Yes, I realize a food post a week after New Year’s, when everyone is still fretting about the extra pounds from the holidays, probably isn’t the wisest idea, but hey, it’s what was next in the queue. As you’ve probably figured out by now, I’m a sucker for Tex-Mex, so when one of the accountants in our office suggested we find a good mexican restaurant for an office birthday we were celebrating, I was game. The restaurant du jour would be Sol Irlandes Mexican Grill, across the street from our building in the Stone Street Plaza. I’d never been there, but a couple of folks in the office said they go there for happy hour quite a bit and said it was good.
Since it’s been about a month since I last reviewed any restaurants, here’s a reminder of my top secret rating system:
5 – I Would Walk 500 Miles (And I Would Walk 500 More) to visit this place
4 – Worth a visit when in town
3 – Meh; I won’t object if a friend suggests it, but I wouldn’t recommend it on my own
2 – Only if nothing else is open
1 – Run, Sriram, Run!
Sol Irlandes Mexican Chop House
- 1525 Main Street, Dallas, TX
- Hours: M-Th 11 AM-11 PM; Friday 11 AM-1 AM; Saturday 10 AM-1 AM; Sunday 10 AM-11 PM
- Price: $10-20 per person (lunch)/$15-30 per person (dinner), no alcohol
Directions: on Main Street between Ervay and Akard. Main Street is most easily accessed from IH-35E southbound (exit Commerce Street east, go under the triple underpass, and veer left for Main) or IH-30 (exit US 75 north, then Main/Elm, and veer left to Main). There is no public parking in the building; the closest public garage is the Tower Garage ($12/day) immediately north, on Elm Street, next to Thanksgiving Tower (1601 Elm Street). There are plenty of cheaper surface lots and garages a few blocks east on Commerce and Elm ($6/day or less).
Alternatively, take the DART light rail to Akard Station, walk 1/2 block east to Akard, turn right, then left on Main Street. It is a less than 5 minute walk from the station.
I’ll start off by saying that I find the whole “Chop House” thing to be pretty pretentious. When I hear “chop house”, I immediately think “expensive steak house”. There’s nothing wrong with steak houses, and in fact, I’m a sucker for a good steak, but please, enough with the faux sophistication. You’re a Mexican restaurant. Nothing wrong with that, either. It’s Texas, for goodness sake, where good Mexican food is almost like religion. Then again, maybe the pretentiousness is fitting since Sol Irlandes is across the street from the Joule Hotel, and next door to the awful Eye.
Anyway, enough with the rant. Much of Sol’s appeal comes from its location, deep in the heart of downtown and in a historic building. The restaurant says the building it is housed in was constructed between 1892 and 1895, which would making it one of the oldest standing buildings in Dallas. I haven’t been able to verify that claim, but seeing as it is next door to the old Wooworth building, which was built in 1913, it seems believable. These photos didn’t come out very well, but you can see the old brick walls and wood floors in the upstairs dining room (pretty busy at lunchtime).
There is also a very large bar area downstairs with a small outdoor patio – again, unfortunately, the photos didn’t come out, thanks to a dirty lens. The large bar does seem appropriate given the enormous margarita and tequila menu. The co-workers who suggested we come here said they come over for happy hour quite a bit, and in fact, Sol does have a reputation around town of being a happy hour kind of place at night.
Now on to the important part, the food. I decided to keep it simple this time – no appetizer, just a main course of the lunch chimichanga with fajita chicken.
This is your pretty standard gooey Tex-Mex platter, though with only one chimichanga, it’s a manageable portion. The tortilla was nicely fried – pan fried, instead of the usual deep frying you see with chimichangas – and actually reminded me quite a bit of the pan fried burritos my mom makes at home (yes, I know, that sounds terribly strange, getting Mexican food at home when my mom’s specialty is South Indian). The fajita chicken was well-seasoned, perhaps slightly overdone but still good. The chili con queso was also tasty, creamy and with a light peppery flavor but not too hot. The one complaint here is excessive use of onions. Fajita meat, of course, should be accompanied with onions, but the chunks were large, and some were a little undercooked. Carry breath mints if you plan to order this dish. Refried beans were good, especially when mixed with the queso. These are the pork-less variety, but were still rich and had a solid pinto bean flavor. Overall, I’d say this is a good dish, and one that didn’t leave me completely comatose for the afternoon.
I will say, there are some very odd choices on the menu, such as baby back ribs, mozzarella sticks, and fish & chips – the latter designated as a house specialty on the menu. I haven’t tried any of the gringo items, but frankly I’d be a little wary; restaurants that try to focus on too many things tend to not do them very well, in my experience.
I was impressed with the service on this lunch visit. We had a party of 10+, and our bubbly server got everything delivered perfectly and even split the checks without us having to ask. Despite the large party, and everyone ordering separate dishes off the menu, we were back in the office in under an hour. The spread-out dining room keeps the noise level manageable, but unfortunately, the only view out the window is of the giant eyeball.
Rating: 3 1/2 stars. Enchilada’s a few blocks down Elm has better Tex-Mex, but Sol Irlandes isn’t a bad choice by any means, and the ambience of being smack dab in the middle of downtown in a historic building is a plus.