In 1941, Time magazine introduced the term "Tex-Mex" in a linguistic sense, describing "Tex-Mex Spanish, that half-English half-Spanish patois of the border." The culinary tradition of fusing Mexican and Texan foods had been quietly evolving already for close to 100 years.
But it seems somehow significant that 1941 was also the year that Raul Molina and his wife Mary bought Old Monterrey Restaurant on West Gray Street. "They lived upstairs and the restaurant was downstairs," explains Ricardo Molina, who now runs Molina's Cantina with brothers Raul III and Roberto.
Dishes early on included spaghetti with chili con carne, a dish better known around the country as Cincinnati chili. Apparently, it sprang up separately in Texas. That chili con carne is still made using the same recipe and is still served with crackers as it was in the '40s, or over cheese enchiladas.
When Molina's first opened, though, crackers played a far more important role than they do now. At the time, tortilla chips hadn't yet gained popularity. Before a meal at Old Monterrey, guests were presented with crackers and butter or margarine, says Molina.
Later, meals came with an option of soft corn tortillas or the "toasted tortillas" that eventually evolved into the traditional chips. Those, too, were served with butter. Meals also came with a choice of coffee or tea, generally ringing up at little more than $1.
From Sunday, September 11 through Friday, September 16, Molina's will revert to a similar price point on one dish a day. For 75 minutes each of those days, one menu item's price will drop by 75 percent. The most expensive will cost $3.49. Those specials will be announced on every location's Facebook page as they become available. The week's festivities will end the following day Saturday, September 17 with anniversary fiestas, complete with free food, drink specials, giveaways and mariachi tunes, at each of the three remaining locations. If ever there was a time to party like it's 1941, this is it.