Rockwall’s El Cayote Rojo Cantina is our favorite Mexican restaurant

By J.J. Smith. ROCKWALL – This local food critic can’t wait to return to eat at El Cayote Rojo Cantina & Grill, Rockwall’s only Austin-style Tex-Mex restaurant, located on Hwy. 66, just before leaving Old Downtown Rockwall to the east towards Fate.

There are two simple reasons why.

First, on two of the four times that my wife & I have eaten there, the food, atmosphere and service have been absolutely perfect! Exceeded expectations! Delicious food; friendly & attentive waitstaff; beautifully-designed, spacious & well-lit interior & exterior; plus even a talented singing owner – Norma Valles Rocha!

On those four occasions, my wife said she’s thoroughly enjoyed the Chile Relleno, Tacos Al Carbon, Chicken & Beef Flautas, plus Shrimp Cozumel.

I always order Carne Asada (marinated, charbroiled skirt steak) with ranchero sauce.

The second reason, and the same reason I always order Carne Asada? Because the only problem I’ve had with El Cayote Rojo is they have been a little inconsistent, a challenge which most restaurants seem to have. But the first, second and third times that I ordered my favorite, the Carne Asada was so delicious that I just had to have it again!

For Mexican food in Rockwall, El Cayote Rojo has definitely become our favorite. Now, if they can just get that Carne Asada perfect each time I order it!

Each time we’ve visited, we’ve been greeted by a pleasant, smiling hostess who’s shown us to our spacious booth or comfortable table quickly – once on the back patio, when the weather was warm – plus provided us with the menus. The Cantina has been full twice but we only had to wait a few minutes to be seated.

Next, either a friendly waitress or waiter greeted us immediately to ask what we would like to drink. After ordering, we never had to wait more than 10 minutes or so to be served. Each time, the food was hot and displayed in a very appetizing manner.

On the first occasion, my wife said her Chile Relleno was most tasty. For those who don’t know, it’s a big roasted poblano pepper (not spicy) stuffed with your choice of beef, chicken, or cheese, topped with their special ranchero sauce & cheese, plus served with rice, refried beans, guacamole & pico de gallo.

On ensuing occasions, she said she’s also thoroughly enjoyed Tacos Al Carbon, which are either two flour or three corn charbroiled fajita steak tacos, served with pico de gallo, guacamole, refried beans, rice & sour cream.

She liked the Flautas, which are tightly rolled fried corn tortillas, filled with your choice of beef or chicken, served with refried beans, guacamole, and sour cream.

She said her favorite was the Shrimp Cozumel, large shrimp marinated & charbroiled in shrimp sauce with one chicken sour cream enchilada, served with guacamole & pico de gallo.

So the inconsistency has only really occurred with my food and some service on the fourth visit, when the waiter mysteriously disappeared for the night after he served us. On every other visit, our waitstaff has double-checked each time to be sure we were pleased.

On my first visit, the Carne Asada was very tasty but too rare when they first served it. After they took it back one time, it was much better. That happens at times when ordering steak, I’ve learned. It’s generally topped with onions and served with tender rice, refried beans, guacamole and pico de gallo. But since I don’t like the beans or other, I asked to substitute what was a delightful melted cheese enchilda, plus some shredded lettuce and tomato. “No problem,” the waitress said. So they do accept substitutions without difficulty, we learned.

By the way, the tomato-based ranchero sauce is the best! Not too spicy and smooth, it tops off the charbroiled steak perfectly. They also offer other sauces.

On the second visit, I couldn’t have asked for a better steak dinner. Delicioso!

On the third, it was duplicated, except they decided to charge me a bit extra for the cheese enchilda for the first time. Oh well, it was worth $2 or so.

On the fourth visit, well…this was the most inconsistent one, as far as the steak was concerned. Instead of another properly-prepared steak, they served me what my wife and I swear was a portion of overcooked beef roast. Even the waiter admitted that’s what it looked and felt with a fork like slightly burned beef roast. It didn’t taste very good so I didn’t finish it. I left feeling very disappointed. That’s when I decided the place is great, just somewhat inconsistent. But so are most restaurants, from my experience.

Now the management was very nice and very concerned when I told them about my steak. They offered to bring me another, but by that point I just wasn’t in the mood. I know that I shouldn’t have waited to complain. I certainly don’t usualy mind speaking up when my food’s not right, as my sweet wife has too often experienced! But on this occasion, management did provide us with a coupon for a discounted meal upon return. They said they would have provided me with a free meal, but since we were paying for this meal with a certificate, we only had to pay a few dollars anyway ($2 for a $25 meal certificate).

Now before I end my critique, let me repeat that the first three times our meals were quite superb, with only a minimum of imperfection. So we highly recommend El Cayote Rojo Cantina & Grill. It doesn’t get any better in Rockwall or surrounding areas!

Lunches and dinners range from $7.95 to $15.95, with plenty of appetizers and desserts to choose from. They serve lunch specials weekdays, 11 am – 2 pm, for $7.97 & $8.95. They even serve breakfasts, from $2.95 – $7.95.

I should also mention that, every Friday night, Norma sings some tunes and singing, guitar-strumming Mariachis will serenade your table (hoping for some tips!). On Saturday nights, live blues & country music bands play.

A full-service bar with all your favorite adult beverages is located on the side of the Cantina, but it’s basically separated from most of the tables. Happy Hour is from 3-7 pm weekdays. They also can accommodate groups upstairs.

So if you like Mexican food ( and who doesn’t in Texas?), in a most pleasant atmostphere with friendly staff and customers, do yourself a favor and visit El Cayote Rojo Cantina & Grill, 308 N. Fannin St! You’ll be very glad you did!

For info & reservations, call 214-771-4062 or visit

When in Dallas, visit their second restaurant, Nueva Casita Restaurant, located at 5807 Blackwell St., phone: 214-750-5441.

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3 Responses for “Rockwall’s El Cayote Rojo Cantina is our favorite Mexican restaurant”

  1. Joe says:

    We really wanted to like this place because of the charm of the location but the food and service was so bad the 4-5 times we went we have not been there in over a year. Food is bland for Mexican and just not that good which is strange considering we eat the their FIRST not second location in Dallas many times and love it ( it is right behind the original half price books ). The only reason we can they they have made it this long is that people like bland food…?

  2. Aimee says:

    We tried them three times…terrible experiences each time. We will not be back.

  3. John says:

    I went about a month ago and was told that they no longer accept gift certificates. It seems like they should have accepted all certificates that had previously been issued and just stop providing new ones. Regardless, it really ticked me off that day and I haven’t gone back since. Reading this review makes me wanna give it another shot.

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