Veracruz Cafe in Bishop Arts was Emilio Mata’s first experience owning a restaurant. For 17 years, he co-owned it with two other people.

Then he decided he was ready to go out on his own. Mata sold his shares and began working to create Emilio’s Mexican Kitchen, which opened in 2019. He knew that he wanted something truly authentic to his culture and upbringing.

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“I wanted to do something different. Something that’s real,” Mata says. “There’s not a lot of authentic, real authentic Mexican food here. Most restaurants in this area are Tex-Mex.”

The food at Emilio’s Mexican Kitchen is heavily influenced by his hometown, Veracruz, Mexico.

A couple of Mata’s favorite dishes are the mole poblano and asado depuerco. Mole means “sauce” in Spanish. The mole poblano is Oaxaca-style, served over grilled chicken and served with rice and beans. “It reminds me of home,” Mata says. The asado de puerco is cubed pork cooked on ancho chili and dry chipotle sauce served with rice and beans.

Another favorite on the menu is the carne asada, which includes a grilled sirloin and one chicken enchilada with green sauce. Chicken and steak fajitas are served with flour or corn tortillas, guacamole, sour cream, pico de gallo and cheese. Fish tacos are made with grilled fish, lettuce, tomato, avocado and queso fresco. “That’s what it means to be authentic. It’s more than just the mole and asada,” Mata says. “All the flavors — the beans, the rice, the sauce, the spices — are Mexican. That is real.”

Emilio’s offers drinks that complement every meal.

Margaritas are flavored with peach, mango, strawberry, passion fruit, raspberry, sangria, tamarind and orange. There’s also a Coronarita — a margarita combined with Corona beer — and of course the house margarita, served frozen or on the rocks.

Inside Emilio’s, the walls are decorated with large, abstract paintings created by Mata’s friend and local artist Manuel Padilla. Padilla ownsan art gallery in Dallas and was responsible for the interior design of the restaurant.

Emilio’s has 12-15 employees on staff, and Mata cooks, washes dishes and serves whenever he needs to.

Mata loves being a restaurant owner in Lake Highlands. He says that the customers are like no other. “I love this area because of the customers. They are so friendly and so nice,” Mata says. “They make my job a bit easier.”

In the future, Mata hopes to open more restaurants around the Dallas area. Although he is working toward this goal, he knows that it will take some time. “Those are just plans,” Mata says. “For now, I want people to come here and enjoy real Mexican food.”

Emilio’s Mexican Kitchen, 6243 Retail Road, 972.685.2108