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Sep 5, 2012 06:44 AM

What is the best Tex-Mex in Houston?

I LOVE great Tex-Mex (not interior, fancy Mexican)! But I just dont think the Tex-Mex in Houston measures up to SA. Maybe i shouldn't expect it to. But i am open to exploring further. Who has some great Tex-Mex suggestions for Houston and what is the dish i should try? Thanks, Shep in Houston

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  1. Welcome to Chowhounds.

    My current favorite is Tejas on Alief Clodine. It's "TexMex" but also "GulfMex" with a lot of seafood dishes. (The owner is an incorrigible fisherman.)

    Beer and wine only, (and wine margaritas). I'm not really a drinker so it's not an issue for me, but might be for some.

    Ask for the extra hot sauce. No... wait. DON'T ask for the extra hot sauce...they sometimes run out and knowing my luck, you'll get mine.

    For "Vintage" TexMex, try El Real on Westheimer in the old Tower Theater. It's a lot trendier given its ownership pedigree, but darned if it doesn't taste exactly like what we grew up with.

    On another board I frequent, there's a running poll that currently has the Original Ninfa's on Navigation and El Tiempo running neck and neck, but in my opinion, both of those get nostalgia votes and neither have overwhelmed me recently particularly given their price points, ($12 for two cheese enchis, rice and beans at El Tiempo).

    For comparison, at El Real, a plate with three enchiladas, rice and beans is only $11 and I think they're much better.

    Lettuce know what you like.

    1. I feel the same way when I'm in SA! The two styles are very different. If you like puffy tacos a la SA, you should try El Real as suggested above. I don't know where else they are served here. I've been to some of the usual recommendations in SA, like Henry's, Mi Tierra and La Fogata, the latter two which make me feel as if I've fallen into a nightmarish tourist trap and can't get out. Where would you suggest in SA for good TexMex? Although as I said, I fear we talk at cross purposes because the two styles are so different and we will always prefer our native regional TexMex! He! My favorite in Houston is Lopez in Stafford. A monument to self made millionaires are Mr. Lopez and family and for good reason IMO. No other place even comes close. El Tiempo is way way way way way overpriced for TexMex and not at all worth the extra dollars. The service and food quality made me weep when I was there. Alicia's Mexican Grill is newish to my area of town and it is getting some loving comments from reviewers. I went once to a new location on Richmond and was not impressed with what I ordered (shrimp stuffed avocado) but perhaps I ordered the wrong thing.

      The opinions of this hound do not reflect the opinions of the rest of the Houston hounds (to head off the inevitable arguments about the best TexMex in Houston).

      20 Replies
      1. re: Lambowner

        Thanks DoobieWah and Lambowner. On Ninfas and El Tiempo, i think they have good food just expensive and IMO overrated. Nostalgic is good word. I rate my tex-mex on cheese enchiladas and refried beans. I like the Real enchiladas --- Velvetta-like cheese in the middle. To me, that's authentic tex-mex ---not cheddar. Tony's on Ella and Molinas are good. Have either of you been to Blanco Cafe in SA. To me, those are classic corn tortillas, velveeta-like interior, chili gravy but not con carne, onions on top. I may be looking for Holy Grail but will keep looking in Houston. I will try Lopez and on another post Los Dos Amigos.

        1. re: Shepdog

          Based on your description of the cheese enchis, you will like Tejas.

          1. re: DoobieWah

            Thx...will try Tejas for sure. Looks like its by Crump stadium.

          2. re: Shepdog

            I was in SA a few weeks ago and made a pilgrimage to Blanco Cafe. I had not been since my college days (many moons ago) when it was our favorite "splurge" dinner out. I was pleased to find it as delicious as I remembered!

            1. re: Shepdog

              I'm going to express my views of Ninfa's and El Tiempo in a day or so, and I must say I've never liked the cheese enchiladas at either place. I prefer beef or chicken enchildas with a red spanish sauce for my Tex Mex standards, but I also like good cheese enchiladas, like ya'll no cheddar. I'll offer two under the radar NW Houston for enchiladas. They are El Gallo on Gessner and Hammerly and Don Jose on Antoine, old school family places with nothing cutting edge about them, in fact the "chile relleno" at El Gallo is a stuffed bell pepper and I love it anyway. BREAKING NEWS (followed by da da DAH da music.) Acoording to B 4 U Eat new locations El Tiempo is opening on Navigation, a stone's throw east of Ninfa's. Again my views on both places plus a couple of other east side places later, must shower and eat so the hated Cowboys and almost as despised Giants can put me to sleep.

              1. re: Shepdog

                Ooooooh forgot Los Dos Amigos on Washington Ave! A new find for me, but a decades old place. Do try! Do not be put off by the exterior. Lovely people and food inside. Breakfast is supposed to be the best, but I don't eat much breakfast. However, breakfast is served all day. The few times I have been there, inevitably, someone comes in for lunch and the super friendly staff just says, "your usual coming up!" Gotta love that!

                1. re: Shepdog

                  Love your definition of real enchiladas! So will try Blanco's my next trip south! Thanks!

                  1. re: Shepdog

                    Kind of a hike from downtown Houston, but for my money, it's hard to beat Larry's in Richmond for iconic old-school cheese enchiladas.

