In 1920, when Fort Worth was still young, a colorful and free-spirited man named Tiffin Hall came to the city. Only 20 years old, he was already a skilled gambler. Soon, Tiffin had established gambling halls throughout his new hometown. He was a quiet man even then-dignified, well-dressed and soft spoken.
In 1936, Tiffin the gambler entered the world of legitimate business when his first Mexican Inn Café opened its doors at 5th and Commerce Streets in a downtown building already 50 years old. From the beginning, he insisted upon courteous service and fresh, home-cooked food. On a good day in the 1930's, restaurant receipts might total only $25.00, but rumor spoke of much greater amounts accumulated each night when gamblers gathered in the second floor rooms above the Mexican Inn.
Wary of traditional advertising, Tiffin commissioned a family pet burro named Star to generate interest in the new cafe. Star would be dressed in a banner reading, "MEXICAN INN CAFÉ...MEXICAN FOOD EXCLUSIVELY...FOLLOW ME TO MEXICAN INN," and turned loose somewhere downtown. He would find his way back to the side door of the restaurant and beg for tortillas. The police would be compelled to "arrest" him for being on the street without a permit. Again and again, the exploits of Star amused the citizenry and frustrated authorities. Tiffin laughed that he and Star were on the same side of the law.
By the 1940's, both of Tiffin's empires were flourishing, and his reputation widened. While Mexican Inn employees recall his great kindness toward them, headlines and conversation depicted him as Fort Worth's "Kingpin of Gambling," a man constantly at odds with the law. Yet, lady luck continued to smile upon Tiffin, and even a 1950's special grand jury investigation of gambling in the county could not return an indictment against him. Tiffin's good fortune lasted until 1966, when a stroke left him permanently disabled. The management of his four Mexican Inns fell to his wife and loyal staff members.
In 1973, on the day of Tiffin's funeral, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram wrote a fitting epitaph to his life: "They closed the three Mexican Inns today. It was a gesture of respect for Tiffin Hall, one of the most colorful characters Fort Worth ever produced. Colorful character? Hall would have chuckled over that label and denied it. But it fits the man who came here penniless...and made a fortune. A man who associated with the most notorious killers of the past 50 years...and outlived them all. A man who staked the big gamblers...and always came out the winner."
And the Mexican Inn story has continued…In 1980, local businessman Chris Carroll purchased the restaurants from the estate of Tiffin Hall, and ever since that time, the Mexican Inn Cafés have been a very special part of his company, Spring Creek Restaurants...so special, in fact, that in the years since, Mexican Inn has found a home in the communities of Burleson, Bedford, Lake Worth and Keller, as well as on Hulen Street in Fort Worth. We welcome you!
Our thanks to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, to employees past and present, and to the friends of the Mexican Inn Cafe who contributed to this history.