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Tex-Mex restaurateur Matt Martinez Jr. dies at 63


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Tex-Mex restaurateur Matt Martinez Jr. dies at 63

05:24 PM CDT on Saturday, March 14, 2009

By JOE SIMNACHER / The Dallas Morning News

Matt Martinez Jr., who added his culinary flair to his family’s Tex-Mex legacy, while preserving the work of the four generations, died Friday night of complications from cancer. He was 63.

Mr. Martinez was best known in Dallas for his Matt’s Rancho Martinez in the Lakewood area of Dallas and the YO Ranch in the West End.

Mr. Martinez was born in Austin, where his grandparents started the family legacy by selling tamales, pralines and homemade tortillas on the steps of the Texas Capitol. Their initial venture led to the opening of El Original, one of Austin’s first Tex-Mex restaurants in 1925.

Mr. Martinez’ parents, Matt and Janie Martinez, opened Matt’s El Rancho restaurant on East First Street in Austin in 1952.

Matt Martinez Jr. started developing his signature culinary style as a boy, while working the kitchen of his father’s restaurant.

The Martinez restaurants had always attracted a loyal following of political figures that included Texas governors and presidents. One day, former Texas Land Commissioner Bob Armstrong, asked the “Little Matt” to make an appetizer, “something not on the menu,” Mr. Martinez recalled in his 2006 cookbook, MexTex: Traditional Tex-Mex Taste.

Matt Martinez Jr. — then a teenager assigned to make salads and appetizers -- threw together his first signature dish.

“I grabbed whatever jumped into my hands,” he wrote. Taco meat, guacamole, sour cream, chile con queso.

Then he took some time off and went fishing. Meanwhile, back at the El Rancho, customers were requesting “that Bob Armstrong dip that’s not on the menu.”

Mr. Armstrong had spread the word about the appetizer, which became a staple of Mr. Martinez’ future menus.

Mr. Martinez was inducted into the Texas Restaurant Hall of Honor in 2000. He and Matt Sr., a 1986 inductee, are the only father and son to receive the honor.

Matt Martinez Sr. died in 2003.

Mr. Martinez is survived by his wife, Estella of Dallas; three sons, Matt Martinez III, Joaquin Miguel, Marco Javier, all of Dallas; and daughter, Christine Nicole Lopez of Dallas.

Gear nerd and hash slinger

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Ah, man ... that's such sad news. He was funny, wonderful, smart, kind, and wise-assy in a great way. My heart goes out to his family. I will add him, however reluctantly, to my ofrenda this year.

Theabroma

Sharon Peters aka "theabroma"

The lunatics have overtaken the asylum

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