Are These the Best Fajitas in Houston?

Categories: On the Menu

Alicia's 009.jpg
Photos by Katharine Shilcutt
The short answer is "no," but we'll get to why in just a minute.
When it comes to fajitas in Houston, many Houstonians seem firmly divided into two camps: Those who hold Lupe Tortilla's lime-marinated strips of steak to be the best around, and those who maintain that Ninfa's on Navigation is where the fajita was born and where they'll go to eat their own last plate of skirt steak before they die. Everything else is just chatter.

But when I started hearing increasingly loud rumblings that Alicia's Mexican Grille was positioning itself to take the fajita crown from these two stalwarts, I took notice. So did Eater Houston editor Eric Sandler, who began to wonder if he should consider Alicia's for an upcoming list of the city's best fajitas after hearing the same rumors himself. Being the serious investigative journalists that we are, Sandler and I headed out to the newest Alicia's in Katy -- the fifth of its locations around town -- to discover the truth once and for all.

We even brought along a third party, whose love of the fajitas at Lupe Tortilla is so great that it surpasses his fervent distaste for children and lures him back to the Tex-Mex joint time and time again. I'm firmly in the Ninfa's camp, and Sandler went in with an open mind. Did we find the best fajitas in Houston? The short answer is no. But there's more to it than that.

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Photo courtesy of Alicia's
As it turns out, Alicia's has done a very clever thing. It's perfectly replicated the flavor and set-up of the traditional Lupe Tortilla's fajita platter (only missing the refried beans), but has duplicated it in a completely different setting. Gone are the silly, borderline offensive menu descriptions and the gaggles of unsupervised children that are -- sadly -- the hallmarks of most Lupe Tortilla's around town.

In their place is a very nice -- if a bit, um, manufactured -- restaurant that is more upscale than spots like Guadalajara, Escalante's, El Tiempo, Chuy's, Pappasito's or any number of other Tex-Mex chains across the city. Alicia's is family-friendly and welcoming, it's also the type of place that manages customers' behavior and expectations by virtue of its muted tones, soft-voiced servers and pleasantly adult vibe. It's very much the kind of restaurant I would send my parents to for a nice, mostly quiet Tex-Mex meal (if only they would venture away from the La Fiesta at Wilcrest and I-10 just once).

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A bit like eating in your aunt's perfectly nice home in The Woodlands.
In that sense, I can see why so many people have crowed about Alicia's fajitas. It's the same group of people who venerate Lupe Tortilla's, but want some shinier wrapping around their whole restaurant experience. And in that department, Alicia's absolutely delivers.

Further, Alicia's is an ideal option for a large range of diners, making it easy to take large groups or picky eaters (i.e., most peoples' families). In addition to its copycat fajitas, it also serves goofy items like shrimp-stuffed jalapeños on a bed of french fries (with sides of Ranch dressing and ketchup, naturally) as well as solid, old-school dishes like cheese-filled Tejano enchiladas with a respectable chile gravy. The green sauce is a watery knock-off of the Ninfa's stuff, but the red salsa is good -- if a little garlicky.

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I do wish the margaritas were better, however, as the one that I sipped on lightly throughout the night was so sweet as to make dessert unnecessary. A top-shelf margarita should go a lot lighter on the pre-fab sweet-and-sour mix and a lot heavier on the tequila. Then again, this is the suburbs -- no one really needs to be tossing back a handle of Cuervo and meandering back down Grand Parkway late at night.

As we left, Sandler asked: "So, we're in agreement? Alicia's is a perfectly serviceable Tex-Mex place?"

Yes, we are in agreement. Alicia's might not have the best fajitas in town -- or, depending on your perspective, it may have the greatest -- but above all else it's a perfectly serviceable restaurant. And sometimes that's all you need.



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Location Info

Alicia's Mexican Grille

25725 Katy Freeway, Katy, TX

Category: Restaurant

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31 comments
HTownChowDown
HTownChowDown

I don't know if I'd call Alicia's the best, but they're certainly a credible choice.  My go-to meal there is the Cowboy steak - a slab of unsliced fajita beef, three grilled shrimp with a nice smoky chipotle sauce, and two cheese enchiladas.  $12 or $13, as I recall.

john1934
john1934

I'm sorry but to me Lupe Tortilla should not even be in the conversation of best fajitas. I seriously discount people who put them up there. Maybe I just have a problem with the $, maybe it's the obnoxiously large tortilla, possibly the over marinated meat...IDK, I just don't like them. El Real, Original Ninfas and Soto's are tops in my book. Best value goes to Lopez, good fajitas and 2 people can share the $11 order.

