Don't Mess With Texas? Or Tex-Mex? TxDOT Takes on Restaurant Over Slogan

Everyone knows you ‘Don’t Mess with Texas.’ This slogan is as ingrained in our culture as football and Tex-Mex food.

But two of these are now at odds.

The Texas Department of Transportation, or TxDOT, has used the saying for decades.

Now the department is fighting the oldest Tex-Mex restaurant chain in the country for the right to use the famous mantra.

Outside Dallas staple El Fenix restaurant, there’s a great big sign showing Tex-Mex pride.

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“It’s beautiful,” one customer said looking at the bright blue background with the words ‘DON’T MESS WITH TEX MEX’ in white and a Texas flag in the middle.

The restaurant recently painted the outside of their building along Woodall Rodgers Freeway.

“I think it’s cool,” said a little girl about to go inside with her family.


But to the state of Texas, the advertisement campaign looks awfully familiar.

Too familiar.

“That’s exactly what I thought of first: Don’t mess with Texas,” said another customer.

For 30 years the ‘Don’t Mess with Texas’ ad campaign has taught Texans and visitors the cost of littering in the Lone Star State.

TxDOT says it is an effort that has paid off and they don’t want anyone using their slogan.

The agency sent the following statement to NBC 5:

"TxDOT recently became aware of the “Don’t Mess With Tex Mex” slogan being used by the El Fenix restaurant. As TxDOT owns the “Don’t mess with Texas” slogan as the brand for its anti-litter campaign, we think El Fenix’s appropriation of our slogan infringes upon and dilutes the value of our trademark. In keeping with the intended anti-litter message of our trademarked brand, TxDOT, in August of 2017, denied El Fenix’s request to license “Don’t mess with Texas” as the basis for the restaurant’s “Don’t Mess With Tex Mex” slogan."

While some customers tell NBC 5 they see where people could mix-up the two, others only see a win-win for both parties.

“If one reminds you of the other then that’s fine,” said a male customer with a smile. “’Don’t Mess with Tex-Mex’ and ‘Don’t Mess with Texas.’”

Representatives from El Fenix sent NBC 5 the following statement:

"We pride ourselves on the fact that Tex-Mex and Texas have become so closely associated over the past 100 years, but not when it comes to trademark law. El Fenix’s ‘Don’t Mess with Tex-Mex’ campaign is singularly focused on a celebration of our authentic recipes and clearly can't be confused with TxDOT’s anti-litter campaign. We think our friends at TxDOT will have a change of heart if they come share a delicious enchilada meal and margaritas with us. Our treat!"

TxDOT ended its statement by saying the department will be in contact with El Fenix to address the issue.

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