Cafe Reviewed: Wednesday, December 10, 2008
A family affair: Uncle and owner David Govea (standing) and nephew and manager Ryan Govea are there to please adventurous and timid palates alike. Photo by Naomi Vaughan
El Gabacho Tex-Mex Grill
2408 W Abram, Arlington. 817-276-8160. Mon-Sat 11am-9pm. All major credit cards accepted.
El Gabacho
Queso $4.99
Tortilla soup $4.99
Chile relleno $9.99
Fajita nachos $7.99
Beef enchilada/
taco lunch special $6.99

El Gabacho has a little something for every stripe of Tex-Mex lover.


El Gabacho is hidden in the Shoppes at Brownstone Village, a frou-frou set of stores in that part of Arlington that’s not quite collegeville, not quite the pretentious entertainment district, and fairly far away from the local frou-frou capital, The Highlands. The Shoppes are definitely aimed at the ladies who shop and lunch. In such a setting, the average passerby might overlook the restaurant unless he or she spotted the beautiful outdoor patio and the large sign there that advertises “Happy Hour 11 a.m.-7 p.m.” (!)
Calling itself a Tex-Mex place, El Gabacho indeed offers plenty of Norteamericano faves. The redundantly named “queso dip,” while tasty, may prove to be fairly mild for spice lovers. The tortilla soup was interesting: perhaps too much cilantro but full of chicken and veggies. The fajita nachos were definitely aimed at the gabacho (translation: something a little stronger than “gringo”). Still, the half-sized portion was generous, with delicious fajita beef, beans, and guacamole, everything topped with a mountain of cheese. Ditto the fajita platter that comes with your choice of beef, chicken, or shrimp and some tasty homemade flour tortillas to roll up the bounty that also includes onion, peppers, and guacamole.
But there also are dishes from all over Mexico such as the carne asada, pollo poblano (chicken in poblano cream sauce), and the camarones al mojo de ajoi (garlic shrimp). The chile relleno (stuffed pepper) is stuffed with your choice of cheese or beef. The huge, delicately breaded poblano pepper was covered in a wondrously tasty ranchera sauce. The refried beans that accompanied the peppers (and just about everything else) needed a little salt but had a perfect texture: creamy with a little chunk to them.
El Gabacho has a plethora of “favoritos” (translation: combinations of enchiladas and tacos). Unfortunately, there’s no combo of chile relleno and enchilada. The side order of chicken enchiladas featured giant pieces of bird and fresh corn tortillas, all smothered in a tasty sour cream sauce. El Gabacho also offers ranchera or verde sauces.
There are some inexpensive lunch specials that feature smaller combinations of “favoritos.” The beef enchilada came with a respectable amount of meat, a delicious red sauce, a soft beef taco, rice, and beans for only $6.99.
El Gabacho excels at preparing produce. The delicious slices of onions and peppers on the fajita plate were soft but still a little crunchy. Zucchini and squash accompany several dishes and, while notoriously easy to overcook, were al dente and not at all soggy. The pico de gallo and the guacamole were also super-fresh.
You’ve got it both ways at El Gabacho. You can go healthy, courtesy of a number of chicken or veggie entrées, or whole hog, courtesy mainly of the skillet flameado: beef or chicken, onions, and peppers sautéed in garlic butter and smothered in jack cheese.
In any event, you’ll find attentive service. A special request to separate the fajita fixin’s was handled deftly. Server Rachel managed everything with a smile.
But one pretty big quibble: El Gabacho uses a kind of easy-melting cheese instead of shredded cheddar to top almost everything. When melted, you don’t notice it. But when the non-cheddar is shredded on your salad, it’s all too apparent.
The beautiful brick and brownstone interior is decorated over-the-top for the holidays. During a recent lunch hour, mariachi music was piped in, and someone in the room was practicing the accordion. (An employee? Actually, it might have been the owner.) The happy hour ’ritas and swirls are potent. The swirl actually was deemed too dangerous to be consumed by any mere mortal. The beer choices range from traditional domestics, including Shiner Bock, to Corona, Dos Equis, Modelo, Carta Blanca, Tecate, and, weirdly enough, Heineken.
Is there any other place on the east side of the 817 where happy hour is offered throughout lunch and dinner hours? If you’re planning to make the drive here from downtown Fort Worth and on having a ’rita, be sure you have the cab company’s phone number handy.

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