Tyler ’s quality restaurant options are better than you’d expect, particularly for a small-ish city in a largely rural area of the state. Perhaps it’s the steady arrival of Dallas  retirees demanding fine-dining establishments, but the end result is good news for everyone, from travelers to locals to newcomers.
A stalwart on the scene is Rick’s on the Square (104 W. Erwin St., 903/531-2415, www.rix.com , $8–29), a swanky lunch and dinner joint that doubles as a rowdy blues bar at night. Located in the heart of downtown in an old saloon and theater, Rick’s is the kind of place that gets everything right—tempting appetizers (shrimp and oysters), gigantic juicy burgers with chunks of fried potatoes on the side, and exquisite entrées ranging from chicken dumplings to tortilla-crusted mahimahi to the indulgent yet highly recommended crawfish-stuffed filet mignon.
Similar in approach is the popular Oxford Street Restaurant and Pub (3300 Troup Hwy., 903/593-2655, www.oxfordstreetrestaurant.com , $7–26). This welcoming spot typifies “upscale casual,” with dishes ranging from club sandwiches to baked fish and chicken to prime rib.
Another local legend is one of the least barbecue-sounding barbecue restaurants in Texas, the Cap Ranch Deli and Espresso Bar (2018 S. Broadway Ave., 903/592-3452, $6–18). The smoked meats here are shipped to barbecue aficionados across the country, and for good reason—their tender, succulent taste will have you thinking about them for days (in a good way). Try the smoked turkey and sausage, or sample a sliced brisket sandwich or sliced turkey. Though it’s not as sweet as Big Red, the English Caramel Coffee and namesake espresso are good ways to kick-start your afternoon after a nap-inducing plate full o’ meat.
Tyler  is pretty far away from the border, but that doesn’t prevent it from having a few worthy Mexican restaurants. Among the most popular are the homegrown regional chains of Mercado’s and Posado’s. If you’re downtown, drop by Posado’s (2500 E. Fifth St., 903/597-2573, $6–14). The mission-style décor adds to the authentic Mexican taste, including interior-style dishes such as marinated quail fajitas and shrimp or fish platters. You can’t go wrong with the classics here either, including chicken enchiladas and spicy beef tacos.
Locals also love Fresco’s Mexican Grill (1920 E. Southeast Loop 323, 903/595-0050, $6–14). Get started with the self-serve chips and salsa bar, and settle in for smooth and potent margaritas, cheese-stuffed quesadillas, spicy chile rellenos, and hearty steak tacos.