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Tex-Mex in Houston


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I am starting this as new post so not to distract from the original topic.

Mexican food marginal in houston? I also disagree. Other than the many good Taquerias (I trust Jay Francis on his recs too BTW :smile:), if you want a nice white table cloth Mexican dinner head down to Hugo's on Westheimer.

Elie, my wife and I must be the only people in Houston who do not like Hugo's. I am trying to understand what there is to like about it.

We used to go to Tila's but the quality has declined recently.

The focus of my comment about Mexican restaurants was Tex-Mex. I have not found anything here comparable to the food I found in Austin or San Antonio. The usual suspects (Lupe Tortilla's, Spanish Flower, Andy's, Cafe Adobe, Pappasitos, Cadillac Bar, Doneraki, Molina's, Guadalajara) are that, suspect. It seems odd to me to eat at Chuy's when the good ones are in Austin. I have not been to Pico's or the Ninfa's on Navigation (the only good Ninfa's in my opinion) in a long time. Terlingua had to be one of the worst Tex-Mex restaurants I have ever been to. Even the drivel I had in Washington, D.C. was better.

We live in the Heights and, other than Houston Tamale Factory for breakfast tacos, I have yet to find a decent Tex-Mex restaurant in the area. How sad is it we go to Berryhill when we need a fix.

So help me, where can I go for a good Tex-Mex fix? I want flavorful cheese enchilada's with melted (not oozy cheese), crispy chips and picante sauce with a kick, outstanding tamales (not cardboard wrapped around dried meat by-product) and a tart margarita that doesn't taste like watered down sour mix. Is that too much to ask for without having to drive 150 miles.

"As far as I'm concerned, bacon comes from a magical, happy place" Frank, John Doe

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Teotihuacan on Airline would be a start. Lopez near Sgar Land has been a favorite of mine for 30 years. As much as it pisses me off at times El Tiempo at times can be a revelation. Whats the place on E 74th or something off of Harrisburgh? It really good.

What do you like in Austin?

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Well, like evrything else, liking a place more than the other is highly subjective. We love Hugo's because...well...what's not to love? The food is excellent, the atmosphere and service are very good but not stuffy, the prices are very reasonable for the level of food and service, margaritas excellent and they have one of the most lovely dessert menus in town.

As for Tex Mex, my pics are also for Lopez, Picos on Bellaire, Gringos on 59 and Guadalajara has some good fajitas and combo plates. Like Jscarbor said El Tiempo can be quiet good too.

E. Nassar
Houston, TX

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

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Houston does have representation of the Tex-Mex genre.

Sylvia Casares is on her way to becoming the de facto "Queen of Houston Tex-Mex" so give Sylvia's Enchilada Kitchen a try.

Although the word enchilada comes from 'tortilla enchilada', that is, a tortilla that has been chile'ed, there are some distinct camps respect to cheese enchiladas.

1. Many restaurants cook the corn tortillas in oil to soften them, and stack them until they are ready to use. They then pull off several tortillas, roll them with yellow cheese and onions, cover with a Tex-Mex chile gravy typically made with a flour roux, water or broth, and either paprika (cost saver, you'd be amzed how many restaurants use paprika), ancho chile powder, chili powder, or an ancho chile puree, heat til the cheese is melted and serve.

2. Other restaurants soften the tortillas, then dip them in an ancho chile puree, roll with cheese and onions, cover with more sauce, heat until the cheese is melted and serve.

3. A third method is to dip the tortilla in the ancho chile puree, then put it into the hot oil. I've never seen the purpose of this as you lose a lot of the puree in the oil, and, if you're making a lot, the chile puree will eventually start to burn. But, if you can control the process, the final flavor is awesome.

So, before proceeding further, let's determine which style of tortilla enchilada you prefer.

I also live in the (Woodland) Heights and can recommend the little Mexican restaurant that just opened where North Main, Studemont and Airline meet, in that their cheese enchiladas are dipped in a classic ancho chile puree as opposed to Tex-Mex chili gravy. And incredibly cheap.

For a superb cheese enchilada based on a Tex-Mex chili gravy, try Lopez. For an ancho based chile puree, I can recommend the El Paso style stacked enchiladas at Sylvia's.

Honestly, I do think Houston holds its own against the other cities in Texas, respect to Tex-Mex. Of the restaurants that you mentioned above, you're right. With the exception of Molina's, none of these others you mentioned are spectacular. I hate Spanish Flowers. I'll go there to pick up fresh tortillas for parties but won't eat there. Lupe Tortilla's was extremely rude to us and I won't go back there.

If you want to try a more (Northern Mexico) meat oriented menu, try Alma Latina on Shepherd near the big Fiesta. Or, the new, spic and span Taqueria Aranda's on Shepherd near the Kroger shopping center.

For breakfast style Mexican food, try Laredo's on Cavalcade just east of I-45. And for Mexico style antojito's, try Gorditas Aquascalientes on Irvington ( I haven't had a chance to try the new Gordita's on North Main near Michaux).

For wacky, 1960's era Tex-Mex, make the trek out to Larry's in Richmond.

To learn more about Tex-Mex, check out Robb Walsh's 'The Tex-Mex Cookbook' which is really a history of Tex-Mex with recipes.

