Fajitas Were Originally Only Made With This Meat

When you order fajitas in a Mexican restaurant today –- or any restaurant, for that matter -– chances are, you'll have your choice of chicken, shrimp, or even veggie fajitas. It's also likely that the beef fajitas are made with the cheapest cut of beef available, which is why you should maybe order something else from the menu.

Ever since fajitas blew up and became one of the trendiest foods of the 80s and 90s, they've evolved — or devolved? — to the point where "fajita" basically just means meat and/or veggies wrapped in a flour tortilla (via Austin Chronicle). Looking at 10 different fajita orders from 10 different restaurants, you'd probably draw the conclusion that the only truly necessary components are a tortilla and some sizzle. But as it turns out, the term fajita was only meant to apply to a certain type of meat, not to a particular preparation or tortilla style.

The only authentic fajitas are made with skirt steak

The term "fajitas" refers to one particular type of meat –- not just beef, but skirt steak. What's Cooking America explains that the word derives from the Spanish word "faja" (which means girdle or belt) and was applied to the cheap, tough cut of beef often used as a payment for 1930s-era vaqueros. Several decades later, Sonny Falcon, a meat market manager who came to be known as the "Fajita King," introduced fajitas to fairs and festivals throughout Texas, and the Houston restaurant Ninfa's begun using the term to describe their similar steak dish. In the early 80s, fajitas started sizzling on the menu at Austin's Hyatt Regency restaurant, and a food fad was born.

These days, those cheap skirt steaks that the Fajita King originally intended to popularize are no longer all that cheap, nor are they so readily available, the Dallas Observer points out. When you add in the fact that many people's dietary preferences have them avoiding red meat altogether, it's no wonder that so-called chicken fajitas has become a menu staple. Still, just so you know, you're not eating genuine, old-school fajitas unless they're made with "faja" beef.