In 1918, Miguel Martinez, an immigrant who fled Mexico during the revolution, opened a restaurant in Dallas. He named it El Fenix, after the mythical Phoenix. He chose that name, according to the El Fenix website, because it “... appealed to his dearly held philosophy of turning setbacks into assets.” Martinez offered Anglo type food at first, then began to integrate Mexican spices and ingredients and eventually his fare became what we know today as Tex-Mex.
The restaurant became popular and by the 1960s, eleven El Fenix Restaurants dotted the North Texas landscape. In the 1950s, El Fenix introduced a popular concept, their Wednesday “Enchilada Special.” Wednesdays at El Fenix are still popular because of that great deal which is about half the daily menu price.
Several years ago, Wife and I went to our local El Fenix in North Dallas for the Wednesday special. As we enjoyed our chips and salsa, we heard a voice resonating through the main dining area. It was a very distinctive, deep and pleasant voice. I remarked that the voice sounded familiar, yet, I couldn’t recall whose it was and we couldn’t find the source. This restaurant had a center section under a domed ceiling with a raised level of seating around the perimeter of the room, and this dome was as a loudspeaker for that voice. We were seated in the raised area and had a good view of the tables in the room. We began to search the room and saw a group of people sitting at a table almost centered under the dome. Then, we realized, the voice was coming from that table.
He wasn't dressed in western garb, just a plain shirt and slacks. But, country music star, Charley Pride, sat with a small group of people, and it was his voice that wafted up to that high ceiling and spread across the room which attracted our attention.
As we finished our meal and walked to the line to pay, Charley bade farewell to his friends and, with his carry out box, got in the line behind us. Twenty minutes later, our new best friend, Charley Pride, headed out the door with Mrs. Pride's enchilada dinner. I have met a few personalities in my life, but none were as friendly, unassuming and humble as Charley Pride. We didn't ask for an autograph, selfies with him, or anything. We just talked about the music scene, talked about the time we saw him perform in Dallas and reminisced about some of the other singers of the past. And, all that time, Mrs. Pride's Wednesday special was cooling down. When news of Mr. Pride's death came across the radio and tv in mid December, Wife and I reminisced about that brush with fame. It was a brush not only with fame, but with class.
So, Mrs. Pride, if you ever get to read this, take it as my apology for your cold El Fenix enchilada dinner. I suspect, however, because your husband was such a friendly and gracious man, you probably had more than one of those cold dinners.
Thanks for sharing him with the world.© Jim Terry
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