Jalapeno
Jalapeno

Pappasito's has the best fajitas.  I tried the Alicia's on Richmond and was disappointed in the margaritas and the shrimp stuffed avocado I had, which was low on shrimp and high on price.

tastybits
tastybits

@EatingOurWords Fajita Pete's also serves Lupe style fajitas.

PamelaBrown
PamelaBrown

The fajitas at Lupe Tortilla and Ninfas are delicious. I would like them to serve pizza too. The holidays offerings are great

jennytulltx
jennytulltx

I have only eaten at the one in Cypress (I didn't realize they had opened others).  The first 3 times I ate there it was great.  I didn't have the fajitas, but a fajita-like dish called  Puntas Chimino described as "Seasoned tenderloin tips pan-seared with ham, bacon, fresh jalapenos, onions and field mushrooms. Served in a hot skillet with avocado relish"  Those were quite good!  But how can you go wrong with bacon?

MarcoFromHouston
MarcoFromHouston

so THAT'S how you spell "garlicky".

I think an Alicia's just opened at the corner of Richmond & Kirkwood. I will try them tomorrow for lunch and report back! #TacoLife

GunsandTacos
GunsandTacos

I think the only places in town that still use outside skirt are El Real and Sylvia's Enchilada Kitchen. Also, an interesting observation about Lupe Tortilla: Most everyone who says they don't like Lupe Tortilla have never been to the new Shepherd location. 

mimi777
mimi777

"A bit like eating in your aunt's perfectly nice home in the Woodlands" = funniest thing I've heard all day!

erichenao
erichenao topcommenter

Ya'll seriously need to do a 3 visit per restaurant for a Fajita's taste off. Ninfa's. Lupe's. Molia's. Irma's. Hugo's. Cyclone Anaya's. You get the picture. Make it happen!

FattyFatBastard
FattyFatBastard topcommenter

I unashamedly state that Pappasitos has the best fajitas.Ninfa's are very good, but aren't quite on par.  Both are much better than Lupe's.  Lupe's puts far too much lime in their recipe for mytaste.

iamaverb
iamaverb

Has anybody noticed the astronomically expensive price of the Fajitas at Lupe's recently? Living on the past rep, I suppose. 

Anse
Anse

I rarely order margaritas because I know, 90% of the time, it's going to be made with sweet-and-sour mix. It bugs the snot out of me. Is there anything lazier? If you can afford to buy your restaurant a frozen margarita machine, the least you can do for those of us who prefer them on the rocks is buy a fruit juicer and get to work shoving limes into that thing. The resulting cocktail is so much better.

kurliak
kurliak

A lot of these impressions stem from the fact that the restaurant was designed with its locale in mind. The original in Cypress is a bit different--darker, not so swank, and somewhat more down-to-earth--and a favorite of Alison Cook.

Matthew
Matthew

i've been 3-4 times and nothing i've gotten there has persuaded me to go back. comparing it to lupe tortilla's doesn't help its case, either.

Hilda Marceleno
Hilda Marceleno

no coz the best fajitas come from La Michoacana meat market and you can smoke one while you cook em and enjoy it 10x more

salynch
salynch

@EatingOurWords @esandler I think that'll be our next Tex Mex outing. Always love seeing good places moving out west :)

EatingOurWords
EatingOurWords

@tastybits I've never been there. Worth a visit?

Helena28
Helena28

@jennytulltx I've heard somewhere that tenderloin tips are somewhat better than skirt steak, but that's probably chauvanistic.

Jalapeno
Jalapeno

@GunsandTacos The franchises are all pitiful compared to the original location on Grisby.

kurliak
kurliak

@Matthew "i've been 3-4 times and nothing i've gotten there has persuaded me to go back." LOL. That's not a very convincing argument when what you got there persuaded you to go back 2-3 times already. Adding to it by implying that you don't think much of Lupe Tortilla isn't going to win many people over either.

Do people tell you you're too hard to please, or that you complain a lot? I hope your work lives up to the standards you hold others to.

tastybits
tastybits

@EatingOurWords its good, but not notable. few tables, mostly take out business. tortillas are great.

Matthew
Matthew

i thought of two more crappy places: juan and lefty's and ruby tequila's.

Matthew
Matthew

it takes one really bad experience or several mediocre experiences for me to write a place off. it's the latter for alicia's. i could have stayed away after the first trip; there are so many good tex-mexplaces in town to waste dollars at sub-par joints, but sometimes you have to go with what the group wants to do. i've had enough now that i won't be going back regardless. the same for lupe tortilla, gringo's, and sylvia's. chuy's is close, but i enjoy their margaritas.

i wouldn't say i'm hard to please, as there are plenty of tex-mex places that are great. like i said, that's what makes places like lupe and alicia's so confusing when they are busy.

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