Positives: Great decor, good food, attentive service
Negatives: Long wait, noisy and dim, costly
Family members living in the Dallas area recently "discovered" Uncle Julio's and were eager to share their new favorite place with us. So eager, in fact, that we drove 35 miles one way to eat there.
After arriving we waited about a hour for our group of four adults and one child to be seated. Fortunately, the evening was warm and the patio area was a nice place to sit. Between the trip and the wait, we'd invested nearly two hours before we were escorted to a table.
Plentiful Parking -
Although dining areas were packed, the parking lot was big enough to accommodate all vehicles associated with the overflow crowd. That's quite impressive in a trendy area where real estate commands a premium price.
Stunning Design -
Inside and out, the building is attractive and fascinating to look at. It's also a great photographic subject.
Graceful arches, rustic materials, and traditional colors abound. Unique light fixtures add a whimsical touch inside, while neon signs and decorations give the exterior a retro vibe reminiscent of Route 66 landmarks in New Mexico and Arizona. Furnishings contribute to the "authentic feel" of the place.
Despite it's visual appeal, we found the dining area too dark for our taste...particularly toward the back of the room where we were seated. But the dining area was bright by comparison to the men's restroom. It was by far the darkest such facility I've ever been in.
Sound was also a problem. There was too much of it! We had a hard time conversing due to crowd noise and canned music.
Innovative Food -
Once seated, our server was quick to bring complimentary tortilla chips and salsa. The chips were quite good...crisp and not greasy. The salsa had a moderately smoky chipotle flavor with a little bit of "bite."
Our daughter and son-in-law are quite fond of Uncle Julio's vegetable fajitas with salmon. Previously, we'd seen many different meats turned into fajitas...chicken, beef, pork, shrimp...but not salmon. I didn't taste theirs, but the entire dish looked wonderful.
My wife and I chose a couple of less exotic dishes: grilled fish tacos for me, and chicken tortilla soup for her. We shared a small order of guacamole.
The fish tacos were very good...among the best I've had. All three were grilled to perfection and topped with crispy cabbage. Side dishes included a delicate sauce, seasoned rice, and black beans. The menu said the beans were spicy, but I thought them quite mild.
My wife's soup looked more like gumbo than tortilla soups served at other places. She was a bit disappointed with the amount served. Portion sizes elsewhere range from "large" to "ridiculously large", but none were as small as served here.
Superior Service -
From greeters to servers, employees were both friendly and professional. One incident particularly impressed us. My wife needed to take medicine during the protracted wait; a host kindly and quickly brought water in a to-go cup.
Our server patiently waited while we pored over the menu; she cheerfully provided refills and brought food in a reasonable time frame, considering the number of customers that night.
The Bottom Line -
If the crowd we saw is an accurate indicator, Uncle Julio's is one of the current hot spots in the north Texas restaurant scene. We enjoyed the food, appreciated the service, were surprised by the parking and entertained by the design...but annoyed by the noise and long wait.
Given its positive attributes, I'd stop short of saying food at Uncle Julio's is overpriced. It is, however, "premium priced." Aside from the soup, which we thought was too expensive at $6.95 per bowl, the cost of other dishes we ordered was at the top of what we consider reasonable.
We often stay in this area when visiting Dallas and will certainly give this restaurant another try. The menu lists a several innovative variations on common themes. We'd like to sample some of them. Perhaps next time we'll even try the fajitas!
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