The Best Tex-Mex Restaurants In Houston guide image

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The Best Tex-Mex Restaurants In Houston

Tex-Mex isn’t just a type of food. It’s a way of life. Here is your guide to the best Tex-Mex restaurants in Houston.

When it comes to Tex-Mex in Houston, we all have our priorities. Perhaps you have an allegiance to gooey queso, demand perfectly slushed margaritas that require two hands to hold, or want fajitas that come out so hot and sizzling, that they could put the Texas sun out of business. Some of us want all three at the same time. Fortunately, Houston is home to funky spots with mariachi bands, beloved neighborhood restaurants full of regulars, and landmarks that have been around for decades. These are the best Tex-Mex restaurants in the city.

THE SPOTS


photo credit: Richard Casteel

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8.5

Spanish Village

$$$$

4720 Almeda Rd, Houston
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Deeply loved by longtime regulars, many of whom have their pictures lining the walls, Spanish Village has been a cornerstone of the Third Ward for 70 years. This place has a colorful interior, cheery string lights, and brightly tiled tables all over the place. Spanish Village is the sort of place that could bring a smile out of anyone. If sentiment alone isn’t enough to get you here, there are also juicy beef fajitas, cheese and onion enchiladas smothered in rich gravy, and decadent chile con queso (add molina to make it spicy). The service is in no rush, so come here when you have time to burn—you’re probably going to need some extra time to babysit one of their very strong margaritas, anyway.


There are two Irma’s, both are downtown and only a few minutes away from each other, but you’ll know you're at Irma’s Original because of the menu that changes daily and the kitschy decor. The tiny dining room transports you to what looks like the inside of a grandma’s living room. Shelves overflow with dolls, floral dishware sets, framed photos, and just about any other tchotchke you can imagine. The daily menu is whatever the chefs feel like making, which means you should a) come here more than once and b) hope they feel like making chicken mole on the day you dine. The mole is bold and sweet, with a subtle heat and is served with rice that ensures you don’t miss any sauce.


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With the perfect ratio of chili con carne to cheese to corn tortillas, a single bite of the cheese enchiladas at Tia Maria’s will make you feel like a kid again. Just like the enchiladas, this classic Tex-Mex spot on the border of Spring Branch and Garden Oaks has gone unchanged for decades. A thick blanket of vinyl and plastic covers every table, the queso is more liquid than solid, and the warm salsa arrives in a little plastic molcajete. So bask in the glow of the neon chili lights as you sip a mind-erasing margarita alone at Happy Hour, or with 20 or more friends. And don’t forget to load up at the free soft serve machine on the way out.


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The First-Timer’s Guide To Eating In Houston


You can see why Sylvia’s has plenty of regulars. This place is relaxed and familial, with accommodating servers who will bend the menu to meet your needs and likings. But really, everyone is here for the massive selection of enchiladas. All named after cities in Mexico and Texas, they come in just about any iteration you can think of: covered in signature chili gravy, spicy mole, or salsa verde. Try the mini enchilada sampler so you can work your way through the menu and narrow down your favorite.


Teotihuacan is an institution. Greater Heights residents have been packing out the parking lot of this bright pink Tex-Mex restaurant for decades. Nearly every wall is covered with murals, beer posters, and neon signs. The chile con queso is a necessary accomplice to any order. It’s always the perfect, drippy consistency, perfect for dredging beef fajitas or flautas or tacos al carbon. Teo can host big parties, but you can also just squeeze into a booth with a friend for a quick Happy Hour or pancake breakfast. Service is quick, and so is the effect of their boozy margaritas.


photo credit: Kimberly Park

Molina’s Cantina review image
8.0

Molina's Cantina

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The oldest continually operating Tex-Mex restaurant in Houston, Molina’s Cantina has been around for over 80 years and has since expanded to three locations, but our favorite is at Braeswood Place on Bellaire. Molina’s is a family restaurant for whoever your family is. Sure, some people will be glued to the flatscreen TVs to watch the Rockets game, but most are here for the classic family dining feel that hasn’t really changed over the years. And of course, there’s the decadent enchiladas rancheras and chile con queso with spicy taco meat and makes the best use of their warm housemade tortilla chips.


Dating back to 1964, El Patio in the Galleria is a classic spot that guarantees a good time. Come here for caramelized beef fajitas with heat that sneaks up on you, ice blue margaritas that pack a serious punch, and their Felix queso, a creamier, chunkier version of chile con queso. If there isn’t a live mariachi band playing in the dining area, waltz into their connected 21+ club, aptly named “Club No Minors,” for live music, and maybe another one of those margaritas.


Taqueria Del Sol is a restaurant inside of a rainbow. The kaleidoscope of colors, from the bright orange walls to the murals inlaid in every table to the different streamers and garlands strewn across the ceiling, make you feel like celebrating something, even if it’s just getting a simple plate of tacos for dinner. This family-run Tex-Mex and Mexican restaurant in the Greater East End has been a pillar of the community for over three decades. Grab breakfast tacos in the morning for less than $2, conchas from the panaderia, or share some carne asada at night with the family. You can also rent the banquet hall for a queso-fueled party.


Open since 1973, The Original Ninfa’s On Navigation in the Second Ward is a cornerstone of Tex-Mex history. Mama Ninfa is credited as the “inventor of the fajita,” and as you might expect, you’ll see staff carrying enormous trays full of them every few minutes like they’re the only thing on the menu. And while the menu is in fact huge, you should order the tender, subtly spicy skirt steak fajitas—or the suiza enchiladas topped with green crema Mexicana. If this place is open, it’s busy—so you’ll have plenty of people watching to do as you split a pitcher of their signature Ninfaritas, while you hope the next incoming tray of flaming fajitas meat has your name on it. There’s also another location in the Galleria.


The aroma of handmade flour and corn tortillas welcomes you at the entrance of El Mirador, a low-key Mexican diner in Magnolia Park. The piping hot tortillas, along with an all-day breakfast menu, make this spot an East End beacon—hence the recurring lighthouse motif. The interior feels like someone patchworked together a Tex-Mex restaurant, a mid-century soda fountain counter, and a grandma’s seaside cottage. But everything starts to make sense when you pull a tortilla through jammy huevos divorciados or dip into a bowl of homestyle menudo. It may be eclectic, but the simple food is all the light you need.


Tony’s Mexican Restaurant in Garden Oaks keeps recipes super classic, like their ground beef enchiladas. Their greatest hit is the peppery al carbon mini street tacos that magically melt into the flour tortillas. And most importantly, the frozen margaritas here taste like candy and happiness. This no-frills spot has been open since the ‘90s, is filled with longtime regulars, and at least one of them will be at least one group celebrating a birthday at any given time. But even on your first visit here, the formally dressed staff wastes no time making you feel welcome, like you’ve been coming here since they first opened their doors.

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