The Meat Sweats

First Look at Tinto Grill and Its Mounds of Meat

A new Argentine grill from the owners of Pampa Grill gets cozy in Spring Branch.

By Katharine Shilcutt November 8, 2013

A smaller, cozier parrillada for a smaller, cozier space.

Finally, a solution for all those times you've pulled up to Pampa Grill on Hammerly at Gessner and found the parking lot and the restaurant both too full to accommodate you. The popular BYOB Argentinian restaurant and market run by Mauro and Aura Perez, a husband and wife team from Buenos Aires, suffers this fate regularly.

Tinto Grill
10085 Long Point

It's not a bad problem for the Perezes to have, but it makes for unhappy customers. Especially my parents one Sunday morning, who were promised a heaping plate full of meat—Pampa Grill's specialty, a nearly excessive amount of beef and chicken served on a sizzling tray called a parrillada—and nearly had a post-church breakdown at the idea of having to give up and go to lunch elsewhere. Luckily, a single parking spot opened just as my father was beginning to go full Hulk and the day was saved.

The Perezes must have had other customers reach full Hulk stage, which led them to open Tinto Grill just down the street on Long Point at Gessner. It's a far smaller space, but it's also BYOB and serves the same menu at Pampa Grill, including the giant parrilladas and other specialities—flaky, homemade empanadas, delicate noquis de papa (gnocchi), creamy, dark chocolate-scented morcilla (blood sausage) and the best mollejas (sweetbreads) in the city. Yes, that includes Tacambaro. Trust me. There's a reason Pampa Grill and the Perez family's homemade food is consistently referred to the best Argentinian cuisine in Houston, and Tinto Grill isn't too far behind.

What's different here is the atmosphere. Where Pampa Grill is always pleasantly rowdy and raucuous, with tables of at least 10 people as the norm, Tinto Grill is romantic and quiet. As such, the service—from friendly Argentinian women who are more than happy to recommend dishes for the uninitiated—is far better at Tinto Grill, too.

Ham and cheese empanadas (top) and mollejas are two of Tinto Grill's best items.

Pampa Grill may be where you take a group of friends for a long, leisurely dinner; Tinto Grill is where you take a date to impress them with your knowledge of sultry bandoneón music and Argentine pastries that you nibble delicately with an after-dinner cappuccino (even if it's knowledge you gleaned from an afternoon spent on Wikipedia and YouTube), tucked into a little hole-in-the-wall that's intrinsically romantic simply based on discreetness alone.

Another subtle difference: the parrilladas here aren't served on giant, coal-black, butane-fired trays but on smaller, blue, tin trays that aren't quite so terrifying to sit close to for fear of being burned. It's further encouragement to get cozy with your dining companion. Just remember to bring your own bottle of wine. I recommend a nice $20 bottle of BenMarco Malbec, from one of Argentina's best viticulturists. It'll complement the meat, and complete the feeling of having escaped into a tiny cafe in Buenos Aires, if only for a few hours.



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