Editor’s note: Cuellars’ Fajita Ranch will be closing at the end of service June 17, 2018.
Texas Pride. Family. Food. Fun. These are four things anyone in the Lone Star State can get excited about. Add a massive patio for sipping margaritas with friends, plus recipes that have been passed down in a family for generations, and you’ve got a winning combination.
Cuellars’ Fajita Ranch embodies the term “family-owned.” Cousins Gilbert Cuellar, Jr., John Cuellar and Cory Cuellar opened Cuellars’ Fajita Ranch last summer, continuing their deep family legacy in the Tex-Mex restaurant scene in Dallas and nationwide.
You see, it was the Cuellar family (pronounced KWAY-YAR) who founded El Chico in the 1940s, essentially introducing Tex-Mex to all of America. The three owners of Cuellars’ Fajita Ranch recounted memories of their fathers and grandfather – Gilbert, Frank, and Willie Jack – who opened that now well-known concept. There’s a photo of them hanging on the back wall, watching over the bustling restaurant. The men in the photo are no longer with us, but rest assured they’d be proud of their legacy that lives on in the industry they loved and poured their lives into.
Beyond the founding of El Chico, the Cuellars also introduced fajitas to the Dallas market in 1981 (be sure to check out the photo of Gilbert Jr. with Ronald Reagan – a huge fan of the “new” dish back then), and Gilbert founded Cantina Laredo with his father in 1982, their last project together. In 2013, John and Gilbert Jr. partnered together to open El Corazon de Tejas in the Bishop Arts District, a popular eatery until its closing this past April.
With a number of feathers in their successful restaurant-opening caps, Gilbert Jr. and John have added a fresh face to the team in this new venture: their cousin Cory Cuellar. They now jokingly refer to themselves as “The Three Amigos” behind Fajita Ranch.
When asked why they chose Plano for Fajita Ranch, they explained that many of their El Corazon customers were actually driving down from this area, and they wanted to bring something for them a little closer to home. They also loved the building, which is owned by Rodney Haggard, a member of the Haggard family who has owned farmland in Plano for more than 100 years – another fascinating tradition.
The vibe at Cuellars’ feels like a fiesta, with bright, colorful lights lining the ceiling, a massive patio for those perfect patio-weather days and a live mariachi band on occasion (country music also regularly fills the room). Family photos cover the walls of the 6,500-square-foot space, making you feel as if you’re somewhere familiar even if it’s your first time to dine there. The bright colors that greet customers at every turn combine with the excellent service to bring a smile to one’s face – a smile that is sure to make an encore appearance when tasting the food.
A new type of cuisine is featured at Fajita Ranch, which the team has branded “Ranch Mex.” It incorporates many down-home Texas dishes with the traditional, tried-and-true Tex-Mex menu that has defined the Cuellar family name for generations. Think fajitas, burritos and quesadillas on one side of the ring, with chicken fried steak, chicken wings (they call them white wings here), and pork ribs on the other. Want mashed potatoes and gravy with that cheese enchilada? They’ll make it happen. They even have vegan and vegetarian options, adding to the incredible flexibility of the menu.
While we were chatting with Gilbert over a large bowl of (delicious) chorizo queso, his family walked in; not to see him, he assured us, but to eat the delicious food. With food this good, it’s safe to say the Cuellar culinary tradition will continue for years to come… deep in the heart (and stomachs) of Texas.Cuellars' Fajita Ranch >
The Cuellars’ recipe for their Perfect Patrón Margarita…