mexican Food Choices

Mexican food in Texas isn’t known for its healthy attributes. Most people think of cheese, refried beans and more cheese when they think of Mexican cuisine.

While plenty of Mexican food can be laden in saturated fat, sodium and calories, Mexican cuisine can make for some very healthy eating. The secret is making the right dish choices.

Read below for some terrific, delicious and healthy Mexican meal options.

  • Don’t order the rice; order steamed vegetables.  Mexican food always comes with vegetables, you only have to ask that they be steamed up for you. Order up a side dish of steamed tomatoes, red and/or green peppers, yellow squash, cucumbers, green beans, and more.
  • Opt for black beans or pinto beans rather than refried beans.
  • Instead of meat-filled or bean-filled burritos, tacos or tamales, ask that they be filled with vegetables, black or pinto beans or even tofu. Skinless chicken also is a good choice to add some protein to your meal.
  • Don’t eat the fried foods. This includes taquitos, gorditas, chimichangas. Ask for a salad, but don’t ask for one in the taco shell. If you want the tortilla (and, really, who can blame you?) ask for a soft taco rather than the crispy (fried) taco for your tamales, burritos, enchiladas, etc.
  • As for that soft tortilla, ask if the restaurant offers whole grain or corn tortillas. Even better, ask for a lettuce wrap.
  • Ask the waiter to not bring you chips and salsa. Or if you can’t resist – and we understand that’s it’s hard – at least don’t ask for a second basket. Eat the chips only; skip the guacamole or salsa.
  • Watch the margaritas. These delicious alcoholic beverages often can be laden with sugar-heavy mixers. This is particularly true of the fruit-flavored margaritas and drinks (mango and peach-flavored margarita, anyone?). Stick with a small Mexican beer, tea, or even just club soda or plain water.
  • Eating at your neighborhood taco stand? Opt for veggie burritos or tacos, lettuce-wrapped tacos, fish tacos that are grilled and not fried, fajitas heavy on the vegetables and grilled beef or even tofu. And order a side of black beans. Stay away from the fat-laden refried beans.

Here at Mattitos, we provide a vegetarian menu upon request. We also have several “lite” and heart-healthy menu options, such as our Lite Fajita, Pollo Con Arroz soup, our grilled chicken Fiesta Salad, our grilled chicken over black bean sauce in our Pollo Con Salsa De Maiz especiale, and more.

Need something particularly special for your diet? Just call the Mattitos closest to you and we’ll be happy to help.

Image courtesy of KEKO64/

St. Patrick’s Day at Mattitos

At Mattitos, we offer something special for St. Patrick’s Day celebrations. The holiday means “green” and good luck, so a number of our dishes have that covered. Our mission is to create a unique Mexican dining experience for all occasions, and our award-winning catering team can put together a top-notch menu for any St. Patrick’s Day party.

With an emphasis on green colors, we’ll put together a festive selection of appetizers, entrees and desserts. Diner favorites include beef and chicken fajitas with cilantro and avocado, tortilla chips with salsa verde, and chicken flautas with Spanish rice and avocado. Whether it’s a small family get-together or a large corporate event, we take care of all the catering needs, including set-up, service and clean-up. For our catering events, we also take care of the decorations and any special menu requests for the occasion.

For dine-in options, we can add chili verde or pico de gallo with cilantro to any regular entree in honor of St. Patrick’s Day. We have been consistently voted one of the best local spots for Sunday brunch as well as one of the city’s top tequila bars. The holiday means good luck, and we’ll be sure to include plenty of green in our dishes to bring everyone plenty of luck. We recommend reservations ahead of time, and Mattitos has convenient Dallas locations in Forest Lane, the Uptown area, Frisco and Los Colinas. For banquet events, visit our banquet inquiry page to get started planning your St. Patrick’s Day event.

Valentine’s Day at Mattitos

If you’re looking for a good restaurant for Valentine’s Day, take your date to Mattito’s. It’s a great date night spot with award winning Tex Mex food. Mattito’s has been a favorite Dallas area restaurant for over fifty years.

