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The Word “Fajita” Is Not Known To Have Appeared In Print Until 1971

On August 18, we recognize a dish sizzling with savory Tex-Mex flavor.  It’s National Fajita Day!

  • “National Fajita Day” is a corporate creation courtesy of On The Border, a restaurant chain established in Dallas in 1982.
  • Originally made from throwaway cuts of beef by Mexican vaqueros in Southwest Texas, the fajita was developed as a regional staple in the early 1930s.  These cowboys cooked the steak over an open fire or grill and served it with flour or corn tortillas.
  • By the 1980s, most Mexican restaurants in the United States served fajitas. In the modern culinary kitchen, lime, cilantro and a plethora of vegetables find their way into a fajita along with the perfect seasonings.  The fajita has come a long way from skirt steak trimmings!
  • The word fajita is not known to have appeared in print until 1971.
  • While in the U.S we know them as fajitas, the Mexican term for grilled skirt steak is arracheras.
  • In Spanish, fajita is the diminutive form of the word faja which translates to “belt”, “sash” or “girdle” in English. In Spanish when you add “ita” to the end of some words it means little. Therefore, Fajita translates into a little belt or little sash’.
  • Fajitas appear to have made their way from campfires and backyard grills to commercial sales in 1969. Sonny Falcon, an Austin meat market manager at Guajardo’s Cash Grocery, is believed to have operated the first commercial fajita taco concession stand September of 1969 at a Dies Y Seis celebration in Kyle, Texas
  • Fajitas were also added to the Otilia Garza’s Round-Up Restaurant menu in Pharr, Texas. A 1993 Texas Monthly piece noted that Garza played a major role in popularizing fajitas. She started giving them away to customers she liked for a year.
  • General George Washington and his American Revolution soldiers more than likely ate Fajitas from Texas cattle. The first cattle drives out of Texas were over El Camino Real which headed east and not north. In 1779 the Governor of Spanish Louisiana, Bernardo de Galvez, whom Galveston is named after, receives a dispatch from General George Washington requesting aid and assistance. The Tejano Community would respond by raising hundreds of Spanish Pesos and by driving over ten thousand head of cattle east to feed the armies of George Washington.
  • Fajitas aren’t just popular in the U.S. and Texas. The U.K. loves it too. An Asda survey released last year reports that Mexican Fajitas are the favorite international dish in the U.K.  The survey found that 35 percent of Brits claim they prefer international dishes over their own cuisine. In the last five years, U.K. Google searches jumped 225 percent, according to the survey.
  • 1930s – When Mexican ranch workers in Texas were paid with poor cuts of meat, they found that marinating it and eating it sliced on a tortilla was delicious.
  • 1969 – A meat market manager in Austin, Falcon first sets up a fajita stand at a September festival in Kyle, which will grow into selling them all over the state
  • 1971 – The word “fajita” used to define the dish officially appears in the Oxford English Dictionary.
  • 1973 – Opened by Ninfa Rodriguez, this restaurant calls her fajitas “tacos al carbon” or “tacos al Ninfa”.
  • 1982 – Austin-based, German-born chef, George Weidmann, puts this dish on the menu at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Austin as a signature dish, significantly improving restaurant sales.
  • 1991 – McDonald’s attempted to introduce their own Chicken Fajitas into the market.
  • 2016 – On the Border Mexican Grill and Cantina began making a name for itself with fajitas as its signature dish, so they decided to found a day to celebrate!
  • The term “Fajita King” is trademarked. Sonny Falcon trademarked the term after gaining popularity from the dish in the 1970s


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