Dive In

| photography by Alex Lepe |

The clientele is diverse at Restaurante El Patrón, as indicated by the varied vehicles in the parking lot, from the sleek Porsche Cayenne to a ladder-adorned work truck, witnessed on our lunch visit. The casual Mexican dive in Fort Worth’s Northside – with its vinyl booth seating, Old World-style faux finished walls, and TV tuned to Spanish-language telenovelas – draws customers from all backgrounds for its lengthy list of authentic dishes and convenient dining.

To be clear, a certain brand of tequila of the same name is not served at El Patrón, nor is alcohol of any sort. (Opt instead for the sweet aguas frescas – Spanish for “fresh waters,” made from fruits, rice, or flowers blended with sugar and water.) The moniker actually means “boss” or “dictator” in Spanish, but service here is nothing but friendly. During a busy lunch visit, we grabbed menus from the restaurant’s to-go counter and sat ourselves. Our server, the only one we saw, quickly arrived bearing chips and chunky salsa. A few minutes to navigate the menu were required as the entire bill of fare was in Spanish. Food photos, however, help with any language barriers.

Items are broken out by breakfast (desayuno), appetizers (antojitos), house specialties (platillos de la chata), meats (carnes), seafood (mariscos), and a menu for kids (niños). Diners expecting traditional Tex-Mex staples like queso sauce or enchiladas doused in chile con carne won’t find them. El Patrón instead provides a truer taste of Mexico with dishes like carne asada with grilled cactus, grilled whole fish filets, and huarache (pronounced wah-dah-cheh) – an oblong fried base of thick cornmeal masa typically topped with beef, chicken or pork, various salsas, and finished with crumbled queso fresco. The concept could be considered a pizza-like version of a taco.

I chose a huarache of carne asada ($7). A plate-sized portion arrived generously outlined in a piping of thick, tangy Mexican crema, which, although similar, is not to be confused with sour cream. A thin layer of refried beans covered the crispy, chewy masa base, which was topped with chunky bites of grilled beef, shredded iceberg lettuce, chopped tomatoes and white onions, thinly frayed bits of white queso fresco, and bright green, beautifully sliced avocados. Although listed under antojitos, the dish is more than enough for a meal. And while some may enjoy the hefty helping of crema, much of mine wound up scraped off.

A hot bowl of posole ($8.50) – a traditional Mexican stew made with hominy – helped balance the heavy huarache, especially when garnished with crunchy shredded cabbage and a big squeeze of fresh lime juice. El Patrón’s posole is made with chunks of pork, not chicken, that swim in an orange hued, chili powder-heavy broth. The dish is only served on Saturday and Sunday, but we were served a bowl on our Monday visit. It was the last they had, we were told. 

The corn tortillas are made in-house, as boasted on the menu, and are perfect for sopping up the savory soup. Light and fluffy, we also had them stuffed with charred cubes of carne asada and topped with chopped white onion and fresh cilantro. Three come on the taco plate ($7.50), which is served with refried beans and Spanish rice dotted with peas and diced carrots.

Plump gorditas – pockets of corn masa - ($3.50 each or $6 for two) came filled with choice of protein and, similar to the huarache, overly stuffed with more thick crema. Perhaps the generous dose is a standard, but it was overkill for our preference and again, much of it was scooped out.

Take-out orders are popular here, too. During our visit, a steady line of customers dropped in to pick up Styrofoam box-filled sacks that were ready upon arrival, obviously called in ahead of time. Medical staff bearing scrubs, businessmen, small families and hardhat-clad construction workers rounded out the scene. While there are several options for authentic Mexican food on N. Main Street, El Patrón is a standout for its amicable service, easy access, spacious setting, reasonable prices and tasty, flavorful cuisine.

 Location: Restaurante El Patrón, 1329 N. Main St., Fort Worth

For Info Call: 817.624.3340
Hours: 10 a.m. - 7 p.m., Mon.-Fri.; 9 a.m. – 7 p.m., Sat.; 10 a.m. - 5 p.m., Sun.
Price Range: $
What We Liked: Easy parking, friendly service, no-frills vibe, reasonable pricing and large variety of dishes.
What We Didn’t: Too much Mexican crema overwhelmed any dish it came on. 
Our recommendation: The huarache, an oblong fried base of cornmeal masa slathered with refried beans and topped with choice of meat, shredded lettuce, chopped tomatoes and white onions, queso fresco, Mexican crema and sliced avocado. Ask for the kitchen to go easy on the crema.