                    1. re: Jaymes

                      OK, so my thing is cheese enchiladas and i have this ideal for what that means. I also love chile rellenos, carnitas and just about everything mex food. So, no need to buy into my ideal. Diane Kennedy certainly doesnt. But if you want to know a little plausible history for use of Velveeta in tex-mex enchiladas, watch this video i pulled down from robb walsh's website. if it doesnt pull up go to youtube and search for "the velveeta underground". And i have been to larry's and loved it. Tejas, los dos amigos, el gallo and don jose on my list to try.


                      1. re: Shepdog

                        Carnitas at Lopez are the best I've had.

                        About Larry's, the last time I went there was years ago, but I recall being disappointed in the cheese enchiladas. I grew up out there so went to Larry's way back when it was the only TexMex around. I'll have to try them again. If you are in that area, be sure to try La Casona also, it is "new" comparatively and I have been stopping in there since they opened a few years ago. Good solid TexMex.

                        1. re: Lambowner

                          About Larry's... My son married a girl that was born and raised in the Sugar Land/Richmond area and her family still lives there. They go to Larry's frequently. The first few times I accompanied them, I ordered my usual TexMex favorites, and wasn't particularly impressed. About the fourth or fifth time we went, I noticed that everybody else at the table was getting the cheese enchiladas "with extra onions."

                          So, while I don't particularly recommend Larry's across the board, I think their cheese enchiladas are some dang fine eating.

                        2. re: Shepdog

                          Now you throw in carnitas, which is much like BBQ, hit or miss with some places far more consistent. I'll touch on the so called original Ninfa's I go back to the mid-70's when there were no fajitas or carnitas. Flash ahead twenty years to watered down Ninfaritas, really good fajitas, and wonderful 90 percent of the time carnitas. Then the chef came five years or so ago, and while the carnitats had good texture,. the waiter I'd known for years said they'd do them old school, but the uneeded chef added nutmeg or something to ruin them, scratch Ninfas. Their cheese enchiladas have always been terrible, just like El Tiempo, more on them later.

                          Two east side places I like are Merida, not really Tex Mex, more Yucatan, think cocinita pipil. They do so really nice carnitas, most of the time. Spectacular are the super nachos with chorizo, we get the refried beans on the side and they are delicious. A thin but flavourful salsa, with a spicier version available on request. They are on the west end of Navigation. Another, this one deep east side barrio, is El Jardin. Again really good carnitas more consistent than Merida. We usually get carnitas, queso flameado with chorizo, grilled meats and shrimp. Bonus, great salsa and fried shrimp with homemeade fries.Go in the late afternoon when the locals take over from the gringo lunch crowd, or weekend nights for mariachis and Mexican American families. Loud. They are on Harrisburg and 78th next to the fire station.

                          The carnitas at Los Dos Amigos were really good once, so a friend of mine hit them on a Monday at 11am for what were the worst I can reacall, clearly leftover from the weekend. A pity and I have not been back. Some of the best carnitas are at the zillions of carnecerias that dot the city. Teloloapan, one of several around is at Long Point and Blalock, five minutes from El Gallo. They have them todos los dias, and after scoping them out several times the wife picked some up. Outstanding. They always look good, especially up to lunch time.

                          Chile Relleno, Otillia's further east on Long Point has one of the best I've had. They're not a Tex Mex place, stick with the chile relleno and chips and salsa.

                          On to El Tiempo, which is like most places I've metioned in that they do a few things really well, and yes they are expensive, but an appetizer and a la carte dish usualy sends us home with leftovers. We get lump crab nachos, with the great refried beans on the side, and very tender prime fajitas. I'm not crazy about the chips and salsa, but the wife loves them. The skinny margaritas are good and pack a punch. That's all I can think of for now, I'm sure I'll remeber something else.

                          1. re: James Cristinian

                            Thx James! I havent been to Merida for years. I am going to make a visit. I have in the past enjoyed Ninfa's carnitas but havent had them lately. I like my carnitas crispy chunk and not stringly/shredded (braised). I agree Ninfas and El Tiempo are not the places for cheese enchiladas --- dont care for cheddar filling.

                            1. re: Shepdog

                              Then you won't like Lopez carnitas. Tender, juicy, flavorful pulled pork. All of them are braised, I hope though, before frying. It's a braising meat. The chunks are deep fried after braising. The pulled kind is crisped on the grill top before serving.

                              1. re: Shepdog

                                Jaymes' post about onions reminds me that while El Gallo says enchiladas come with onions, they never do.If you go be sure to ask for them.

                                1. re: James Cristinian

                                  I do braise my carnitas in coke. then i quick fry them in a fry daddy for 20-30 seconds. I like them crisp. But some places ive been to its not crispy at all...stringy and moist, and thats fine...just not crispy the way i like it.

                                  1. re: Shepdog

                                    We're there, time and place please. I'm inviting my wife, Doobs, and Jaymes, good folks, all of whom I've met.

                              2. re: James Cristinian

                                I totally agree on Otilia's on Long Point in the Spring Branch area. Their Chile en Nogada with Otilia's special filling is to die for and their mole poblano consists of chicken breast medallions in mole sauce and are delicious. I rate my Mexican restaurants on the quality of their aroz and their frijoles. Both are made correctly and are delicious at Otilia's, in my humble opinion.