100 Favorite Dishes 2012: No. 53, Mexico City Plate at Molina's Cantina

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Photos by Katharine Shilcutt
The third and final dish of the three-part Mexico City dinner at Molina's Cantina.
This year leading up to our annual Best of Houston® issue, we're counting down our 100 favorite dishes in Houston. This list comprises our favorite dishes from the last year, dishes that are essential to Houston's cultural landscape and/or dishes that any visitor (or resident) should try at least once.

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Here are parts one and two of the three-dish dinner before...
Since it's the oldest continually operating Tex-Mex restaurant in town -- having just celebrated its 70th anniversary last year -- there's a good chance that most Houstonians have their own favorite dishes at Molina's Cantina. Robb Walsh's, for example, is the plate of Enchiladas de Tejas that are covered in Molina's signature chile con carne. When you taste the chili-drenched cheese enchiladas, it's easy to see where the inspiration for the Enchiladas #7 at Walsh's own restaurant, El Real Tex-Mex Cafe, came from.

My personal favorite at Molina's is the Mexico City plate, which has remained on the restaurant's menu -- virtually unchanged -- since 1941. It's only $12.50 and features three separate plates of food, so come hungry when you order this classic. The first two parts of the dinner arrive at the same time: a queso-drenched puff of fried masa on one plate and a beef taco with guacamole and a lettuce-and-salsa-topped bean tostada on the other plate. And here's where things get messy...

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...and after.
You have to understand that I've been systematically destroying and rebuilding these two plates since childhood, and that there are some things about yourself you can't ever change. (I do the same thing to the Combination Plate No. 3 at Los Tios, coincidentally.) Everything on both plates gets dumped onto the larger of the two, then crunched and mashed together until you have the best taco salad on earth: refried beans, three types of fried corn masa, lettuce, guacamole, queso, seasoned beef and salsa (with extra salsa from the table thrown on top for good measure). It usually horrifies my tablemates, but it's so good that I can't help myself.

After the taco salad comes the third and final plate of the night: a cheese enchilada and a chili con carne-topped pork tamale flanked by rice and more refried beans. Molina's chili and its cheese enchiladas are already legendary, so the Mexico City dinner is the perfect way to enjoy them both along with a few of its other specials. If you're going big, I recommend getting the dinner along with some Jose's Dip -- the restaurant's signature queso with spicy ground beef mixed in -- because it tops your taco salad well and you'll want to enjoy it with one of Molina's ultra-smooth house margaritas on the rocks.

Got out-of-town guests and want to show them how Houston Tex-Mex has been done the right way for over seven decades? The Mexico City dinner at Molina's is the way to go.

The list so far:

No. 100: Chili cheese mac at Jus' Mac
No. 99: Texas turkey sandwich at Spec's
No. 98: Custard at Petite Sweets
No. 97: Caprichos mixtos at Taqueria Monterrey Chiquito
No. 96: Pineapple-wasabi burger at Lankford Grocery
No. 95: Farmer's MKT Pizza at Phoenicia's MKT Bar
No. 94: Potatoes at Money Cat Brunch
No. 93: Breakfast tacos at Sunrise Taquito
No. 92: Hot dog at Tacos D.F.
No. 91: Avocado gelato at Frozen Cafe
No. 90: Chicken sandwich at JerryBuilt Homegrown Burgers
No. 89: Beer-battered asparagus at Hearsay
No. 88: Honey Badger omelet at Kraftsmen Cafe
No. 87: Pastelitos de carne at El Jalapeño
No. 86: Pancakes at Union Kitchen
No. 85: Wild boar and crab pizza at Boheme
No. 84: Breakfast croissant at BB Donuts
No. 83: Pretzel at Anvil Bar & Refuge
No. 82: Short rib sandwich at Shepherd Park Draught House
No. 81: Grilled shrimp po-boy at Pappadeaux
No. 80: Dahi puri at Shiv Sagar
No. 79: Aporreado at Los Corrales
No. 78: Oxtail francobolli at Aldo's Cucina Italiana
No. 77: Tonkotsu at Cafe Kubo's
No. 76: Spinach danish from Angela's Oven
No. 75: Pupusas at El Petate
No. 74: Pheasant dog at Sammy's Wild Game Grill
No. 73: X-Tudo burger at Friends Pizzeria
No. 72: Esparragos gratinados at Tintos
No. 71: Gua bao at Yummy Kitchen
No. 70: Geisha dog at Happy Endings
No. 69: Oyster po-boy and gumbo at Goode Co. Seafood
No. 68: Ceviche at Sirena Seafood
No. 67: Caldo de mariscos at Taqueria Arandas
No. 66: Banana pudding at Pizzitola's
No. 65: Fried catfish and gumbo at Cafe-A-La
No. 64: Soft-shell crabs at Banana Leaf
No. 63: Macaroni and cheese at Vic & Anthony's Steakhouse
No. 62: Torta burger at El Gran Malo
No. 61: Black bean burger at Ziggy's
No. 60: Parillada at Pampa Grill
No. 59: Peanut butter and jalapeño jelly burger at Wicked Whisk
No. 58: Eggplant involtini at Giacomo's Cibo e Vino
No. 57: Lone Star dog at James Coney Island
No. 56: Sushi at Sushi Miyagi
No. 55: Palestinian chicken at Al Aseel
No. 54: Roast beef sandwich at Local Foods

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Location Info

Molina's Cantina

7901 Westheimer Road, Houston, TX

Category: Restaurant

El Real Tex-Mex Cafe

1201 Westheimer, Houston, TX

Category: Restaurant

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there's the knowledge bomb!


Robb, I was out of town last week, so I just saw the BBQ stuff you wrote. You coming back? I hope so...that info above is a good example of why we need a vet like yourself writing for our paper.


The Mexico City Plate at Molina's doesn't have much to do with DF. It is named after a vintage Houston Tex-Mex joint called the Mexico City Restaurant. Molina's bought the place and took over the location on West Gray, but they kept the Mexico City's signature combo plate. 


distrito federal/federal district

Katharine Shilcutt
Katharine Shilcutt

Well, yeah. Of course not. Neither I nor Molina's ever claimed that it would.


looks pretty tasty. i have a hard time believing i could get anything close to that in mexico city.


Now I want a big ol' plate of enchiladas!


This sounds more like The Acapulco at Los Tios than the #3.  Never thought to combine the first two plates, though.  I may just have to try that.


Nothing against fine tex-mex or the great food I have had in DF, but there is zero chance anything like that would ever be served in DF.

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