Tamale's? Nope, you aren't going to find terrific tamales anywhere in this town unless you get to know me real well and show up at the house after I've made a batch :>).

Most restaurants have to go with the extruded machine made ones, even Berryhill's, although they then wrap them in corn husks. Most tamales I've tasted taste like shredded roast beef with some garlic powder and lots of salt. I used to swear by Dona Tere's which makes the Mexico City style BIG tamales, but I am off of them too, now. But no one makes those light cake-like tamales like one would find in Querretaro or Oaxaca here. Just the norteno style thin style from Monterrey.

Edited by Jay Francis (log)
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(The following will be very stream-of-consciousness)

Thanks for all the responses.

Three votes for Lopez. It must be pretty good. Unfortunately, getting my wife to go out to Highway 6 for Mexican food may be near impossible.

I am more of the cheesy (as a compliment) 60s Tex-Mex person.

I have Robb's Tex-Mex book and his barbecue book. You should try the grilled cabbage.

Is the place at 20th, Main, Studemont and Cavalcade called Franco's? (I am surprised there isn't an easy name for this location, like 5-points). It seems like that center is a kiss of death for restaurants.

This morning, I drove by a place on N. Main called Rico's that had a big crowd at it. Have you been?

Some friends have suggested Tony's on Ella.

I hate to admit it, but I like the breakfast quesadilla at Chacho's.

The tamales at Texas Tamale Factory are handmade and pretty good (Monterrey style). My wife's sister makes us bring a dozen every time we visit. Personally, I prefer the pork.

JScarbor (I couldn't remember if your first name was John), it's been a while since I have eaten Mexican food in Austin other than Chuy's. Not my choice, just where my wife's family always pick. I have heard some good things about Juan in a Million. I miss Las Manitas and Jaime's.

Elie, while out with some friends last night, I asked about Hugo's. Pretty much a consensus that it wasn't that good. Overpriced, undersized portions, boring food and an incompetent waitstaff. We are still trying to figure out the attraction. Another place that people praise I don't understand is Irma's. Then again, nobody has suggested Irma's yet, so I must not be that far off.

Jay, are y'all still going to Oaxaca for Dia de los Muertos? You should come by for one of our house concerts. Barbara and Mike McGinity came to the last one.

Lindsey Lee

"As far as I'm concerned, bacon comes from a magical, happy place" Frank, John Doe

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When I get back to Houston, I will pass on to you a place on Telephone road for home-made tamales that I just remembered. The ladies set up in front of an appliance store near the Tel-Wink Grill, but I don't have the physical address with me.

Rico's Triangle Cafe is pretty cool. For many years it was just too beat-up on the inside. But they did a terrific remodel and it is really nice, includes a great outdoor patio area.

Lopez isn't as far as Highway Six, which is good news. It's just past the Beltway on 59 exit Wilcrest. I think you may be pleased.

There are some other places that weren't mentioned that might be worth checking out. They are no longer favorites of mine (that's what happens when you do a year and a half of recipe testing for a Tex-Mex cookbook [:>)] but they deserve noting:

Spanish Village (tend to overfry their chips, but good salsa as I remember)

Fiesta Loma Linda (probably the last place in Houston that makes crispy tacos in puffed up taco shells. Greasy though).

Los Tios (they went really down-hill for awhile, using commissary prepared sauces but I've heard they are back up to speed)

Yep, it's Franco's. They vary their lunch specials each day. The ladies in the kitchen and the family members out front make for a really nice ambience. I like the place. I hope it gets discovered by the people in our neighborhood and developes a good clientele.

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Jay - are you looking for tamales that are maybe more Salvadoran style? There's a place way out west on Loch Katrine, 1/2 block west of Hwy-6 called Los Guanacos (Salvadoran place) that makes tamales as you describe. Very light, moist, with chicken, poblano (I think) and a green olive in the masa wrapped up in a banana leaf. I've had other, similar Salvadoran-style tamales around town, but somehow theirs seem better to me.

Pico's on Bellaire is my fav Tex-Mex. Mentioned earlier was Teotihuacan. Try the original Irvington location; it's better than the new one on Airline. I also saw a mention for breakfast tacos - try going to Villa Arcos on Navigation and get a super with bacon.

Edited by Kerr. (log)
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  • 1 month later...

for me, on a nice day, i love the patio at maria selmas. it feels like vacation in mexico. authentic, tasty and strong margaritas with simple enchiladas verdes and my favorite chips and salsa.

chiles en nogadas at pico's is the best.

ninfas on navigation is always a classic.

i miss my houston tex mex, so tasty and so cheap.

Edited by tmcook (log)
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<ul><li>either of the El Tiempo Cantinas (Richmond Ave. or Washington Ave.)

<li>either of the two Pico's Mex-Mex (Bellaire and I-10)

<li>Noemi's Tacos (Park Place just south of the Gulf Freeway -- great barbacoa tacos)

<li>any of the La Tapatia Taquerias (many locations, extensive menus, fine-tune your meal with exactly the kind of meat you'd like on anything you want to order)

<li>Otilia's (Long Point)</ul>Most of these places are authentically run-down, but don't let that stop you, because the food's uniformly excellent.

Edited by Deacon (log)
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