Happy Hour at Mattito’s is always fun. It happens Monday through Friday from 3pm to 6pm. Since Valentine’s Day 2014 falls on a Friday, why not begin your date with Happy Hour?

* $3 beer and guacamole salad with a great list of bottled and imported beer
* $4 frozen or rocks margarita, bacon and cheese nachos and guacamole
* $4 sangria, chardonay, merlot and cabernet
* $5 Rumba Rita with Baja chicken or beef nachos

After Happy Hour, relax and enjoy a delicious Tex Mex dinner. Mattito’s has a varied menu that includes all the Tex Mex favorites – tacos, burritos, enchiladas and fajitas served with a great selection of sides. Choose from beef, chicken, pork, fish and shrimp entrees and combine it with the best guacamole salad in Dallas.

It’s Valentine’s Day, so be sure you leave room for a romantic dessert. Top off your evening with one of Mattitos’s scrumptious pastries.

* Flan – house made vanilla custard
* Sopapillas – warm puff pastries dusted with cinnamon sugar and honey
* Tres Leches – Mexican white cake topped with caramel and cream cheese

Plan a date night that’s fun and romantic for your special someone. Mattito’s has four convenient locations – The Centrum in Oaklawn; Forest Lane; Las Colinas; and Frisco. Choose a location that’s close to you and head out to Mattito’s for a memorable evening.

Spicy Food: Warm up this Winter!

Feeling the chill this winter and you need something to not only fill you up, but warm you up as well? Hot cocoa, soup and spicy food such as chili and other dishes are great ways to fill you up during those cold days.

With several locations we, at Mattito’s, offer a delicious variety of Tex Mex cuisine to please any palate and to warm you up when it is cold outside. We serve breakfast, lunch, dinner and every meal in between; with breakfast tacos and hearty Mexican Breakfast dishes such as Huevos Rancheros, to soups, salads and daily lunch specials, to delicious dinners. We have dishes that are spicy and not so spicy, chips with picante sauce and other picante dishes as well as options for the vegetarian customers and other healthy options for those watching their diet.

Dedicated to giving you a one of a kind Mexican dining experience, our family recipes have been handed down from one generation to the next. Mattito’s also offers you a unique and festive atmosphere that includes vintage settings, fountains and lush patio dining. We have also won many awards including a listing in the Top Ten Tequilla Bars in the United States. Our Happy Hour includes free snacks and it is from 3 pm to 6 pm Monday through Friday with $3 beer and ritas.

We also offer catering for your party or special occasion. Our Mexican Food Catering includes our wonderful, delicious cuisine, cloth napkins, entrée plates made of china, stainless steel flatware, buffet tables, chaffing dishes along with festive buffet décor. Our Party Catering offers the same great food along with plastic serving eating utensils and aluminum serving trays. Are you planning on having your party at our restaurant? We also provide private rooms that hold from 20 to 200 guests for your special occasion whether it is a reunion, wedding or other event.

Make New Years Resolutions Work

A new years resolution is the promise to start doing something positive or to stop doing something negative at the start of a new year. The practice dates back to ancient Babylon and has continued in various forms clear up to present day. Despite the popularity of making them, as much as 88% of people do not succeed. Fortunately there are a few simple techniques for improving the odds.

Start thinking about the changes you want to make ahead of time rather than at the end of the year. Having time to mull it over will help with picking new years resolutions that are realistic and achievable.

Ample time will make it easier to formulate an effective strategy. Will your resolution require more time, rescheduling or a lifestyle change like time at the gym and a membership? Start anticipating those things before they are needed so you can start your resolution with the new year instead of using the new year to prepare.

Perhaps the most difficult part is actually incorporating the changes you want to make. A very effective way to do this is by setting small, realistic short-term goals instead of large milestones that can seem intimidating. For example, someone that wants to quit smoking cigarettes might gradually reduce the number they smoke in a day. Someone wanting to get fit should try mild exercise and slowly increase intensity as they feel comfortable.

People have been making new years resolutions for thousands of years and now more people than ever do they have a hard time seeing them through. Giving yourself ample time, creating a plan, and setting small goals are some simple ways to increase the odds of success.