The Best Mexican Restaurants In Houston guide image


The Best Mexican Restaurants In Houston

Masa and frijoles and barbacoa and sopes and cochinita.

Considering the land comprising Texas once belonged to Mexico—y’all remember your seventh grade Texas History, right?—it’s not surprising the entire state has some of the best Mexican food in the country. And Houston’s got a fine spread of nearly every flavor-packed regional cuisine Mexico has to offer. There are tart ceviche from the coast, Monterrey-style trompo, Mexico City-inspired bistros, heirloom masa, and just about every taco filling you can think of (and some you can’t). Here’s where you’ll find the best Mexican food in Houston.


photo credit: Hugo's

Hugo’s review image



1600 Westheimer Rd, Houston
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Any excuse to go to Hugo’s is one you should take. This Montrose institution is the first place many Houstonians run to when looking to celebrate an anniversary, birthday, or go to a brunch with a mile-long buffet. It also helps that the space is a stunner—between the high ceilings and glistening chandeliers, the dining room may as well be a castle. If you’re at Hugo’s for dinner, get the chapulines served with pillowy tortillas, some slow-roasted barbacoa, and end your meal with the sweet churros served with decadent hot chocolate. 

The starchy, sweet smell of milled corn wafts out from behind an unmarked door in a sparse Spring Branch strip center. Tatemó, an intimate (but totally unpretentious) Mexican tasting menu and brunch restaurant specializes in nixtamalizing heirloom varieties of Mexican corn in-house and making the tortillas by hand. Throughout the $125 six-plus courses during dinner, the food delivers beautiful simplicity: aromatic blue corn quesadillas, a tortilla draped in a blanket of nutty, rich mole, thick sopes obscured in a blanket of soft shaved cheese, and so on. Despite being dedicated to specialty products, the overall vibe of Tatemó is fairly relaxed, more like a casual neighborhood spot. Dinner for any occasion, like an important date, feels all the more special here. Reservations book up fast, and dinner is only available Thursday to Saturday, so plan ahead.

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This Mexico City-style spot in Montrose is best known for its lively brunches, usually replete with cocktails and mariachis. The colorful restaurant, filled with floor-to-ceiling illustrated murals, also serves a fantastic lunch and dinner menu nearly every day of the week, featuring some of Mexico City’s greatest hits. You can dive into crispy chicken flautas with salsa verde and earthy and nutty fried huitlacoche quesadillas. We can’t get enough of the empanadas de ate con queso for dessert. Those little guava and cheese pastries are so fluffy, rich, and sweet—imagine if a funnel cake and cream cheese danish had a little guava baby, and then topped it with powdered sugar. We’ll have another one, and some café de olla, please. And if you want to extend your Cuchara experience, cross the street and visit their sister restaurant Cucharita, an all-day-breakfast café.

Watching a seasoned taquero slice a trompo is a thing of beauty. Which is to say, the folks running the Tacos La Sultana taco truck in the East End really know what they’re doing. Tacos are served Monterrey-style, in which pork gets seasoned with nothing more than smoked paprika, and here, the meat slices are seared again alongside oil-warmed corn tortillas. The pork is juicy, with pockets of sweet, caramelized fat. Each bite tastes better than the last, so much so you almost forget about sprinkling on any fresh onion, cilantro, or a squeeze of lime. Tacos La Sultana is open from 3:30 to 11:30pm everyday—sometimes later on the weekends. 

Oaxacan food is the focus at Xochi, a restaurant that feels so breezy and chic, we often forget it’s in the lobby of a hotel downtown. The menu here is star-studded, but a toasted memela topped with tender pork rib and a tlayuda covered with hanger steak and mole negro are non-negotiable. Even though you could have a very important date here, Xochi keeps things relaxed with knowledgeable staff shaking margaritas tableside like they’ve got all the time in the world. And like its sister restaurant Hugo’s, Xochi also does a massive Sunday brunch buffet that Houstonians flock to every weekend. 

