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fifi

[Houston] Felix

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Last Sunday I induged in a return to childhood. My sister, a friend and I had late lunch at Felix on Westheimer.

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Felix is a Houston institution. Those that dis it don't understand it. I remember when I was a little kid, my grandfather would sometimes take me with him if he went to his office on Saturday morning. On the way home we would stop at Felix for lunch. Felix Tijerina and my grandfather were old friends.

From Robb Walsh's book, The Tex-Mex Cookbook, A History in Recipes and Photos:

Early Mexican restaurants like Felix Tijerina's were among the first institutions where urban Anglos and Latinos rubbed elbows with each other. And it was Tijerina's Americanized version of Mexican cooking that brought the races together. Authenticity was sacrificed for the sake of diplomacy.

Felix Tijerina went on to become an activist for education and president of LULAC. All of that being said, the restaurant still holds comforting memories for me and the food is comforting as well. And it is a good thing as our friend was having tummy problems so opted for the chicken tacos.

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The guacamole was also comforting.

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My sister ordered the stuffed chile, actually a rehydrated dried ancho. The stuffing was ground beef, raisins and pecans, I think.

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I ordered "Marge's Entomatados". This is an enchilada style dish that is named after my good friend Marge Crumbaker. Marge was for many years the Society Editor at the old Houston Post. Being well steeped in Houston history and tradition, she was a frequent patron of Felix and the entomatado sauce was named after her. The enchiladas can be had as beef, chicken or cheese. I asked our waiter, Carlos, which he would prefer. He said cheese. Now, Carlos has been there for 30 years so I wisely took his advice. I ordered the cheese with the spicy version of the entomatado.

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Underneath the obligatory shredded iceberg lettuce lurks the most tender of enchiladas bathed in sour cream. Those enchiladas are extraordinary. They must be made from some exceptionally thin tortillas. The entomatado sauce is exquisite. I am guessing that it is a toasty blend of tomato and chiles that has been fried. The heat level was just right for me.

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I really think that the addition of chicken or beef would have detracted from the dish. Carlos got a really nice tip.

I have to confess that I am biased about Felix. There is just too much emotional baggage there. But, the food is good, the atmosphere is comforting, and that makes it my all time favorite Tex-Mex emporium.


Linda LaRose aka "fifi"

"Having spent most of my life searching for truth in the excitement of science, I am now in search of the perfectly seared foie gras without any sweet glop." Linda LaRose

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Fifi-

Thanks for posting the pics and comments. I am ahsamed to admit that I've never been to Felix's, and before reading Walsh's book I did not even know about it :sad: .

I have to check it out prety soon.

Elie


E. Nassar
Houston, TX

My Blog
contact: enassar(AT)gmail(DOT)com

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In my various trips to Houston over the years I have driven past Felix many a time and never knew a whit about it. Thanks for the report and the great photos. It's on the (growing) list of places to try on future trips.


Stephen Bunge

St Paul, MN

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Felix on Westheimer was "our place" in the 50's and still is when we assemble the "old gang" back in Houston. There's so much to capture about the place I don't fault your selection but our fav was and is the chile con queso which we still buy and cart off by the quart. Many's the time I've sat down for lunch with friends but after ordering a couple of bowls of that magic stuff just don't get to the rest of the menu so really appreciate your bringing it back in words and pics.

My last get together in Houston a couple of weeks ago we met at Cafe Montrose (which was divine) but I feel a need for a Felix Fix coming on. Unfortunately it's no longer just down the street as it was for us when we at St. John's; in fact for me it's a long trek down 71 and IH10 from here in Austin but worth every hassle.

Thanks again!

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Welcome, AustinJohn. And thanks for reminding me about the chile con queso. I haven't ordered it the last few times I have been to Felix but it was certainly a staple when I was a kid.


Linda LaRose aka "fifi"

"Having spent most of my life searching for truth in the excitement of science, I am now in search of the perfectly seared foie gras without any sweet glop." Linda LaRose

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I hate to break up the love fest but I can't imagine directing any out of towner to Felix's. From what I can surmise Felix is more about nostalga/feelings, than great food. I have a restaurant that is similar to Felix's, Lopez (I believe mr lopez worked for Felix's for years) and when I take someone there sometimes it doesn't really translate. The food's good but never great (lopez is great to me though).

Please don't pass up a place like Cafe Montrose and eat at Felix, you will miss out on much better food.

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I hate to break up the love fest but I can't imagine directing any out of towner to Felix's. From what I can surmise Felix is more about nostalga/feelings, than great food. I have a restaurant that is similar to Felix's, Lopez (I believe mr lopez worked for Felix's for years) and when I take someone there sometimes it doesn't really translate. The food's good but never great (lopez is great to me though).

Please don't pass up a place like Cafe Montrose and eat at Felix, you will miss out on much better food.

