Those who balked at yesterday's suggestion that spending $13 on a sashimi bento box at Kata Robata in lieu of spending the same amount on sub-par grocery store sushi would probably do well to steer clear of today's lunchtime suggestion: a $15 meal at Cuchara.
This isn't any old $15 meal, however. One of my chief complaints with Cuchara is that it can get costly at night. And although the modern interior Mexican food itself is quite good, there are also consistency issues that make me wary of dropping $35 to $50 on a dinner that may or may not turn out to be worth the price.
That issue is rendered moot at lunch, when you can sample a three-course affair at Cuchara for only $15—including complimentary aguas frescas that are refilled throughout your meal.
The comida corrida lunch, as its called, also accomplishes the task of getting you in and out of the restaurant and back to work within a very reasonable amount of time (especially compared to the intentionally languid service model in the evenings, when everyone is relaxing over cocktails and wine).
"Comida corrida" literally means a "run" of food, in which the dishes are brought out in quick succession. Although the comida corrida menu changes daily, it's still a prix fixe menu in the fact that you have a line-up of dishes to choose from each day, and always at the set $15 price. This fixed roster is why Cuchara is able to get those dishes out so quickly and so economically.
On my visit last week, my dining partner opted for the standard lunch menu while I chose from the comida corrida. He spent more money, but I got more bang for my 15 bucks. He ordered a trio of salsas (yes, Cuchara is one of those restaurants where you pay for chips and salsa—this ain't Tex-Mex), a bowl of creamy chilatole soup, and a plate of tacos chelos (chicken flautas in green sauce with salty queso fresco on top, for us gringos raised on Guadalajara). He paid $24 before tax and tip. He also drank most of my complimentary cantaloupe agua fresca.
My $15 comida corrida lunch netted me the same amount of food, in different variations. I opted for the nopales salad studded with apples and raisins, green quesadillas with cheese, and a cinnamon-laced arroz con leche for dessert. I could barely finish dessert, the salad and entree had been so filling. The top of my price range for lunch is $15—I can't imagine spending $24, especially on a regular basis. And it looks like most of Cuchara's regular clientele is with me on that, as I saw everyone else around us ording from the comida corrida menu too.
Although Cuchara isn't participating in Houston Restaurant Weeks, there's a way to save money on dinner too. The restaurant has made its own HRW menu, of sorts: through August 31, spend $35 at dinner and Cuchara will give you a $5 discount. The idea, of course, is that you'll donate that $5 you saved to charity. But I won't tell if you just pocket it.