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Tex Mex in Houston

m
Muleriders Jul 11, 2012 12:59 PM

My family and I come to Houston every year to visit my wife's family there, and I try to hit all the types of restaurants that I can't really find here in Germany (where I live). These are mainly Mexican, Tex Mex, BBQ and anything South American. I have searched here on Chowhound for a good review of Tex Mex restaurants, but haven't really found anything. Could someone tell me where to go? One caveat though, I really don't want to go somewhere trendy. I would much rather go where the food is the number one priority and everything else (besides hygiene) comes second.

Thanks for your help. On many prior occasions, I have used this local site to find all the cuisines listed above (besides TexMex). Favorites have been Ostioneria Mar Azul, Sothern Comfort Takeout Kitchen and Alamo Tamale and Taco Factory.

  1. m
    MoreOysters Jul 11, 2012 01:25 PM

    Gruesse aus Texas! I like to take all my German visitors to Picos Mex Mex. The specials, especially the fish, are something you won't find in just any Tex Mex place. The maragaritas are also highly regarded. I'll even buy you a few rounds in exchange for a bottle of Schierker Feuerstein!

    1 Reply
    1. re: MoreOysters
      m
      Muleriders Jul 12, 2012 12:55 AM

      How did you ever come upon Schierker Feuerstein? There is indeed an abundance of Kräuterlikör here in Germany, and I wouldn't say that Schierker would be the most known. Pretty funny that that brand would come up on a chat in Texas

    2. arashall Jul 11, 2012 01:26 PM

      Oh my! You have really opened things up for lots of opinions on the Tex-Mex. Instead of getting into that, I'd recommend that you add "real" Mexican food to your list, and try out Hugo's, if you have not tried it before.
      http://www.hugosrestaurant.net/

      3 Replies
      1. re: arashall
        m
        Muleriders Jul 11, 2012 01:39 PM

        You're right. I'm really interested in authentic Tex Mex....maybe where oldtimers would go to. I've had Tex Mex in California and a few other states, but suspect I never had the real thing. Also, if you can explain what makes one man's TexMex different than another's. Thanks.

        1. re: Muleriders
          arashall Jul 11, 2012 01:54 PM

          I meant that Hugo's is more authentic Mexican food, featuring regional specialties from Mexico, as opposed to Tex-Mex :-) At the risk of being flamed, Hugo's is generally much fancier food than Tex-Mex.

          1. re: arashall
            m
            Muleriders Jul 12, 2012 12:44 AM

            Sorry, reread it this morning and realized I totally misunderstood.

      2. Lambowner Jul 11, 2012 05:47 PM

        Both Pico's and Hugo's are Mexican (or "Mex-Mex" as opposed to "Tex-Mex"). There are hundreds or maybe thousands of Tex-Mex places and opinions are as varied as the number of places out there. Many, many of them are 30+ years old and people tend to stick with what they "grew up on." My current favorite is Los Dos Amigos on Washington, a small family owned Tex-Mex place I wish I had found loooong ago. My perennial "childhood" favorite is Lopez on 59 Southwest Frwy. Neither are trendy, both have been around for decades. Tex-Mex is long on yellow cheeses, chile gravies, enchiladas, burritos, crispy tacos, fajitas, refried beans and frozen margaritas. Mex-Mex focuses on grilled or roasted meats, especially goat and pork, as well as seafood, ceviches and traditional Mexican soups and stews. It's all good. As to Tex-Mex, while most of them have the same items on the menu, most everyone you meet will have a different opinion on which one does it best as Arashall suggests!

        http://blogs.houstonpress.com/eating/2011/09/100_favorite_dishes_no_1_chees.php
        http://vivalopez.com/menu.html

        3 Replies
        1. re: Lambowner
          m
          Muleriders Jul 12, 2012 12:49 AM

          Thanks so much for the background info. That really helps in understanding the differences between the cusines. Pardon the pun, but it also gives more local flavor to our visit and helps us to appreciate more what we're experiencing. We'll give Los Dos Amigos a try. Any other suggestions are welcome.

          1. re: Muleriders
            arashall Jul 12, 2012 05:35 AM

            This was just published yesterday. As you can see from the comments, there are lots of opinions!

            http://www.29-95.com/restaurants/stor...

            1. re: arashall
              DoobieWah Jul 12, 2012 07:11 AM

              Yeah, you're not very likely to get a consensus.

              One of the comments on the Sylvia's story mentions Tejas on Alief Clodine. That is also a favorite of mine, but they do not serve liquor, if that's important to you.

              Good TexMex and GulfMex.

              Ask for the extra hot table sauce.

              As for Sylvia's, I also like it. Great carne guisada, and the moles are usually good.

        2. j
          Jaymes Jul 12, 2012 08:24 AM

          You mentioned Ostioneria Mar Azul. That's one of my very favorites. But I wouldn't call it TexMex at all. It's pretty typical of the seafood restaurants you find all over Mexico.

          I love that place.

