Escondido Tex-Mex Patio will debut at Preston Royal this winter. (Courtesy)
Husband and wife Jon and Natalie Alexis have owned TJ's since 2009.
Chef Matt McCallister joins Jon Alexis' new restaurant Malibu Poke. (2017)
Since 1989, TJ’s Seafood has been a family-owned favorite spot for fresh fish in Dallas. Two years ago (just after the tornados and right before the pandemic), we caught up with owners Jon and Natalie Alexis, who were celebrating 30 years in business and their recent Malibu Poke collaboration with chef Matt McCallister. Thankfully, both brands survived the hardest years for our restaurant industry. And now, the Dallas seafood savant is gearing up to take on Tex-Mex — a brand new concept called Escondido is set to debut in Preston Royal this winter.
After so much success in the fresh seafood arena, one could ask, why Tex-Mex, and why now?
“I always wanted to do a Tex-Mex restaurant,” Alexis tells PaperCity. “It’s my favorite food.”
But Alexis didn’t want to take the plunge until he found an intersection in Dallas that didn’t have Tex-Mex — which is pretty uncommon these days. So when the Cantina Laredo at Preston Royal shuttered at the end of 2020, the opportunity to fill the void arose. Across Royal Lane, the former Ruggeri’s Italiano Pescatore (which shuttered after the 2019 tornados destroyed it), became a perfect fit.
Escondido, which means “hidden” in Spanish, will be a family-friendly Tex-Mex restaurant opening this winter. Alexis says the name was inspired by the fact that the unassuming space has always been sort of tucked away — with his team’s addition of a massive, 75-seat patio out front, that’s likely about to change. The indoor/outdoor patio will be a highlight of the restaurant, accompanied by a resort-style bar that will sling margaritas, chips, and queso.
Chill Vibes and Margaritas to Go
Designed by Duncan & Miller, the hospitality design firm behind spots like Tulum, Muchacho, and Dahlia, Escondido in Preston Royal will feature Mexican tile, cozy booths, floral pieces, Otomi folk art, string lights, and wrought iron lighting.
“We wanted a funky feeling,” Alexis says. “It’s family-friendly and chill. I don’t want you to worry if your kid spills salsa or anything.”
One major highlight of the new Tex-Mex spot is a to-go window on Royal Lane. Apart from the most important takeout option — margaritas to-go — you’ll also be able to pick up chips and queso, or even breakfast tacos with Mexican coffee in the morning.
For the dine-in menu, you’ll find Tex-Mex classics like sizzling fajitas, tacos, enchiladas, nachos, and carne asada. Salads are another focus for Alexis. “My wife picks Tex-Mex spots based on her favorite salads,” he says. “A taco salad can be great.” Escondido will also offer combination plates with many options.
Escondido will offer a classic margarita on the rocks along with a frozen and spicy version. You can also expect frozen Ranch Waters. “I cannot eat Tex-Mex without having a margarita,” Alexis says — and I’m sure most would agree.
A Resident-Focused Restaurant Group
I feel like I can speak for most Dallasites when I say we’ve seen a lot of new Tex-Mex spots open in the city. In the past two years alone: Odelay, Eddie’s, Joe Leo, and too many Primo’s to count. Will there be anything different at Escondido?
“We’re not trying to reinvent the Tex-Mex wheel,” says Alexis. “But one thing we will do differently is bring the same level of hospitality that exists in all of our restaurants.”
Anyone who’s waited for a table in the always-packed TJ’s Seafood can attest: the team knows how to create a home away from home. Little touches — like servers remembering your name and where you like to sit — or the chance of running into friends and neighbors, are as important as the food.
This mission extends to Alexis’ newly formed restaurant group, Imperial Fizz. With the expansion, Alexis says that they will continue to open neighborhood restaurants. “If the pandemic taught us anything, it’s that we need neighborhood restaurants,” he adds.
Instead of looking to fit his concepts into certain hot spots, the group will be looking for areas in need of a great neighborhood haunt. “To make residents’ lives better,” he says. “This is happy food and it should make people happy.”