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Best beef fajitas in Houston?

I have incredible memories of the most succulent beef fajitas from a caterer (from a restaurant) in Houston 20 years ago. The meat was like filet mignon tender, with a savory marinade that makes my mouth water now from the recollection of the flavor. I haven't been back to Houston for many years, but will be traveling there soon again.

What place has the aforementioned "miracle fajitas"? I will go immediately upon landing!

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  1. Here are the two that I enjoy the most:

    1) Los Cucos (there are a couple around town) has a "Fajitas a las Brazas" mixed grill (for two) that has chicken & beef fajitas as well as a link of grilled sausage. Half of the fajitas have their Los Cucos sauce over them which is fantastic (it is a creamy sauce of onions, mushrooms and a little jalapeno among other things) . The other half is regular fajitas like you normally see. It is served on a large metal grill looking thing (sorry I don't know the proper term for it) that sits in the middle of the table.

    2) The marinade on beef fajitas at Lupe Tortillas is fantastic.

    There are plenty of good places with fajitas, but I think that these two places go above and beyond the norm.

    12 Replies
    1. re: mac8111

      I second Los Cucos.

      I know some people liked Lupe Tortillas but I found the marinade to be a bit too sour for my tastes (since it's made with a lot of lime).

      1. re: mialebven

        I like the simplicity of the Lupe Tortilla marinade, but it is not like a filet mignon!

        I've never been to Los Cucos, but my family loves Fajita WIllies on 290. We also like the fajitas and quail at El Tiempo Cantina.

        Alkapal - please elaborate on the flavors in the marinade.

        1. re: danhole

          pretty simple, danhole, garlic, lime/vinegar/orange -- but not sour at all. maybe cumin. maybe onion. maybe some umami touch -- worcestershire? (nah....) it let the steak flavor shine.

          1. re: alkapal

            I'll bet they came from a more upscale mexican place than what I mentioned! I say that because of the cut of meat you mentioned.

            1. re: danhole

              Those tasty catered fajitas the OP had 20 years ago probably came from Ninfa's, which (like so many others) is not what it used to be. I had some fajitas from Pappasitos this fall and they were VERY tender and nicely marinated. I'd go there again in a minute. Does anyone in Houston remember Adrians? Their green sauce was to die for! I wish I still had the recipe.

              1. re: Cheflambo

                That's a good point Chef! 20 years is a long time in Houston restaurant history. So few make it that long, but when it comes to mexican I can think of a few! Felix's, Donaraki's, Ninfa's, El Patio (westheimer), but that's all off the top of my head. And your are so right - quality of fajitas has changed over the years!

                I do not remember Adrian's. I mean the name rings a bell, but I never ate there. Try emailing the Chronicle to ask if anyone has that recipe. You might find it!

                1. re: danhole

                  Thanks for the suggestion, Danhole -- indeed, the Chronicle (and/or its readers) might have this recipe. Adrians was downtown (you could see the building and the sign next to the north side of the Pierce Elevated) but has been gone several years. When I was in the party/meeting/convention business in the late 80s there was some debate over whose "green sauce" came first -- some folks said Adrian copped it from Ninfa, others say the Ninfa's folks replicated Adrian's recipe. All I know is that I was managing a party catered by the Ninfa's people, I tasted it for the first time and raved about it so much, they gave me a pint to take home for myself. I think its time to make a trip over to Navigation and see what's happening at the original Ninfa's. None of their branches is really quite the same as the original (where I met Ninfa herself one evening, dining with her family on my very first visit).

                  I, too, am mystified by the appeal of Lupe Tortillas. I ate in their Clear Lake location a few times when it first opened, and thought the margaritas were especially "limey" (which is the way I like them) but the rest of the food was nothing special. Perhaps you can't really go by my assessment -- Im not a big fan of Mexican food.

                  1. re: Cheflambo

                    Here are my reasons for liking Lupe Tortilla's:

                    Good warm bean mix and salsa with fresh chips when you sit down.
                    Large, thin, homemade tortillas. Can't stand those fluffy thick tortillas at most places.
                    Simple lime flavor on the meat, and it is very tender, which is really important, especially if you have TMJ. There are too many places in town that serve fajitas that taste like soy sauce, or even worse, teriyaki. And another problem with a lot of places is the meat is too thick, just plain meat (no flavor), and too tough to easily bite into.
                    All the extras that come with the fajita dinner - guacamole, shredded real cheese, sour cream, pico de gallo, refried beans, and rice. We also get an order of queso, then when you build your fajita and you add a little queso, sour cream, cheese, some pico, guac, and a smear of beans, it's like you have a 7 layer dip burrito. If you don't like the lime flavor, well you won't taste it with all this other stuff!

