Fajitas The Story of the Fajita

The Story of the Fajita
The origins of the fajita have been
long debated by those who have
researched the dish. Our
knowledge on the dish’s beginnings
can be attributed to Homero Recio
who researched the history of the
fajita as part of his graduate work
in animal science at Texas A&M. In
his research, Recio traced the
origins of the skirt steak
phenomenon back to the creation
of the fajita in the ranch lands of
the Rio Grande Valley in Texas
during the 1930’s. During cattle
roundups, steers were butchered
to feed the ranch workers. The
least desirable parts of the beef, or
throwaway items such as the head,
entrails, and trimmings like skirt
steak were given to the Mexican
cowboys (vaqueros) as part of their
pay. In Spanish, fajita is a form of
the word faja, which means “belt”
or “girdle” in English. The vaqueros
would take the steak, cook it
directly on a campfire or grill and
wrap it in a flour tortilla. The fajita
tradition remained regional and
obscure from the world for
decades. Recio attributes this to
the fact that skirt steak was not
available commercially at the time.
Also, because the steak comes
from the diaphragm of the steer,
there are only 4 skirts per carcass.
came in the form of German-born
chef George Weidmann, a chef at
the Hyatt Regency in Austin in
the early 80’s. He put "sizzling
fajitas" on the menu of the
Hyatt's restaurant. By 1982 was
selling thirteen thousand orders
per month.
It is presumed that the fajita
made its way onto the commercial
stage in 1969 when an Austin meat
market manager, Sonny Falcon,
opened the first commercial fajita
taco stand at a rural Dies Y Seis
celebration in the town of Kyle,
Texas. Sonny “The Fajita King”,
continued to expose Texans to the
dish at stands at rodeos, outdoor
fairs, and festivals well into the
80’s. The first restaurant to feature
fajitas on the menu was the RoundUp Restaurant in the Rio Grande
Valley community of Pharr, also in
1969. At the Round-Up, fajitas
were listed under the name,
"botanzas" (appetizers) and were
served on a sizzling platter,
complimented with warm flour
tortillas and a plate full of
condiments. Although these are
the first commercial appearances
of the dish in the US, in Mexico,
areas sharing the boarder with
Texas had been serving a similar
dish for decades called arracheras.
An unlikely spreader of the fajita
Today, because of the
commercial demand and
popularity of the dish, fajitas are
rarely made with skirt steak.
Demand has led most Mexican
restaurants to substitute other
cuts of steak (usually flank steak)
as well as other grilled items such
as chicken, shrimp, and even
vegetables. Fajitas today are a
vital part of Tex-Mex cuisine.
However the fajitas found in
restaurants now bear little
resemblance to their
predecessors in the Rio-Grand
Fajitas and Me:
I’m not sure when my love
of the dish began, but fajitas
have always been my
favorite dish to order at
Mexican or Tex-Mex
restaurants. I think a big
part of my adoration can be
contributed to the way that
fajitas are served. In most
restaurants fajitas are
usually served sizzling. I
love the fact that you can
hear your food coming to
you as it is brought out of
the kitchen. To me, fajitas
are a strange sort of a
comfort food. Although I
have no Mexican heritage,
and no one in my family
ever makes fajitas, they
always remind me of fun
nights out with friends or
family. Whenever we get
together at any Mexican
joint for fajitas and
margaritas we always end
up having the best time. 
Best Places
for Fajitas
in DC:
Lime Marinade (see recipe below)
1 1/2 pounds skirt steak or flank
Green or red bell pepper, cored,
seeded, and thinly sliced
1 small onion, thinly sliced
Other condiments as desired
Prepare Lime Marinade; set aside.
Remove the outer membrane of
the skirt steak (grab the
membrane with one hand and
slide the knife beneath it, cutting
as you go). Make a number of
slits in the meat, cutting both
with and against the grain of the
meat (this cuts the muscle fiber
and reduces any toughness.)
In a large plastic bag with the
Lime Marinade, add steak; and
marinate in the refrigerator
Bring steak to room temperature
before cooking.
Preheat barbecue. Drain steaks,
reserving marinade. Place steak
on hot grill and spoon reserved
marinade onto the steak. Close
barbecue lid, open any vents,
La Lomitas:
1330 Pennsylvania
Ave SE
La Plaza:
629 Pennsylvania Ave
Lauriol Plaza: 1835
18th St NW
Cactus Cantina: 3300
Wisconsin Avenue NW
and cook 3 to 5 minutes for mediumrare. Remove from grill and transfer to
a cutting board; cut on the diagonal
into thin strips.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Wrap
stacked flour tortillas in aluminum foil
and heat in oven 15 minutes or until
While the shirt steak is cooking, grill
the green pepper and onion slices 1 to
2 minutes or until soft; remove from
grill and place on a serving platter.
Place cooked steak strips onto the
same platter.
For each fajita, fill tortilla with cooked
steak and desired amounts of green
pepper and onion slices. Add
tomatoes, Cheddar cheese, sour
cream, guacamole, and salsa as
desired; roll up and enjoy
Makes 4 to 6 servings
Juice of 4 to 5 fresh-squeezed limes
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon light molasses
1 tablespoon chopped fresh cilantro
2 cloves garlic minced
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon black pepper