Leading Ladies: UT alumna runs Las Palomas Mexican restaurant

Briana Zamora

When UT alumna MariCarmen Dale unlocks her restaurant door every morning and flicks on the lights in the kitchen, she finally feels at home. 

MariCarmen began working at Las Palomas Restaurant-Bar when her parents, retired diplomat Javier Corona and his wife Amelia, opened the restaurant 31 years ago in a little shopping center on Bee Cave Road. MariCarmen has since assumed ownership and transformed the once-humble establishment into an award-winning, fine-dining destination. 

According to MariCarmen, while the surrounding community warmly welcomed Las Palomas and the Corona family when the restaurant first opened, her family had no previous business experience and struggled to make ends meet. After Las Palomas received a penalty from the IRS because of an accounting error, MariCarmen was inspired to enroll at UT to earn an accounting degree to gain business experience and managerial skills that she could apply to her family’s restaurant. To this date, the restaurant has not received any other penalties.

“I had to do something to help my parents,” MariCarmen said. “I had watched them work so hard to keep Las Palomas running, and I knew I had to help in every way I could.”

When Las Palomas opened, MariCarmen said she had a single goal in mind: She wanted to assume ownership of the restaurant from her parents so they could retire. 

Running the restaurant was so stressful for my parents,” MariCarmen said. “I wanted them to retire so badly, and, once they finally did, that was the first time in my life I felt truly successful. Afterwards, they thanked me every day.”

While MariCarmen’s initial commitment to Las Palomas revolved around her concern for her parents, she gradually developed a love for the restaurant and the business.

“Whenever anyone asks me how many children I have, I automatically reply, ‘Three: Chris, Alex and Las Palomas,’” MariCarmen said. “The restaurant has become my third child.”

Chris Dale, MariCarmen’s youngest son, admires his mother’s care and devotion to Las Palomas’ customers and employees.

“My mother has known some of these employees and customers for over 30 years,” Chris said. “These relationships have turned Las Palomas into an extension of our family.”

Alex Dale, MariCarmen’s eldest son, said his mother is his role model, and witnessing her dedication to Las Palomas has motivated him personally and professionally. 

“My mother’s dedication to Las Palomas has taught me the power of strong leadership, the importance of integrity and the value of selflessness,” Alex said. “She constantly puts her family and her customers first, and she always brings a warm smile — even when she is not feeling her best or something is wrong.”

Like her son, MariCarmen also gained inspiration from a parent. She said despite her father’s death 10 years ago, he has maintained a constant presence as the heart of Las Palomas. 

“My father’s leadership and work ethic is the model I aspire to,” MariCarmen said. “I do not make any decisions without considering what my father would have done, and what he would have wanted. Las Palomas is his legacy, and every day I fight to protect it.” 

For MariCarmen, the food Las Palomas serves is not her biggest concern. 

“The enchiladas do not matter,” MariCarmen said. “We offer delicious food made from time-honored family recipes, but that is not the point. The point is warm smiles. The point is creating a happy experience for our customers. That is what I love to do.”