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Aloha from a long lost Houstonian, need one lunch and one dinner rec

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I am a Houstonian that's been goine since 1990. When I left Houston in 1990, I think I'd been to every restaurant in town, from Galveston to the Old San Francisco Steak House (the western border of our city back then). Houston raised me to be an excellent eater, and I've gone far and wide since then. 4 years in New England, 10 years in China/Hong Kong and eating all over Asia. I am married to a sweet Uyghur from Urumqi (Uyghur food is some of the best on the planet). I've eaten across most of Europe. I've been in Hawaii the last 7 years and am now flying Honolulu to London via Houston. I get to stop for 30 hours and see my Dad. He eats all over town I am sure, but he is not crazy about food (he likes work more). I noticed Feast getting good reviews and our home is just a couple blocks from there, but I'm going to London, so nix that.

I want to go to Ninfa's on Navigation and enjoy their quesadillas and tacos al carbon, guacamole and the green sauce I can never get enough of, but if someone who knows food will witness that there's a much better mex or tex-mex meal to be had, I am never pass up an opportunity.

Basically, I just like the food to be excellent and memorable, hole-in-the-wall to michelin three star, your favorite Houston meal?

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Ninfa's
600 Travis St Ste T-L, Houston, TX 77002

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  1. NInfa is dead and the restaurants were sold years ago to a chain. The Navigation location apparently held on for a long time but there's a new chef and menu and from what's been reported here, it should be avoided. The Laurenzo family operates the El Tiempo Cantinas and claim to use Ninfa's recipes so that's where you should go.

    You might also consider Hugo's in Montrose, a very good, interior Mexican place. You'll find lots of mentions of both on this board plus websites. Avoid the Cantina 1308 on Montrose, also operated by the Laurenzos. According to what's been posted here it's not as good as the El Tiempo's.

    I like La Guadalupana on Dunleavy in the Montrose, more of a hole in the wall, but if you can afford it, hit Hugo's, I'd say.

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    El Tiempo Cantina
    5602 Washington Ave, Houston, TX 77007

    11 Replies
    1. re: dexmat

      Hmmm, just learning that the Navigation location is gone is really like hearing about a close friend dying. What do you like at La Guadalupana?

      thank you.

      1. re: szfoster

        Ninfa's is still there, but unfortunately so is the chef. They now have fish tacos and other unecessary items. The menu has been changes, and even though they make old recipies, it is not the same. I suggest El Tiempo on Washington, Ninfa's sons run it. I've seen them in there before, and they really are serious about the business, and keep the staff sharp. I suggest prime fajitas and crab nachos, their excellent beans on the side. Get a skinny margarita, no sugar. While it's not Ninfa's in it's prime, and I was there from the beginning, it is nonetheless excellent..

        1. re: James Cristinian

          Thank you for el tiempo, pun intended, James.

        2. re: szfoster

          This is not my part of town and I've only been a few times but wish it was closer to me. I've had his Mole Poblano dish, forget what it's called (there's no website and no printed menu to go). It was chicken enchiladas in a rich mole poblano. He is said to be one of a small number of restuaranteurs that makes their own mole from scratch; many rely on mole concentrates. I've also had another enchilada dish and a torta. His tortas don't tend to be as stuffed and humongous as what you get at many Houston torta places. He is very well know for his breakfasts but I've never had one. He was a baker at the River Oaks Country Club before starting his own place and it's a bakery as well as cafe and the breads and pastries are excellent and he sells bags of his coffee with cinnamon.

          Seems like I've been there another time that I'm not remembering what I had.

          1. re: dexmat

            Sounds good, and I grew up in that neighborhood, so I should be able to find. Thank you much for the excellent tip.

            1. re: szfoster

              Remembered the other thing I've had there, a semita, which is another type of sandwich on a flat, hamburger bun like roll. Very good, Had a choice of meats and I had the carnitas. Sorry I can't be more help but the menu is not large so you're not going to be confronted with a bewildering array of choices.

              Also another one in the area came to mind, La Mexicana, on Montrose @ Fairview. I haven't been to this one in maybe 20 years but it was there before you left town so you may have known of it. It was just a grocery with steam table when I was there but is more of a full fledged restaurant now and the parking lot is usually packed when I occasionally go by in that neighborhood.

              http://www.lamexicanarestaurant.com/

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              La Mexicana Restaurant
              1018 Fairview St, Houston, TX 77006

              1. re: dexmat

                La Mexicana was definitely there. There was the main owner, Jose, and his brother. When I was 16, I used to pool all the money I could find between me and my friends, drive down just before midnight and offer him $80 bucks for $60 bucks worth of beer. He was good to us and me and my friends were hooked up through high school by La Mexicana. I am glad to hear his place has held up.

                I've never had a semita, sounds good too....thank you!

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                La Mexicana Restaurant
                1018 Fairview St, Houston, TX 77006

                1. re: szfoster

                  The last couple of time I went to La Mexicana, I was not impressed, it seemed to have slipped a bit. I would strongly suggest El Tiempo over it. For dinner, and I must preface that I have not been, Reef gets strong reviews for local Gulf seafood. Chef/owner Bryan Caswell was a James Beard finalist in 2010. The pecan snapper is supposed to be good, but look for other Gulf fish such as wahoo, not usually served in other restaurants.

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                  La Mexicana Restaurant
                  1018 Fairview St, Houston, TX 77006

                  1. re: James Cristinian

                    Excellent torrential rains did not stop me from finding Pierson's today. I went to love it, wanted to love it, but must say that I just ended up liking it. The location is excellent, The people were excellent. The sauce was excellent. The potato salad and beans were excellent, but the BBQ was below excellent, maybe very good. The brisket was too dry, was too dry, like I almost complained. If you go, ask for your brisket wet, maybe that was my mistake.

                    1. re: szfoster

                      Went to El Tiemp for dinner. It's a great restaurant serving up traditional tex-mex. I hadn't had such a nice plate of enchiladas suizas verdes in years. Nice subtle flavor. The green sala was a little too creamy, needed just a bit more bite. The red sauce was smoky, full of flavor and wonderful.

                      1. re: szfoster

                        Sorry to hear about Pierson's. I went a month or so ago and the ribs were some of the best I've ever had, rivaling City Market in Luling. The last time I went, they weren't so great, but still good. That's bbq for you. Yesterday for lunch we fought through torrential rains to go to El Tiempo. Glad you liked it, really good Tex Mex is a thing of joy. We had our usual crab nachos, beans on the side, plus filet fajitas, really incredible. Usuallly we try something different, maybe next time we'll try those enchiladas suizas.