First El Fenix restaurant in Dallas. Martinez moved from Nuevo Leon, Mexico to Dallas in 1911 and was a railroad worker and dishwasher at the Orient Hotel. The restaurant started out in a one-room location at McKinney and Griffin. After five years, the restaurant moved into a bigger location at 1608 McKinney and became a family business with every member working there.
In 1948, El Fenix opened its second restaurant in Oak Cliff on Colorado Boulevard. Another one quickly followed the same year opening on Lovers Lane. Over the years more opened around Dallas and as far away as Oklahoma City. The Martinez Family sold the El Fenix chain in 2008 to Firebird Restaurant Group.
The restaurant in Oak Cliff was designed in the Spanish Revival style with Mexican décor and in 1952 expanded with the addition of the Fiesta Room. The new room served Oak Cliff for meetings, events, receptions, and restaurant overflow. The legendary Oak Cliff singer Ray Wylie Hubbard had his very first performance there while he was still a student at Adamson High School.
The site where the restaurant is located is in the process of being sold to a developer that aims to demolish the building for the redevelopment the site with a large scale apartment complex. To do so would wipe away an important part of Mexican American and culinary history in Dallas, and erase this manifestation of the American Dream that has served its community for over 70 years. Every means should be explored to incorporate this important Oak Cliff landmark into the new development.