More Than Just Tequila at TQLA

Categories: On the Menu

Photos by Troy Fields
Not quite chestnuts roasting on an open fire, but far more delicious.
I feel like TQLA -- the subject of this week's cafe review -- hasn't gotten the fairest of shakes. Yes, it's named after a beverage that most people associate with Spring Breaks spent partly in Matamoros. Yes, it's on ultra-clubby Washington Avenue.

But despite all of these things, I find myself enjoying TQLA more and more with every meal. The service is outstanding. The margaritas are, naturally, top-notch. The atmosphere is casually upscale, certainly ideal for date nights but also for having a few drinks and appetizers with friends. Parking is incredibly easy (and free) thanks to the attached garage.

And, most importantly, the food is wonderful.

I shouldn't be surprised, and I'm not. Chef Tommy Birdwell has a hell of a pedigree, having graduated from the CIA and worked with master of Southwestern cuisine Stephan Pyles on many of Pyles's cookbooks. He's also manned the kitchens at prestigious places such as Coyote Cafe and the Inn of the Anasazi. You can't say his background isn't rock-solid.

What I was surprised to find in TQLA was a restaurant that fully supports Birdwell's cuisine from top to bottom, from atmosphere to service. And as much emphasis is put onto the drinks here as the food, thanks to tequila expert Scott Lindsey, who's also one of TQLA's partners.

The entire concept could come across as stilted and corny and smacking of effort, but it never does. Instead, you find yourself eagerly exploring interesting añejo tequilas amidst skillfully constructed dishes like spinach and crawfish enchiladas in a wild mushroom cream sauce -- activities and flavors blend easily with one another, and before you know it, you've just had a hell of a night and a hell of a meal.

Even if you have to brave the hellish Washington Avenue traffic for a meal, TQLA is worth it.

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Location Info


4601 Washington Ave., Houston, TX

Category: Restaurant

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Food is fantastic. And I love the flights - try a new set every time I'm there. BUT the service has been incredibly slow every time I am there, and it keeps me from coming back more often. I would be there at least once a week if they would improve the service, especially in the bar seating.


Looking better and better. But whyyyy did they name it that??


He's not from Dallas....born and raised local boy. P.S. he is the real deal.

Fatty FatBastard
Fatty FatBastard

As someone who lives next door to TQLA, I will say that even on bad nights, this area is never too crowded. Here's a secret: Take Shepherd almost down to Washington and hang a right on Lillian. Parking is on the corner of Lillian & Fowler. And now you never have to drive on Washington whatsoever.


Listen people, chef Tommy is the real deal. This food is darn good, and his table sauces rival anyone's in town!

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