                    Are they the best? I can't say, because I haven't had fajitas at every single place in town, and we don't have the budget to spend big buck at upscale place that serve them either, but they are pretty darn good.

                    1. re: danhole

                      Well, danhole, we might be the ideal dining companions, then, because you like all the things that I DONT about Mexican food. I prefer the thick fluffy tortillas .... and you can have ALL my beans!

                      I like GOOD mexican food, from a very few places. I'll go with other people, but dont seek it out myself. My beef (to coin a phrase) is that I can't seem to get any dish in a Tex-Mex resto that doesn't come with rice and beans. The rice is usually dried out and not worth the carbs. but I can't stomach those beans in any form, borracho or refried (I wont gross you out by telling you what I think they look like). When I try to order my food without the R&B, about half the time the waitress understands, and the rest of the time there is some bilingual negotiations, and I get R&B anyway and have to send it back. Mr. Cheflambo rolls his eyes and digs into his meal regardless, and I am forced to sit there and watch him inhale his food while I wait for mine to return beanless. Yes, I guess I am a gringa and proud of it.

                      1. re: Cheflambo

                        Chef, I do agree that most of the time the R&B are awful, but these are a little bit better. I like to add some rice to the beans and put a bit of queso or shredded cheese in it, and stir it together. Now my DH will not touch them or, like you tolerate them being served to him. He always subs french fries (papas fritas) and most places comply. Actually the only mexican food he eats are the chips, plain beef fajitas, and . . . well, that's it! So I get all the "extras" for myself!

                        1. re: Cheflambo

                          I'm with you Cheflambo on the arroz but beans are one of nature's greatest gifts and I love them, well-prepared. Charro, borracho, refritos - okay, the last one is frequently wasted space on the plate but when they're good (made with lard???), they're awesome.

                          I've never been a big fan of fajitas, have never figured out what's so special about them.

                          I mostly go to taquerias these days seeking more 'authentic,' i.e, South-of-the-Border fare.

                          Someone should start a thread (or maybe there is one) on the General Chowhounding board about food items that are just wasted space on the plate. Along with arroz and frequently refritos I used to include tamales until I had some home-made/hand-made. I would also include hush puppies, cole slaw (most of the time), grits (most of the time), hominy.....

        2. I recently went to Little Pappasito’s, 2536 Richmond at Kirby, 77098. I have not eaten there in many years, which is a shame because the beef fajitas were amazing… perfect really. I have been back twice now and each time they were excellent - very tender, but not mushy at all. The beef flavor was rich too and not over-powered by a salty or sour marinade ( like Lupe Tortillas – Yuck!)

          I have also eaten the beef fajita dinner at Good Company Taqueria many times. It’s wonderful too. The taste is very beefy and “grilled”. The marinade is very subtle.

          The original Nifa’s on Navigation street always had good fajita plates, but I have not been there in about 2 years so I cannot really say what’s going on there now. I also remember the fajitas at El Tiempo Cantina, 3130 Richmond Ave. being very good too. However, they were a bit more expensive than most places and the restaurant does get super-packed most nights. For me, it just wasn’t worth the hassle.

          Please don’t even waste your money at Lupe Tortillas.I have been to the original location as well as the 59 SWFRY and Kirby location. Each time ( a total of 3 visits), I was very disappointed. I don’t know why my out-of town-friends keep insisting that we all dine at this place. I ordered the fajitas each time we went hoping they would be better than the last time. No such luck. They were mushy – no real texture left in them. I guess soaking too long in the powerful lime marinade had destroyed it. It’s not that I don’t like limes either… I even squeeze limes to make margaritas (never use a sweet mix). The meat was very salty too with no rich, buttery meaty taste to speak of. I will never go back to Lupe Tortillas, but lots of people LOVE it for some reason.

          1 Reply
          1. re: Jayro

            Just wanted to update everyone on Pappasito's (which I agree has the Best fajitas in Houston). Went to the Richmond & Hillcroft location last week, and they have a Half Price Fajita special going on. You have to buy the large plate, but my buddy and I couldn't even finish one between us. A real bargain in these depressed times.

            My understanding is it's going on both lunch and dinner through February.

