Berryhill Baja Grill, A Houston Favorite in Dallas

24 Sep

Berryhill Baja Grill got its start in Houston in 1993 as Berryhill Tamales and Tacos.  But its history dates back much further.  The name of the restaurant chain comes from a man by the name of Walter Berryhill, who sold his handmade tamales from a cart parked on the street corners of the wealthy River Oaks neighborhood in central Houston for more than 30 years.  Mr. Berryhill retired in the 1960’s, but the Berryhill chain resurrected his recipes and continued the tradition of fresh, hand rolled tamales made daily.  Berryhill has expanded to include a dozen locations in Houston, one in Austin, one in Dallas, and one in the Cancun International Airport

The history of Berryhill Baja Grill explains the menu’s emphasis on tamales as well as the variety (beef, pork, chicken, bean, and spinach and corn).  The baja fresh spin on the rest of the menu, however, doesn’t seem to carry any historical significance.  However unlikely the combination, the recipe of old fashioned Houston tamales plus Cali-Mex is successful for the Berryhill Baja Grill chain.  More locations around the state are opening soon, including one at Lemmon Ave at Oak Lawn and one in Las Colinas.

A craving for tamales, plus an all day Friday happy hour ($3 margaritas!), made Berryhill the perfect destination for a casual Friday dinner.  We sat at a patio table to enjoy the early evening breeze.  Too bad the view was just a paved parking lot with traffic at the Frankford and Preston intersection in the background.  You can’t blame Berryhill for trying, but strip mall patios just don’t provide the same atmosphere as sidewalk cafes. 

Upon seating, our bleach blonde, shaggy haired, California cool waiter made sure we were aware that Berryhill was unlike most Mexican restaurants in Texas.  He was from California and Berryhill served the kind of cuisine he was used to back home, baja fresh.  I found the situation amusing considering Berryhill’s roots are from a Houston tamale cart.  To avoid any unnecessary social awkwardness though, I simply nodded in agreement, saying nothing to contradict his proclamation that Cali-Mex was somehow far superior to Tex-Mex.  I just wanted to order my margarita. 

Soon enough, we were enjoying Berryhill’s fresh, mild salsa with our discounted margaritas.  Our entrees came out quickly after.

My taco (original fish taco) and two tamales (one pork, one beef) combo platter with charro beans ($8.99):

According to the menu, this location’s tamales are hand rolled daily by Sonia.  Steamed little rolls of well-seasoned comfort food, I preferred the texture of the tender shredded pork tamale a little better than the beef.  But both suffered from a high meat-to-masa ratio, causing the tamale to fall apart after cutting into it with a fork.  A little less meat and these would have bordered on tamale perfection.

The fish taco, with airy tempura batter, crunchy purple cabbage, creamy spicy sauce, and fresh cilantro, was definitely one of the best I’ve had in Dallas.  It had just the right amount of crunchiness from the fish, creaminess from the sauce, and a hint of bitterness from the cabbage.  The taco was large and difficult to handle with one hand.  But considering the tastiness of the taco, the mess was well worth the effort.

Charro beans, with plenty of smoked ham/bacon flavor, were also excellent.

My companion also enjoyed a combo plate, with a seafood enchilada, two tamales (same as my order, one pork and one beef), and charro beans ($8.49).

The seafood enchilada, chosen due to an enthusiastic recommendation from our California-native waiter, turned out to be average fare.  The sauce and filling were flavorful, but not distinct enough to be memorable.  My companion expressed similar opinions on the tamales (pork a little better than beef) and the charro beans (excellent smokey flavor). 

Service was attentive (though a bit presumptuous at the beginning) until the 20 minute wait for our check.  Our waiter was tied up in the main dining room and forgot about his table on the patio. 

Other than the service glitch at the end of the meal, I enjoyed my visit to the Dallas location of Berryhill Baja Grill.  The restaurant does its signature items justice with good Berryhill tamales and even better baja tacos.  Throw in the happy hour specials on margaritas and I can see many return visits to Berryhill in my future, especially when the weather calls for patio dining.

Rating: 3 / 5

Berryhill Baja Grill
18101 Preston Rd
Dallas, TX 75252

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