In DFW’s sea of Tex-Mex restaurants, it can be hard for one to stand out amongst the seemingly endless crowd. While others attempt to find the latest gimmick to drive patrons through the doors, or cover their walls in neon advertising in an attempt to snag a potential customer’s attention, Fernando’s Mexican Cuisine takes an unusual approach in the fast paced culinary circuit; they perfect what they’ve got.

Fernando and Anne Padilla are the founders of Fernando’s Mexican Cuisine, and they have been playing off of each other’s strengths and weaknesses for over 13 years when it comes to the restaurant game. Anne sits, very methodical and calculating, occasionally taking peeks around their CityLine neighborhood restaurant. She speaks in a deliberate manner, and chooses her words carefully. 

Sitting next to her is Fernando. Dressed in a button down shirt with a chili pepper patterned tie, he talks in a pure stream of consciousness, letting the conversation go wherever his mind chooses. “I’m the ‘idea guy,’ the go-getter, and she is always there to correct me and keep it all, you know, checks and balances,” Fernando states. They’re a perfect match, like chips and queso, or a ribeye with red wine, both of which you can get at Fernando’s, by the way.

The first Fernando’s Mexican Cuisine opened in May of 2005 at the intersection of Midway Road and Northwest Highway in Dallas, and it’s still cranking out dishes to locals and travelers alike. This newer location, open since November 2016, is in the CityLine neighborhood, right on the line between Richardson and Plano, nestled in the shadow of rising business complexes, hotels and urban living spaces.

With free parking conveniently located on State Street, right in front of the restaurant, as well as on the first floor of the nearby parking garages, the spot was an ideal choice. Fernando’s spacious outdoor patio looks out onto the fountains of picturesque CityLine plaza, and when paired with the CityLine live music series (the next series runs September through October), they’ve got the recipe for the perfect relaxing evening out.

Alongside the usual suspects of enchiladas, fajitas and queso, you’ll also see some out-of-the-ordinary menu items for a Tex-Mex place – true Spanish paella, scallops and shrimp and filet of tenderloin with a green and black peppercorn sauce, just to name a few. If that wasn’t different enough, Fernando’s also boasts a seriously impressive list of over 40 different wines and even a torched, flaming cup of coffee to go alongside those sizzling fajitas.

“We have a good happy hour during the week. A lot of companies are starting to bring their offices here and that kind of thing – to do a happy hour – is a lot of fun,” Anne states. She isn’t bragging either. Fernando’s offers spectacular weekday happy hour deals that start early at 11 a.m. and run until 6:30 p.m., knocking the price of their frozen and rocks house margaritas down to only $4.50. 

For those looking to kick off their weekend with a satisfying meal of fresh Tex-Mex and refreshing beverages, Fernando’s brunch menu is served Saturday and Sunday beginning at 10 a.m. and going all the way until 4 p.m. for late risers. The special menu offers savory dishes like chilaquiles and huevos rancheros alongside $3.75 mimosas, house margaritas, and frozen blueberry mojitos.

Touches of Mexico City cuisine, like Filete San Angel (grilled beef tenderloin served with sautéed mushrooms, shallots and chiles in a port wine sauce) and Camarones Coyoacan (jumbo shrimp stuffed with crabmeat, herbs and breadcrumbs baked in a white wine sauce), make it fairly difficult to place Fernando’s as just another run-of-the-mill Tex-Mex place. And how many restaurants spoil guests with four complimentary house-made salsas upon seating? Salsa roja, avocado salsa, cilantro salsa, and chile puya salsa are made fresh each morning and served with chips.

Fernando and Anne aren’t planning on becoming Tex-Mex tycoons anytime soon. The Padillas express that they have had the great fortune of being able to watch their long term customers grow old with them, or get married and have children, who in turn come and play in their restaurants. They feel they’d miss out on that by becoming a big chain.

“If I’m lucky, I’ll be able to sell out and retire, and if I’m even luckier, they will wheel me out of this place,” Fernando concludes. No matter what the future holds for Fernando and Anne, their restaurant is here to stay for as long as possible, dishing up lifelong memories of a place that is just a little different.

Photos courtesy of Plano Magazine. Read the review here.