First Look

First Look: Joe Leo Fine Tex-Mex Is Abuzz With Potent Drinks and Big Flavors

Joe Leo would be proud of this spread.
Joe Leo would be proud of this spread. Amy Meyer
At the intersection of Fitzhugh and Bennett is a large open-air covered patio where the music is bumping, the patrons are smiling and the tequila and tortillas chips are flowing. Meet the newest addition to FreeRange Concepts, Joe Leo Fine Tex-Mex, a refined Tex-Mex spot perfecting the basics.

Joe Leo adds to FreeRange Concepts’ robust portfolio, which includes an upscale boutique bowling alley, an urban oasis play place for dogs with eats and drinks for their owners, a spirited neighborhood bar and a farm-fresh restaurant and music venue pouring a Texas-sized selection of drinks.

This restaurant, however, is a special addition for FreeRange Concepts’ co-owner Kyle Noonan as it was inspired and named after Joe Leo Romero, his grandfather. Once you enter through the rustic doors and pass the neon “Joe Leo” sign, you’ll find a homage to the man himself reading, “Gracias a Dios por Joe Leo. Est. 1938.”
click to enlarge Always a sure sign that you're in for a good meal. - AMY MEYER
Always a sure sign that you're in for a good meal.
Amy Meyer
Your eyes won’t know where to focus once you walk in the door. Maybe start at the 20-foot-high shelves full of tequila bottles, or straight up to the greenery hanging from the ceiling. If you move to your table too fast, you’ll miss the window into the kitchen reading “FRESH TORTILLAS MADE TO ORDER.”

The walls are adorned with mirrors, photos, paintings and trinkets. The restaurant displays various styles and colors of tile throughout. The chairs vary from table-to-table with wicker, wooden and plush leather upholstery at the bar. The party doesn’t stop there, the dining room is relatively small, but the patio is huge.

click to enlarge Round one at Joe Leo is warm chips, salsa and a spicy mango margarita. - AMY MEYER
Round one at Joe Leo is warm chips, salsa and a spicy mango margarita.
Amy Meyer
If you didn’t already start to get hungry when you read fresh-made tortillas, now it’s time to get to the good stuff, the food. Joe Leo boasts of “the best fajitas and cold 'ritas in the Metroplex.” The service on the patio was prompt with a handy call button if you needed your server’s attention. Warm, thin, crispy tortilla chips with salsa immediately hit the table, placed next to a printed card advertising fresh-made guacamole, just the way Joe likes it with all the fixins’ or customized to order.

The guacamole came with a new batch of chips that can withstand the chunky consistency without breaking mid-scoop. The server also brought out a tabletop helicopter fan to fight off any pesky flies trying to get in on the action.

The drink menu includes Margaritas Famosas, Cocktails de Casa, six beers on tap and a variety of wine, bottled beer and tequila. If you can cut out of work early, all beers and frozen house ‘ritas are $5 from 3-6 p.m. daily. All day long, you can add the daily shot feature to any beer order for $3.

The spicy mango margarita made with spicy Hornitos Reposado, Ancho Reyes Verde, orange liqueur and mango is potent but full of flavor. The rim of Tajin mixed with the rush of the alcohol was a kick in the throat, but in a delicious way that gives it a good bite.

The pineapple smoke margarita made with Casamigos Blanco, Casamigos Mezcal Joven, fresh pineapple and lime juice and cinnamon gives off a healthy smoke from the mezcal but fell a bit short after the full-fledged, smooth, flavorful spicy mango.
click to enlarge The dining room at Joe Leo - AMY MEYER
The dining room at Joe Leo
Amy Meyer
The Fajitas Famosas are served family-style for $18.99/person with choice of chicken, beef, veggies, shrimp (+$4) or a combination. Each order comes with a side of sour cream, pico, cheese, grilled whole jalapeño, beans, rice and choice of corn or flour fajitas.

The sizzling platter is enough to feed one person and leave plentiful leftovers. The beef and chicken were tender and served atop a bed of grilled onions topped with fried frizzled onions. There was also a side of sauce consisting mostly of butter and chicken stock to top the meat. Both the corn and flour tortillas were top-notch; especially notable was how the thick corn tortillas withstood a heaping pile of ingredients without breaking.

The food was flavorful, the drinks were potent, and the atmosphere was buzzing, yet homey. The Joe Leo team is putting the final touches on their second-floor Cactus Club, aiming to debut in September.

The restaurant is open for dinner and brunch on the weekends with plans to start serving lunch in the near future. Besides the fajitas, other fan favorites include the golden tacos and decadent tres leches pancakes on the weekend.

Joe Leo Fine Tex Mex, 2722 N Fitzhugh Ave., 3 p.m. to midnight Monday - Friday, 11 a.m. to midnight Saturday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday. Brunch 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. Late Night Taco Time, 10 p.m. to close.
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