Both the taco-obsessed and Houston’s growing legion of kombucha freaks can easily find a home at Cochinita & Co., the Mexican kitchen inside Kickin’ Kombucha’s East End cafe. Cochinita & Co. is named for the traditional Yucatan dish cochinita pibil, in which tender roast pork gets marinated in citrus and warm, peppery achiote. Each bite bursts with tangy, meaty goodness. It’s frankly kind of rude that more food doesn’t automatically regenerate on the plate. This place is charming yet certifiably chill, the kind of spot everyone wishes they had in their neighborhood.

photo credit: Liz Silva

Tio Trompo review image

Tio Trompo

Perfect For:Quick EatsLunch

When you walk into Tio Trompo in the Washington Corridor neighborhood, the first thing you’ll see (and smell) is the giant trompo rotating in all its glory. Inside, Tio Trompo is a modest spot, with floral tablecloths on the tables— and it’s a great place to watch a game on the TV with a sizzling pastor taco or with a taco arabe that tucks the spiced pork into a pillowy piece of pita bread. This casual spot also serves breakfast tacos all day, so even if you wake up after noon, a taco mexicana with scrambled eggs, jalapeno, and pico de gallo is waiting for you. And while Tio Trompo might have an impressive selection of Jarritos, the best drink to get is the refreshing jamaica agua fresca made with tart hibiscus.

For all the times you’ve desperately craved, like, 10 different kinds of ceviche, there’s La Cruderia, a mariscos and michelada spot in Bellaire. We appreciate the sheer number of ceviche options here, like the vegetal Ceviche Nayarita with lime-cooked white fish, carrots, and green tomato. Or the mouth-searing Ceviche Yucateco loaded with habanero. Throw in a cochinita torta or a few quesabirria tacos to balance the acid. Add on a La Golosa michelada, comically topped with beef jerky, shrimp, and spicy peanuts, and you’re set. Go here with friends to split a bunch of small plates for dinner, or grab an early dinner and skip the evening traffic. Stay long enough (and drink enough michis), and you can almost feel the sand between your toes.

You might think stumbling upon a defleshed cow skull in a parking lot is a bad omen, but at Gerardo’s Drive In, a meat market and taqueria on the Northside, that just means the barbacoa is ready. Open on weekends only, Gerardo’s has been slow-steaming barbacoa since 1977. Order a few smoky and tender tacos at the counter to eat there, or snag a few pounds to-go. Gerardo’s will even sell you the entire cow’s head for around $100.

For those inevitable moments when you are hungry and also want to book a quick bus trip to Mexico, there’s Taqueria Monchy’s. The counter-service taco restaurant in the East End also doubles as a bus station counter and pickup point (a decision of pure genius), so you can take your homestyle rajas con queso and a sweet sandía agua fresca to go, if need be. Or you can stay and eat all day at the small booths inside. Breakfast tacos, like eggs with ham or potato, go quickly, but you can get barbacoa and rajas con queso any day of the week. Don’t skip the creamy refried beans that melt right into the tortillas, or the chile de arbol salsa, which will make you feel alive again. We suggest trying both the homemade flour and corn tortillas, which are equally fluffy and soft.

Hidalgo is a mountainous state in the south-central part of Mexico that’s known for its rustic cooking style, which El Hidalguense, a restaurant in Spring Branch, exemplifies. Lamb is the barbacoa meat of choice here. Plates of tender, stewed lamb are served alongside bowls of consommé. There’s also roasted cabrito—goat drenched in earthy chile sauce—with fresh corn tortillas. And a must-have for breakfast is the huastecas: roasted salsa with scrambled eggs over corn tortillas, refried beans, and a side of cecina.

Relentlessly adorable, Cucharita is a flower garden that magically shapeshifted into a Mexican City-style breakfast and lunch spot in Montrose. Cucharita, in both name and function, is the little sister extension of Cuchara, a Mexico City-style lunch and dinner bistro on the same block. Open from 7am to 3pm everyday, it’s a great option for a long, relaxing meal. Try the chilaquiles, which rotate weekly, or the huevos motuleños mixed with peas, ham, and salsa smothering fried plantains. So join the fellow midweek people-who-lunch crowd, because eating breakfast at noon on a Wednesday basically counts as a vacation.

We appreciate that you can satiate just about any desire at La Llardas, the casual Mexican spot in Spring Branch that’s open from 8am to 10pm, and midnight on the weekends. Want to just get some desserts or agua fresca to go? You can do that. Interested in regaling your friends with karaoke over giant tortas and massive goblets of tepache? That is also an option. Or start your day with chilaquiles smothered in spicy green salsa and end it with cheesy quecas, rib steak huaraches, and a whole-fried tilapia. Become ungovernable.

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