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May 20, 2013 10:57 AM

Houston Press' 10 Best TexMex

From the May 2 issue :

10. La Fiesta (I-10 at Kirkwood) - Hey! That's in MY neighborhood. But I'd never been there. Just a couple of doors down from Sam's Deli Diner, (where I've been many times), how did I not know about this? Well, I talked Mom and OBD into trying it with me on Saturday for lunch. I had already eaten a ton of mom's sausage ball thingies, so I didn't think I could face the enchiladas, but I did try a couple of crispy tacos and their rice and beans. All very good. I'll be back.

9. Don Carlos - Don't think I've ever been there.

8. Lupe Tortilla - Great fajitas. Good salsa.

7. El Real - A favorite of mine. I send out of towners there to see what Tex-Mex used to taste like.

6. Lopez - Just tried it for the first time in decades a couple of months ago. Liked it - A LOT.

5. Spanish Village - Never been there.

4. Molina's - We used to have lunch at the Westheimer location fairly frequently. Haven't been back in a year or two. I remember it fondly however.

3. The Original Ninfa's - On Navigation. It's changed. It's not as good as it used to be. (You know that's true).

2. Teotihuacan - On Airline. As much time as I spend over there how have I missed this place. Look out Dairy Maids/Flores/Caninos, I'm on my way!

1. La Mexicana - Never been there. Have to fix that; (and for my tamale
sleuthing friends, they are purportedly homemade and come highly recommended).

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  1. Let me know what you think of La Mex.

    I had a really bad experience at the Original Ninfa's this year also. Span-Ville as we affectionately call it is better known for its powerful margs, than its food, but I like the food okay. I'd like to try Teo also. And you know how I feel about my beloved Lopez! Woop!

    1. How on Earth is El Tiempo not on this list? I've been to The Original Ninfa's, Lopez, Lupe, and Don Carlos... El Tiempo is easily better than all of them in my opinion. I definitely need to try the rest of this list though.

      6 Replies
      1. re: mmckinnerney

        I'm not sure if you clicked the link, but El Tiempo was listed as an "Honorable Mention" along with Guadalajara, Los Tios, Sylvia's, Irma's and Lankford Grocery, (on enchilada days).

        They also added this caveat:

        "Note: In order to be considered for this list, a restaurant must serve the Houston Tex-Mex trifecta of fajitas, enchiladas and margaritas."

        Perhaps they felt that El Tiempo fell short on one of those, but I can't imagine which one.

        1. re: DoobieWah

          Yeah, I read the article... At first I thought they might have not even evaluated El Tiempo, but I just can't comprehend how it's an honorable mention when the others I mentioned (especially Lopez) were ranked. Like you, I can't imagine where they felt it fell short. I guess I can't speak for the enchiladas since I haven't had them at all of the restaurants I mentioned, but I would easily put El Tiempo at #1 for fajitas and margaritas.

          1. re: mmckinnerney

            I know that El Tiempo has a loyal following, but the lure eludes me. Same with Los Tios.

            1. re: Lambowner

              I think El Tiempo is really good. They have good fajitas, good enchis, good guac...

              I just hate paying twice as much as everywhere else for it.

              That said, I would put El Tiempo well above the original Ninfa's, which as I noted, just isn't the same anymore.

              Anyone remember Las Casuelas? My parents bought me the first alcoholic beverage that I ever had in public there when I was about seventeen, (around '77 or '78). It was a Tres Equis, (XXX), and came with lime and salt, the first time I ever saw that also.

              A couple of years later I drove across Austin to get the last case of Tres Equis I ever saw. It was sort of like Tecate but richer.

              1. re: DoobieWah

                Yes, El Tiempo is high, but an appetizer and main satisfy us both, and wifeacita can out eat me. It's usually crab nachos, great beans on the side and filet fajitas, worth the extra cost. I'll touch on some from #10 down, La Fiesta original Bunker Hill, spent many a hot summer afternoon in the 80's drinking cold beer and feeding on beef, cheese, and chicken enchiladas, good stuff. I like El Gallo on Gessner now for old style Tex Mex. Don Carlos, went once to the Hillcroft place and wasn't impressed, but some east end Hispanic guys I worked with loved it. For deep Eastside food I love El Jardin on Harrisburg and 78th, for a real experience go on a weekend night and be a part of a true Mexican-American family evening, just don't expect conversation, more than loud, mariachis.

                Lupe Tortillas, went once, a little gimmicky and too kid friendly. Never been to El Real, but best friend went last week and gave it a solid B, he's real picky.

                Original Ninfa's, in location only. I've been going since 19 and 75, Mom was turned on to the original front room only place. There were no fajitas on the menu, just tacos al a Ninfa and carne asada. It was always a toss up between them, alambres, or the special rich crab meat enchiladas. The last time was terrible, I suggest Merida just up the street, get the chorizo nachos and cochinita pibil.

                Yes, we went to Las Casuelas, it was part of picky friend and mine weekend night rotation along with El Jardin and Los Molcajetes/Mucho Mexico on Wayside. They had a blind guy one man band, and then the mariachis came out, great family fun, usually the only two anglos in the crowd como siempre.

                1. re: DoobieWah

                  I thought about Tres Equis a while back, and as for the lime and salt, I just can't do either. Do you remember Cerveza Superior, Ninfa's had it in late 70's early 80's? Good stuff, I've checked the web and people all over were looking for it. Ran into a Mexican beer distributor and he said Superior had a short shelf life, Mexico only maybe the same with XXX.

        2. Went to Teotihuacan this weekend with OBD and our mutual maternal DNA donor.

          I had the cheese enchis con arroz y frijoles refritos.

          They were good.

          OBD let me try a couple of pieces of the fajita meat from his taco al carbon. Delicious. Tender and flavorful.

          The tortillas are unique. They're very thick, say one and half times the thickness of what I'm used to. We asked, (OK, OK, "I" asked), for some corn tortillas and butter to munch on whilst we waited for lunch. They're good, but not perfect for that application. They ARE perfect for enchiladas however. The corn flavor and soft texture really comes through and elevates the humble cheese enchilada to new heights.

          We also stopped by Alamo on Berry for tamales and they are now in their new store. It is every bit as spacious as the old place was claustrophobic. Tamales are the same, but the cafeteria line is greatly expanded.

          3 Replies
          1. re: DoobieWah

            I like going old school and spread butter on chips. Good to hear about the new line at Alamo, now maybe they won't run out of good stuff, like rajas.

            1. re: DoobieWah

              We recently hit Teo also and I had the suggested Snapper Cilantro. It was good, with an incredible sea flavor. It took all of my self control to by-pass all the Tex-Mex options so will have to go again for some enchiladas. The salsa was very good and the queso was addicting, with chopped onions and tomatoes floating in the creamy yellow cheese. The service was friendly and prompt.

              I have been to La Fiesta several times, in fact, we ate there with boarded up windows the afternoon before Ike hit Houston. It's average IMO, but a neighborhood nostalgic place. You may recall the large free-standing Fiesta that was on Westheimer somewhere between Wilcrest and Kirkwood. It burned and never re-opened. There used to be one around Bunker Hill @ I-10 also. I think the one at Kirkwood @ I-10 is the only one left.


              1. re: Lambowner

                Yeah, my OtherBrotherDarrell reminded me that the to-this-day burned out hulk next to Le Viet and across from Hafez is a former La Fiesta.

                I never made the connection, but I'm pretty sure I never went there. (You know - before it burned.)