Molina's Cantina: 70 Years of Tex-Mex in Houston

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Photos by Mai Pham
Jose's Dip at Molina's Cantina
Earlier this year, when Molina's Cantina ran a 50 percent Groupon (Buy $15, get $30 worth of food), I thought my eyes were playing tricks on me when I saw the number sold: a whopping 4,012 Groupons. I'd never tried Molina's, and it was amazing to me how a Tex-Mex restaurant could be so popular. But that was before I knew more about its 70-year history in Houston, the numerous dedicated employees who have worked there for 20 years or more, and the fact that they have such a long history that their menu is littered with specials -- the "CW Special," the "William's Special," "Raulito's Shrimp Special" and more -- that were named after and/or created by longtime customers and friends.

It's not the history that makes the restaurant, however. It's the food: down-home, honest-to-goodness tasty Tex-Mex that has people coming back regularly.

For me, it started with the chips and salsa. Wispy, super-thin, crispy and light chips without even a hint of greasy oil had me paying attention, fast. Combined with Jose's dip, a creamy queso with some Mexican ground beef in it, they were so addictive, I had to shove away the basket so I wouldn't eat the whole thing myself.

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Molina's Cantina Washington Blvd on a Friday night.
I looked around the room while sipping my frozen margarita on a recent Friday night to see a packed dining area filled with casually dressed families and groups of friends. The atmosphere was lively, with festive music playing in the background and uniformed servers walking quickly back and forth, wielding large silver trays holding sizzling creations and large plates topped with hot melted cheese.
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Enchiladas de Tejas
I made a point of trying their Enchiladas de Tejas, cheese enchiladas topped with chili con carne, melted cheese and chopped onions. The flavors were hearty, rich and deep, and the cheese... That vaunted melted cheese center oozed when I cut into the enchilada with a fork, spilling forth as if to say "eat me now!" How could I not clean the plate with so tempting an enticement?
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William's Special
My friend ordered the Williams Special, carne asada with grilled onions and two cheese enchiladas, and despite the fact that my stomach was full of enchiladas and chips and dip, I had a moment of food envy when I took a bite of her carne asada. It reminded me of when I first tasted the Cordua's famed churrasco steak - tender, smoky, flavorful, delicious.
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Flan dessert
By the time dessert rolled around, I wanted to say no but succumbed to my friend's urging and ordered the flan. Less dense than Mexican flans made elsewhere, this one was delicate like silken tofu, the burnt caramel topping rendered to perfection. A spiked Mexican hot chocolate, full of enough liquor to give me a slight buzz, was a fitting end to our night, which was pretty great as far as Tex-Mex outings go.
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Mexican hot chocolate
So now I know why Molina's sold 4,000-plus Groupons. I also understand their longevity, and the fact that this month marks their 70th anniversary in business. Molina's is like a tightly run ship, producing high-quality, savory Tex-Mex for all generations. It's also a family business, and when I say family, I don't just mean the ones with the last name Molina. It's the family that consists of employees who have stayed for generations, brothers who have taken over where their parents left off, and patrons who have been coming to Molina's for decades.

In honor of their 70th anniversary, Molina's is running amazing daily specials all month, like their 41 cent crispy taco or 70 cent cheese enchilada dinner, rollback prices corresponding to what they cost in 1941. The specials are being announced every morning on Facebook and Twitter, so if you didn't buy their 50 percent off Groupon, don't worry. You can still get in on some pretty awesome deals this month.



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Location Info

Molina's Cantina

4720 Washington Ave., Houston, TX

Category: Restaurant


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19 comments
Tejana
Tejana

I went last week and was confused by the non-descriptive menu items.  I mean what is "William's Sauce?" You have to ask the waiter on all those dishes named after patrons.  A little description the menu would help.  And now I know I should have ordered the Tejas enchiladas, 'cause the regular ones were topped with a bland brown sauce of no substance. It appeared from the menu that the only difference is the queso on the Tejas enchiladas, but now I see where the anticipated chili con carne went.  Oh, and the daily specials for their 70th Anniversary?  Not at lunch.

Maryann12032
Maryann12032

When finally hooded in doctoral garb at U of H May 13, the celebration afterwards was at Molina's.  No other place would do!

Ahemhwe
Ahemhwe

If they knew how to market upon their very rich history, and recent write-ups, they wouldn't have to turn to offering half off. Sad. But good place overall.

Eric Henao
Eric Henao

Please please please tell me that they are going to fulfill the rumor I heard of taking over the old  Terlingua Borders Cafe on Bellaire!!!

Irma403
Irma403

Why don't they tell people about this????Very cool they're 70

Saynice
Saynice

You forgot to mention the fantastic salsa!

Mai Pham
Mai Pham

Just a little more than an hour left as I post this... You got your wish, Tejana, Molina's rolled back their prices on their combo plates to just 60 cents during lunch TODAY from 11am-2pm. That's a beef taco, cheese enchilada, bean tostada, guacamole and chili con queso for .60 cents for lunch today.

ShitThowingMonkey
ShitThowingMonkey

Ordering enchiladas out at most any restaurant is a gamble anyway.

Mai Pham
Mai Pham

I really can't believe you have a bone to pick with them running specials at dinner time. All week I've seen people tweeting about the great deals they got - especially the ones who got their 70 cent enchilada dinner. No gimmicks, just a receipt showing the unbelievable price they paid. Every restaurant special come with restrictions - most run during the slow hours and only midweek, like happy hour specials for instance. Here, Molina's is running them every day and in the evening during dinner time, and you're not happy about that. Ok, you're allowed your opinion, but personally I think it's kudos to them that they would do that, because it's a much bigger loss leader at dinner than it would be at lunch.

Mai Pham
Mai Pham

Can't go wrong there - I love the seeing the servers that have been there forever. It's like a scene out of a movie where there's always an old curmudgeon with attitude at some diner in New York - except here you'll get a big Texas welcome and some great Tex-Mex to boot!

Mai Pham
Mai Pham

I think i got sidetracked by Jose's Dip. :)

Mai Pham
Mai Pham

And another lunch special happened today (sorry this is late posting) from 11am-2pm! 60 cents for three crispy tacos.

fotohombre
fotohombre

We went in today right after they opened at 11:15 and the hostess had NO idea about the 70 cent specials mentioned in the blog. Maybe it was not good for the Westheimer location?

Tejana
Tejana

M'dear, I looked at that again, and it was not bone picking, simply stating what at the time was a fact.  The information was not in the article and some might assume such specials were offered at all times. Therefore I do not understand such an aggressively rude response from you.  But I will remember it.

Maryann12032
Maryann12032

We are going there later today for a sort of "birthday" meal for my hubby.  Free entree for those born in 1941.  This is one of his favorite restaurants, probably because he loves the pickled carrots/jalapenos as much as their cheese enchildadas, poblanos, etc.

Ahehkw
Ahehkw

maybe tell people....?

Mai Pham
Mai Pham

The specials are daily specials, which means they change daily. Sometimes they're at dinner and sometimes they're at lunch. They run at both locations. To know what the daily special is, you have to follow them on Twitter and Facebook to see their announcement each day. It's a secret until the day the special is announced. Yesterday July 23rd (when you posted) the special was half price taquitos all day, which would explain why the hostess didn't know anything about the 70 cent special. Today the special was half price carne asada special.

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