No matter your definition of Mexican food—be it fajitas and margaritas or mole and rompope—there’s no better place than Houston to find it. No surprise there, as our city, birthplace of those famous fajitas and other Tex-Mex classics, is home to the country’s third-largest Mexican population. Thanks to a heritage equally drenched in chile con carne and chile con queso—and a booming economy that’s drawing Mexican nationals of every socioeconomic stripe—Houston’s Mexican food landscape has never been more vibrant.
Molina’s, now in its 73rd year, still sells the combo platters that made it famous, overflowing with cheese enchiladas, tacos, and tamales. El Patio—currently celebrating its 50th anniversary—continues to serve the blue-hued frozen margaritas that left generations of Houstonians inebriated at the eatery’s adjacent Club No Minors.
Meanwhile, new generations of Tex-Mex royalty are setting a high bar for the years to come. Take Tex-Mex impresario Russell Ybarra, who created Gringo’s out of his father’s own failed Pearland restaurant, or El Tiempo owner Domenic Laurenzo, who’s building on grandmother Mama Ninfa Laurenzo’s legacy, his restaurants thriving like jalapeño bushes in July.
In addition, thanks to an infusion of innovation, Houstonians are coming to enjoy the same kind of cooking as diners in interior Mexico’s best restaurants. La Fisheria is serving cutting-edge Gulf seafood dishes inspired by the upscale cooking of Tampico. Cuchara is transporting patrons to a busy bistro in Mexico City’s La Zona Rosa for comida corrida, the economical midday repast featuring courses of nopales salad, simple quesadillas, and comforting arroz con leche. And at Caracol, seafood fans are frolicking in a sea of brightly-hued ceviches and Mexican crudos that often look more like Nobu-style sashimi platings than bowls of campechana.
Conclusion? There’s no better place in the country for Mexican food right now—be it comfortingly Tex, strictly Mex or, as is usually the case, something in between. Hence the need for Houstonia’s up-to-the-minute guide to our city’s Mexican favorites, from the best in breakfast tacos, to barbacoa, chips and queso, campechanas, taqueros, taco trucks, and—but of course—fajitas and margaritas.