          2. Hands down best beef fajitas are at Pappasito's. They have been the best for close to thirty years now. Their marinade is the best in terms of bringing out the flavor of the meat and the cut of meat is the best creating the most tender and delicious fajitas imaginable. They do not overcook the meat like the vast majority of placed do.

            Ignore any qualms about them being a "chain". I have been going to their Hillcroft and Richmond original location since the beginning and they are a Houston landmark. Original Ninfa's on Navigation is a close second. El Tiempo's would be good too but for whatever reason they seem to put Liquid Smoke on their meat. WHY DO YOU DO THIS EL TIEMPO?

            Finally, whenever I hear people say that Lupe Tortilla's has the best beef fajitas I really think there is something wrong with their tastebuds if they have been to Pappasito's. I hated their fajitas. WAY too much lime juice flavor which ruined the texture of the meet to mushy, stringy slop.

            1. was there a "tia's" restaurant 20 years ago, doing resto and catering?

              plus, any progress on "adrian's" green sauce recipe?

              11 Replies
              1. re: alkapal

                Don't know if this is what you're referring to but there was a Tila's on Westheimer, where Katz's is now. They were out of business for years but now operate on N. Shepherd, just before W. Dallas.

                1. re: brucesw

                  would tila's fit my (OP) description back in the day?

                  1. re: alkapal

                    Here is a link to Tila's:

                    http://www.tilas.com/

                    I didn't see fajita's, per se, on the menu as an entree, but offered up in enchiladas, etc.

                    1. re: danhole

                      Hmmm... I see what you mean....
                      It's also listed as a choice/variation under "Queso fundito" in apps.
                      Is this place any good?

                      1. re: Tay

                        I have never eaten there. My DH is so picky that the only mexican food he will eat are beef fajitas - NOTHING else - so if they are offered we don't go. Sad for me as a lot of those dishes sound pretty good!

                        1. re: Tay

                          Found a new Houston food blogger this weekend (actually, looks like no posts since August). There's a review off Tila's:

                          http://www.eatinginhouston.net/mexican/

                          Scroll down to the second review. Hmmm. I think maybe I'm up for some ancho fudge pie!

                          1. re: brucesw

                            Looking at the blog, I wonder if it could be Teala's. I have never been there - anyone else?

                        2. re: danhole

                          i don't understand...are fajitas considered some subset of enchiladas on tila's menu? i thought that was weird....

                          1. re: alkapal

                            A lot of places offer beef fajita, or chicken fajita meat as an alternate to the ground beef they usually use. They do it for Taco salads, enchiladas, quesadillas, etc. It costs a bit more but usually worth it.

                            1. re: alkapal

                              The term fajita, literally 'little belt' translated from the Spanish, technically refers to the abductor muscle of a cow, i.e., skirt steak. It has come to refer to a dish involving grilled meats (and/or vegetables) served with tortillas but literally chickens and shrimp do not have skirt muscles and so there are really no such things as chicken and shrimp fajitas.

                              Tila's is using the term in its strictest sense, then. Fajitas, i.e., grilled skirt steak, is available as one of the fillings in their enchiladas, as opposed to ground beef or ropa viejo (shredded beef). Sounds good to me. These are sometimes referred to as steak enchiladas, too, just as some restaurants prefer to list the popular dish fajitas as tacos al carbon.

                              They do not appear to have 'fajitas' in the popular sense on their menu.

                      2. re: alkapal

                        There is a Tia Maria's, and I think it's been around a long time, but their fajitas are nothing to get too excited about. They are kind of hit and miss. They are best at standard Tex-Mex.

                      3. Reading this thread just makes me sad that you can't find decent fajitas in NYC unless you're willing to plunk down $50 a person for dinner at an upscale place. We finally have a decent (but expensive) bbq joint in Manhattan, but nothing that would equal the tex-mex we used to get in Houston/Austin. The last time I ordered beef fajitas at an ordinary neighborhood restaurant here, it came out looking like stir fry and had baby corn mixed in with the peppers and meat. Really. Baby corn.

                        In Houston, I have to agree that the Lupe Tortilla comes in first, hands down, and Los Cucos is a close second (I don't know how central you'll be able to find a Los Cucos, but I'm pretty sure I heard they built a huge one out at Hwy 6 and Clay).

                        Lupe Tortilla comes with tons of people, though, so be prepared to wait if you're going to the Hwy 6 or the Shepard/59 location. And, it's a little more expensive for a Houston Tex-Mex place. But, given the quality of the food, it is always my first stop when I'm back in Houston.