I have to agree. This is the first nostalgia thing in Houston that disappointed me. I had heard about Felix as an institution, and went there first thing (literally the first dinner I had here), but I guess I was actually looking for some more modern tex-mex and was disappointed. It wasn't much more than a Chi Chi's or something, IMO. I understand now why I felt that way, due in no small part to R. Walsh, but it was still a disappointment to me coming from somewhere else. I respect it now as a holdout of the original places that bridged the gap between tex-mex (that introduced anglos to a certain style) and tex-mex (queso and tortillas are no longer enough). And that's fine. But I would not take someone from out of town there to introduce them to anything other than old time Houston.

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Thanks for the report, fifi! Felix is very close to my dear departed grandmother's house. My folks and I used to eat there periodically. Your post brought back many fond memories.


Don Moore

Nashville, TN

Peace on Earth

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I hate to break up the love fest but I can't imagine directing any out of towner to Felix's. From what I can surmise Felix is more about nostalga/feelings, than great food. I have a restaurant that is similar to Felix's, Lopez (I believe mr lopez worked for Felix's for years) and when I take someone there sometimes it doesn't really translate. The food's good but never great (lopez is great to me though).

Please don't pass up a place like Cafe Montrose and eat at Felix, you will miss out on much better food.

I agree with you on these points.

Tex-Mex is and has always been evolving. Beyond the nostalgia, Felix is a snapshot in time of a style of food that was prevalant at a particularly pivital point in history. IMO... It must be taken in that context. I would not recommend it to anyone looking for the "latest and greatest". But I do recommend it to those that have an interest in the history and give them that background. Those that have such a historical bent have always appreciated the "time warp" aspect of the place.


Linda LaRose aka "fifi"

"Having spent most of my life searching for truth in the excitement of science, I am now in search of the perfectly seared foie gras without any sweet glop." Linda LaRose

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Personally, I think people looking for good food should pass it up, not just people looking for latest and greatest. For an out of towner it would probably end up being a dissapointing meal. And in Houston good meals are what we are about. Maybe a drink and a chile con queso?

For historical mexican I would send people to the original Ninfa's, pretty much where the fajita was born as we know it. And mind altering margaritas.

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Great post and gorgeous photos, Linda! Makes me want to eat at Felix's next time I am in Houston.

Do you remember eating there about oh . . . . 30 years ago now when I was living in Houston? The food was good, not great but solid and satisfactory, the service was friendly -- it was one of my favorite places to indulge in an afternoon out for lunch because it was so close to home at the time. :biggrin: Good comfort food you could count on -- with as much of a kick as you asked for. :wink::laugh:

Taken in context and appreciated for what Felix is . . . I have eaten there in the past many times, and it has been many years living far outside the big H that I have not had the pleasure. The chile con queso is worth it. Thanks, Linda for the memories. :biggrin:


Judith Love

North of the 30th parallel

One woman very courteously approached me in a grocery store, saying, "Excuse me, but I must ask why you've brought your dog into the store." I told her that Grace is a service dog.... "Excuse me, but you told me that your dog is allowed in the store because she's a service dog. Is she Army or Navy?" Terry Thistlewaite

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Great post and gorgeous photos, Linda! Makes me want to eat at Felix's next time I am in Houston.

Do you remember eating there about oh . . . . 30 years ago now when I was living in Houston?

:shock: No, but if you say I did, I believe you. :cool:

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Personally, I think people looking for good food should pass it up, not just people looking for latest and greatest. For an out of towner it would probably end up being a dissapointing meal. And in Houston good meals are what we are about. Maybe a drink and a chile con queso?

For historical mexican I would send people to the original Ninfa's, pretty much where the fajita was born as we know it. And mind altering margaritas.

Well... Actually, we are talking about different "eras". Being a leading edge boomer, I was fortunate enough to see the transition. Actually, I find the on-going evolution of Tex-Mex highly fascinating and a lot more complicated than I thought.

Felix opened in 1937. That was the era where there was more emphasis on Americanized "Mexican" food to bring the groups together over a plate of cheese enchiladas.

Ninfa's original on Navigation opened in 1973. She caught the "era" where us baby boomers were ready to move on to something different. She wisely called an old family recipe "Tacos al Carbon" in a brilliant marketing and timing move. She was raised in the Lower Rio Grande Valley where grilling the fajita (diaphragm) was already a long tradition among the cowboys. There are two competing claims on the first commercial fajitas originating from 1969, at a stall at a festival in Kyle TX and The Round-Up in Austin.

There is a lot more to the story and I would refer anyone who is interested to check out Robb Walsh's book: The Tex-Mex Cookbook: A History in Recipes and Photos. He does a thorough job of research establishing fajitas as a Tejano dish originating in the valley with a long history. Chapter 12 is devoted to fajitas and was an enlightenment to me. The earlier times are well documented in Chapter 9. (Don't forget to use the eGullet friendly link below. :biggrin: )


Linda LaRose aka "fifi"

"Having spent most of my life searching for truth in the excitement of science, I am now in search of the perfectly seared foie gras without any sweet glop." Linda LaRose

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