          16 Replies
          1. re: Jaymes
            m
            Muleriders Jul 12, 2012 08:32 AM

            We are definitely going back there this trip. Last time, it was Karaoke night, and that just made the meal that much more fun. Yes, it's all Mexican. That's why I thought we should also try someplace that is just TexMex, not a mixture of both.

            1. re: Muleriders
              j
              Jaymes Jul 12, 2012 08:49 AM

              Don't think anyone has mentioned El Real Tex-Mex Cafe. It's Robb Walsh's place. He's considered to be an authority on Texas food and cooking. He's published several excellent books, including one on Tex-Mex.

              http://robbwalsh.com/

              ETA "Karaoke night at Ostioneria Mar Azul"? OMG. I can't imagine anything much more fun. I had no idea. I always go for lunch. I've got to fix that.

              1. re: Jaymes
                b
                brucesw Jul 14, 2012 04:58 AM

                Welcome back to Houston Muleriders. I’m impressed that you’ve made it to Mar Azul and Alamo. There may be a better ostioneria but if you managed to get some of the hand-made tamales at Alamo you would be hard pressed to find better ones anywhere.

                You’ve gotten some good advice here and a particularly helpful explanation by Lambower. I am not much of a fan of Tex-Mex anymore; having eaten it all my life I find it boring and much prefer Mex-Mex (or many of the other international cuisines available here). I’ve never found anything particularly destination worthy about Los Dos Amigos or Lopez though my late parents did love the latter when I took them there, so there is an old timers favorite (and by the way, it’s just a block further down the freeway from Mar Azul). For places that old timers might frequent you could also consider Molinas (3 locations and said to be a favorite of former President George Bush).

                I was glad that Jaymes brought up El Real, however. That is my one go to place when I want to be reminded of how great the dishes can be and I would drive in from out of town for that. It is located on the trendiest restaurant row in Houston right now but it’s probably not a trendy place itself anymore, the followers of trendiness being rather fickle. Here’s an old thread http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/779898 but with a warning: reading this may make you want to call your travel agent and move up your trip.

                BTW, for a German connection to Tex-Mex cuisine history, here are a couple of articles about Willie Gebhardt and his chili powder, still one of the best selling brands.

                http://andrewfsmith.com/books/mexican-cooking

                http://sophienburg.com/blog/?p=91

                Looking for any recs for Central or South American or is it just Tex-Mex this trip?

                1. re: brucesw
                  j
                  James Cristinian Jul 15, 2012 12:59 PM

                  Next time at Alamo, besides the tamales, try the rajas and carnitas, if they have them.

                  1. re: brucesw
                    j
                    Jaymes Jul 15, 2012 01:02 PM

                    Bruce, I'm curious as to what is your favorite ostioneria in Houston.

                    In my view, it will have to go some to beat Mar Azul. For one thing, I lived in Central America for four years and developed an absolute craving for a traditional ceviche. I've had lots and lots of it since returning to the US, but couldn't find anything even close to what I had in Central America until that happy day that I walked into Mar Azul.

                    And the seafood caldos there are as good as those I've had on the malecón restaurants along the Mexican Pacific coast.

                    1. re: Jaymes
                      b
                      brucesw Jul 15, 2012 04:27 PM

                      I don't know of a better one, Jaymes, and didn't mean to imply that I did. Sorry for the confusion. I'm not nearly as familiar with ostionerias and their fare as I am with Tex Mex tamales. In all my years of eating tamales, I've never had any better than Alamo so I felt somewhat confident in making that assertion. I am totally unqualified to assert that Mar Azul is the best ostioneria in town but it sure beats the others I have tried.

                    2. re: brucesw
                      m
                      Muleriders Jul 15, 2012 02:18 PM

                      I think between the Alamo, El Real and Mar Azul, plus whatever my inlaws have planned, there won't be much time for anything else. It's hard to plan time to be hungry with so many choices and only a limited amount of days there. Thanks though for the advice. Really am looking forward to the trip, and thank God it's raining in Houston. I was a bit worried that the end of July would be an absolute oven, but luckily you all have at least got some precipitation there as opposed to other places in the States.

                      1. re: Muleriders
                        j
                        James Cristinian Jul 15, 2012 02:30 PM

                        Muleriders, hate to burst the bubble, but by the end of July we are likely to be in another weather pattern, and weather is all about patterns. It could be dry and hot by then, unless we have a delicious, and small tropical system. Don't forget rajas and carnitas at Alamo, wrapped in good tortillas and topped with salsa.

                    3. re: Jaymes
                      j
                      James Cristinian Jul 15, 2012 02:09 PM

                      Jaymes, you know I love you, I just wouldn't go out on a limb and call El Real Walsh's place. Bryan Caswell and Bill Floyd opened it, and I believe Walsh was brought in as a consultant, and is indeed listed as third amigo on the website. I respect his knowledge, but am not wild about lots of his reviews. If you press me, I will provide examples. From the El Real website:

                      http://elrealtexmex.com/about/

                      1. re: James Cristinian
                        j
                        Jaymes Jul 15, 2012 02:31 PM

                        No need to press you. If you say it, I believe it!

