The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

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The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus


Beyond the Buzz: Unveiling Dallas’ best-kept culinary secrets located on Maple Avenue

Photo by Bella Edmondson

Dallas is known for its culinary excellence. From Tex-Mex to BBQ, there is something for everyone. Many SMU students stick to the bubble of familiarity: Mi Cocina in Highland Park Village, Burger House on Hillcrest Avenue and Bubba’s Cook Country in Snider Plaza. Occasionally students branch out when popular Dallas food influencers post a new spot to try. Located only 10 minutes from SMU’s campus, here are three spots on Maple Avenue that offer some of the best food in Dallas.

Avila’s Mexican Restaurant
This family-owned restaurant is in an old house on 4714 Maple Ave. The ceiling is draped with colorful flags called papel picados and there is an outdoor seating area with four picnic tables.

Octavio Avila co-owns the restaurant with his two sisters and credits a lot of the success to the lessons he learned while working at his grandfather’s grocery, Martinez Grocery. Growing up in his grandfather’s store taught him how to conduct business, he said.

“It shaped my whole life and my personality, being able to deal with people at a young age,” Octavio said.

Avila’s Mexican Restaurant is only 10 minutes from SMU’s campus. Its traditional family recipes got the attention of The Food Network in 2009. (Bella Edmondson)

It was his dream to open a restaurant with his mom, Anita. The mother-and-son duo opened their doors in 1986 with just four tables. Octavio said the restaurant gained a loyal following in its early years. No money was spent on marketing, instead, they relied on word of mouth. In 2009, the unexpected happened: the Food Network channel called.

“My brother took the call, and it didn’t go anywhere. A month later they called back, and we thought, ‘Maybe this is real,’” Octavio said. “One thing led to another and Guy Fieri came in 2009.”

The menu is constantly updated and features traditional family recipes. One of their most popular dishes is the Triple D, named for Guy Fieri’s show Diners, Drive- ins and Dives. The dish is a cup of pozole, brisket gorditas, pork tamales, rice and beans and the chile relleno. Owning and operating Avila’s has been a journey about learning, he said. Love and tradition are prepared with every plate at Avila’s. You can walk into the restaurant, and an Avila will be there.

What to order: Triple D Appetizer, Brisket Tacos and Fajitas.

Mike’s Chicken
Dallas is not short on fried chicken.

But there’s only one place that makes it cooked to order inside an old laundromat at 4234 Maple Ave. Mike’s Chicken is owned and operated by Tram and Son Dao, both Vietnamese immigrants. They serve fried chicken, homemade sauce and tasteful sides. For the Daos, it isn’t just about the final product but also the process.

“My mother, the original author of the recipe, loves cooking and highly values the steps to cooking,” said Michael Dao, son of Tram and Son.

It is both a home-cooked meal and fast food.

Mike’s Chicken is cooked to order and has been voted “Best Fried Chicken” in Dallas by the Dallas Observer and D Magazine. (Bella Edmondson)

“Upon creating the food, she wishes to infuse her passion and motherly love into the food and share it with anyone that eats it,” Michael said. “She wishes to recreate the childhood memory of waiting at the dining table so you can eat a heartwarming meal together with your family.”

The chicken earned its spot as a favorite in DFW after being voted Best Fried Chicken in 2021 by Dallas Observer and in 2022 by D Magazine. In 2022, Mike’s Chicken opened its second location on Forest Lane.

What to order: Leg and thigh fried chicken with creamy corn and beans. And Mike’s sauce!

Maple and Motor
Maple and Motor, located at 4810 Maple Ave., is the story of an unexpected venture between two neighbors who wanted to change how they invested their money during the 2008 economic recession. Both were active stock market investors and wanted to save up to do something different.

“Let’s take the next $50,000 we each have and invest in a real business,” said Jack Perkins, co-founder.

But, crafting a burger needed to come before buying a building.

“We put the grill in the garage and started making hamburgers,” Perkins said. “We spent a year or so until we figured we had a pretty good burger, we tried all kinds, and french fries too.”

The 15-year-old restaurant is your classic hamburger joint. The restaurant has eclectic decor with baseball caps hanging from the ceiling, and a fast-paced atmosphere. Co-owners Jack Perkins and Austen Wright opened their doors in 2009 and have been busy ever since.

In 2008 D Magazine named it the “Best Burger in Dallas” and in 2011, Diners, Drive- Ins and Dives visited, building its reputation even more.

Maple and Motor’s cheeseburger is a half-pound beef with mustard, lettuce, red onion and pickle. The restaurant celebrates “low class cool.” (Bella Edmondson)

The menu features nine options, the most popular is the cheeseburger, described on the menu as a “half-pound of finely ground American beef, flat-grilled in its own juices.” Dressed in traditional Texas fashion, with mustard, lettuce, red onion and pickle.” The restaurant says it is “a place that celebrates low class cool.” The homemade milkshakes (vanilla only!), traditional burger and old-time atmosphere demonstrate just that.

What to order: Cheeseburger, fries and homemade vanilla milkshake.

It is not just the food that makes Maple Avenue stand out, but the people. I left my food tour with a full belly and an even fuller heart. These three restaurants have committed to bringing people together, whether through a burger, taco or fried chicken. Maple Avenue is undeniably deserving of your attention.

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About the Contributor
Bella Edmondson
Bella Edmondson, Sports Editor & Asst. Podcast Producer
As the assistant podcast producer for The DC's Pony Pod, the award-winning series that can be heard on Spotify, Bella hopes to enlighten students, showcase trailblazing individuals, and engage in essential topics on SMU’s campus. Bella also covers SMU’s Senate elections and meetings.