"A new experience with an old friend."
That's the message that greets you on Daddy Buelo's Facebook page. It's a reference to Jose Mora, formerly of Casa Jose Café, an Arlington staple for 12 years known for its San Antonio Tex-Mex.
For the past 30 years, the Moras have owned several restaurants in Arlington. But recently, they've settled into a space just one mile south of UTA.
One glance at the menu at Daddy Buelo's -- named for Mora, who is called this by his children and grandchildren -- and I was sold.
But just to make sure, I wanted to put Daddy Buelo's to the ultimate test, so I called upon the matriarch of Mexican cooking to join us: my mother.
The menu happens to have a lot of my childhood favorites, including hard-to-find dishes, like machacado.
Inexplicably, machacado ($7.95) is rare in these parts. It's a peculiar but simple dish: dry, shredded beef (like beef jerky) mixed with eggs. One wouldn't think to combine such ingredients, but it's a very popular breakfast dish in Mexico, with origins not far from where I grew up.
I like to think of machacado as a Mexican version of steak and eggs that goes well with tortillas. The beef has an almost muted flavor, with a softer texture than traditional supermarket beef jerky. A little salt (and sometimes lime) is used to draw out its natural flavor, which is unseasoned right out of the package. The version at Daddy Buelo's is identical to how we cooked ours at home; a terrific surprise that brought an everyday favorite back into my life.
Another dish I rarely see is the fideo con pollo ($5.95), vermicelli simmered in a tomato-based broth with shredded chicken.
Fideo has a light tomato flavor, but it's the tender chicken that makes the dish. Strangely, at Daddy Buelo's, the mixture is served on a plate; it's traditionally served in a bowl, since it's considered a soup.
I've been told that Casa Jose Café was known mostly for its tacos, and Buelo's has plenty to choose from, including the hefty chorizo and egg ($1.95) and potato and egg ($1.50) tacos; as well as bacon and egg ($1.50); bean and cheese ($1.50); cheese and egg ($1.50); and country sausage and egg ($1.95).
All tacos include Mora's stellar homemade tortillas -- soft, fluffy, and slightly coarse (a true homemade tortilla is never smooth). They'd seriously cash in if they sold those babies in stacks.
Also worth mentioning are the refried beans, which, for the first time in my life, I actually enjoyed. They're creamy, with a flavor reminiscent of butter or cheese, but we couldn't figure out the secret. Were they cooked in lard? No, oil, they said. It remains a delicious mystery.
Oddly, no dish included cilantro, but we didn't care, and that's saying a lot coming from three cilantro-lovers.
The chilaquiles "migas" a la Mexicana ($6.50) with corn tortilla chips, eggs and pico is really just a migas dish (a traditional chilaquiles dish does not include eggs). Although, I prefer my corn tortilla chips to be crispier than Buelo's.
Our favorite dish was the caldo ($5.95), a large bowl of Mexican soup-stew. Caldo is the ultimate comfort food -- a slow-simmered mixture of cabbage, celery, corn on the cob, potatoes and fall-off-the-bone beef, served with a side of rice. Caldo's allure comes from its complex vegetable and beef-based flavor, which requires little seasoning other than salt and pepper. (I like mine with lime.) Usually, it takes a couple of hours to simmer.
My mom retired about 10 years ago from the time-consumptive practice of Mexican cooking. I think she'd rather watch reruns of The Golden Girls than supervise a simmering soup for two hours. I don't blame her.
Fortunately, Daddy Buelo's is a suitable replacement. What we loved about the place is that even though it labels itself as Tex-Mex, it's actually one of the most authentic Mexican restaurants we've ever visited. And since it has Mom's blessing, I'll be going back for more.