                        But I do like El Real, no matter who was involved in the origination. And I do think a couple of Walsh's autographed books would make nifty souvenirs.

                        And, thanks for the nice compliment.

                        I love you, too, sweetstuff.

                        Even if you don't spell "James" exactly right.

                        1. re: Jaymes
                          j
                          James Cristinian Jul 15, 2012 04:55 PM

                          Hey, I've got one of his cookbooks too, the TexMex one. Actually it was a gift to my wife before we go married. That makes it mine too, community property, right? Bwahh ahhaa aahhha aha!!!!!!!! Again, will hit El Real with high expectations. I do love all the owners dedication to preserving the TexMex experience, one that unfortunately has been negatively tarnished, with zeal in some circles, and applaud them for keeping it alive.

                        2. re: James Cristinian
                          j
                          James Cristinian Jul 15, 2012 02:33 PM

                          I must say I have not been to El Real, but it will be my next TexMex place, we just keep going back to old favorites.

                      2. re: Muleriders
                        j
                        Jaymes Jul 12, 2012 09:27 AM

                        Also, speaking of Robb Walsh and his El Real Tex-Mex Cafe, as I was, if you time it right, you can probably find him there and get him to sign one of his books for you. That would make a most wonderful souvenir, and a perfect gift for whomever is feeding your dog and watering your plants back home.

                        Robb has done a great deal of research into the history of TexMex and what distinguishes it from other "Mexican" cuisines, and his TexMex book is a terrific read.

                        As an aside, his book on Texas Barbecue is iconic.

                        1. re: Jaymes
                          Lambowner Jul 12, 2012 12:05 PM

                          True. I was there in June and there was several of his books in the case at the front door for purchase, signed, I believe. Cheese enchiladas there are a winner. As are the stacked pork enchiladas.

                          1. re: Lambowner
                            DoobieWah Jul 12, 2012 12:53 PM

                            Jeeeeez, don't forget the puffy tacos!

                        2. re: Muleriders
                          j
                          James Cristinian Jul 14, 2012 09:38 AM

                          If you want a Mexican-American family experience, try El Jardin, deep in the eastside barrio, Harrisburg and 78ish, next to the fire station. Good TexMex and Mexican, but weekend nights are made up of local families and mariachis. It is loud, so don't go for conversation, just enjoy the experience. If you go for lunch, lots of Anglo workers, and when they vacate around 2pm, the locals take over.

                      3. k
                        kagemusha49 Jul 12, 2012 09:13 AM

                        100% Taquitos has a pretty limited menu (tacos and tostadas and tres leches mostly) but it's pretty good and seems authentic to me - when compared to the taco stands I sampled in Nuevo Laredo.

                        1. Lambowner Jul 14, 2012 07:49 AM

                          It would be an understatement to say I like cheese enchiladas :0 Lopez and a take-away order from El Real pictured...

                           
                           
                          1. j
                            Jaymes Jul 15, 2012 01:44 PM

                            Upon rereading your original post, I notice you say "anything South American."

                            We actually live in a far west suburb of Houston - Katy - and there are several excellent restaurants out here that don't get a lot of publicity or chatter from "downtowners," undoubtedly due to the fact that it's something of a long haul out here.

                            One of those restaurants is a big favorite with us. It's "Palma de Cera," which means "wax palm," the national tree of Colombia.

                            They say that they specialize in "Latin Cuisine," and they do. They have many terrific dishes, but our favorite is a plate of typical Colombian foods. On the menu, it's listed as: "Bandeja Paisa - a Colombian-style dish with steak, sausage, fried pork belly, fried egg, sweet plantains, rice, beans, corn patty and avocado" for $11.99. It's a lot of food, but you can get a half-order.

                            They make the best creamy smoothies in town, as far as we're concerned, and we always get the blackberry w/cream. So good.

                            http://www.palmadecerarestaurant.com/

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: Jaymes
                              b
                              brucesw Jul 15, 2012 04:34 PM

                              I think of the far west side of Houston as our 'Little South America' as there is a concentration of South American restaurants out that way, from the Beltway on out, there is Argentinian/Uruguayan, Brazilian, Venezuelan and Colombian. I guess probably Peruvian, too.

                              I must have had that Bandeja Paisa at a dozen places over the years; from a walk-up stand to a white table cloth place; hard to pick the best as they've all been pretty good. And I've been uniformly impressed with Colombian chorizo. Good to know Palma de Cera does a half order - I can't finish a whole plate, typically.

                              Since you live in Katy-zuela, as it's called, have you ever been to the Venezuelan places? Deli's Cafe on S. Mason and Budare Arepa Express on 99. Deli's is in a Shell station, Deli is apparently the owner's name. Budare is the more promising with a much larger menu but the one time I went all the way out there, I found everything very bland.

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