n email informing the Daily Light of an "invite-only" tasting of its signature dishes hit the servers on Monday as quietly as a mouse in Brooklyn — ignored until you've found he has eaten a week's supply of your finest gourmet cheese.
After filtering through the 100 emails I receive daily, there the invitation was sitting lonely and inviting.
As a "foodie" skeptical of Tex-Mex cuisine and its almost typical nature to flood the market in the Lone Star state, I was cautiously optimistic about the restaurant I had passed a million times but never crossed its threshold.
Truthfully, if left to my druthers and own devices, I'd have chosen Italian-made pasta or hand-rolled sushi rather than the seeming monument to food chains I was about to enter.
The uneasiness of the impending visit was amplified by the competition less than 500 yards away — a Buffalo Wild Wings next door or a newly placed El Pollo Loco and fan-favorite McCallister's Delli across the street.
Upon parking my Diamonique White Chevy Malibu in a semi-crowded parking lot and crossing the aforementioned threshold, though, I was impressed.
Impressed with the ambiance, the scintillating scents wafting through the air and the happy chatter of pairs and groups of the city's residents swapping stories over perfectly plated meals and appetizers.
The group was already there, from TaMolly's General Manager Efrain Rojas, an employee of the company for 26 of the restaurant's 32 years, to Peter Havel, the Waxahachie Chamber of Commerce president, and Bob Strate, Chief Operations Officer for TaMolly's across its 11 locations in Arkansas, Louisiana and Texas.
Jill Russell and Katie Day, a public relations representative with the BigInk PR Firm and a TaMolly's marketing manager, and Jeffery Yarboroughm BigInk's Chief Executive Officer, were there, too, happily sipping brightly colored margaritas in between words of conversation with Strate and Rojas.
When in Rome, right?
He approached me with a smile followed by a firm handshake, his thick accent creating the feeling of a walking into a traditional Central or South American home.
"Welcome to TaMolly's, May I get you something to drink?
I ordered a margarita like the rest, but what I was really interested in was the sample platter, the thing promised to excite my senses, tantalize my olfactory system and titillate my taste buds.
Even with the added bonus of perfectly crisped applewood smoked bacon, the guacamole was less than to be desired. However, the hand-chopped vegetable and smooth melt cheese based "Bob's dip" more than made up for it.
Centered with Daisy sour cream and chopped fajita beef, the taste of the dip equally matched its brilliantly clean presentation.
I was impressed, but Strate and his crack team of servers blew my mind with their main event and a couple of choice facts about the restaurant's hand-chosen ingredients.
TaMolly's ships more than 24,000 cases of Roma tomatoes a year and steam peels them instead of the customary practice of lye-peeling the vegetable.
"No chemicals," Strate said with a smile, adjusting his silver-rimmed glasses with one hand and tossing up and catching a tomato with the other. "We do our best to remain chemical and gluten free."
The gluten-free aspect interested me the most, especially since not every restaurant that claims to be gluten-free actually is.
TaMolly's, however, is not in that contingent.
The restaurant, as explained, is certified — at least its Waxahachie location. To ensure the integrity of every dish gluten-free, managers prepare and deliver all gluten-free meals and the company requires yearly training for the specialty, per company guidelines.
And yet, TaMolly's was only beginning to shift my apprehension of its unique spin to the Tex-Mex casual dining experience.
Though the shredded fajita beef that filled the enchiladas was almost perfectly marinated and hinted with overlays of garlic and Central American spices it was the enchilada sour cream sauce that sealed the deal for me. It was bold yet smooth and topped with a single jalapeño slice that added the kick my taste buds longed for by the third bite.
Even the vegetables — grilled with painstaking care by Alberto "Beto" Godina — are delicious from the first bite to last. The light coating of cheese only enhances the flavor of America's most neglected food group.
The farm-to-table chicken, marinated overnight and tenderized by hand twice, explodes with flavor and hints of sultry garlic, savory onion and a bevy of other in-house spices.
The piece de resistance, however, may have been its nearly carb-less cheese or carb-light fajita chicken or beef stuffed Chile Relleno. As you take the fork to those waiting taste buds, the lightness of the Fire-roasted Poblano Pepper almost surprises you more than the smooth yet spicy nature of the hand made avocado ranch.
Not only does the menu veer toward more expensive aged cheese (for the uniqueness of taste) and preservative-free in chips, it is affordably delicious. Prices range — not including specials, appetizers and desserts — from its cheapest dish ($7.95 cheese enchiladas) to the most expensive ($14.89 shrimp fajitas).
From the first greeting to the last belly-filling, tasty bite, TaMolly's proves while the Tex-Mex craze may be sweeping the nation, it is still unique, lovingly presented and well worth its weight in chips, salsa and Spanish-American cuisine.
— Marcus spent eight years in the foodservice industry working for Rosie and Johnny Carrabba at the original Carrabba's and Tilman Fertitta at Saltgrass Steak House as a service line cook and fine-dining server.