The Rest of the Best: Houston's Top 10 Tex-Mex Restaurants
7. El Real Tex-Mex Cafe
Photo by Troy Fields A plate of cheese enchiladas at El Real.
The real draw of El Real isn't its late-night hours nor its cavernous dining room nor even its patio perched on a busy stretch of Westheimer: It's the fact that the restaurant -- partly owned by Tex-Mex historian Robb Walsh -- is committed to preserving the cuisine in both the dishes it serves and the memorabilia it houses in a mini-museum upstairs. This is your father's Tex-Mex, in the best possible way: Beans are made with lard, tortillas are made fresh in-house and cheese enchiladas are smothered in chunky, beefy chile con carne.
6. Lopez Mexican Restaurant
The original Lopez in 1978 and its expansion into a newly-constructed space in 2003.
The cult of Lopez has strong, deep roots in southwest Houston, where the family-oriented Tex-Mex temple has been serving combo plates and queso since 1978. That's when Mexican immigrant Rodrigo Lopez -- who first came to the United States in 1962 -- opened the restaurant he still runs today with his wife Bertha, sons Jonathon, Jose and daughter Ana. What's so mesmerizing about Lopez is how the well-oiled machinery of the place can serve so many people in one evening while still turning out top-notch plates of enchiladas and tamales to every single diner. It will either make you avoid the restaurant at peak hours or seek it out to be a part of the fun, frenzied action. Pableuax Johnson once wrote of Lopez that it "epitomizes the old-school Tex-Mex family restaurant. Clean, fast and loud, it's not a homey, family-run cocina but a family-friendly fallback built for high volume and informal charm."
5. Spanish Village
Photo by Katharine Shilcutt Enchiladas a la Taylor at Spanish Village.
Spanish Village has a long and complex history, as tends to happen when a restaurant is more than 50 years old. Houston used to have two Spanish Village restaurants, born of a feud that lasted for years -- one at 4811 Lillian and one at 4720 Almeda. The Christmas-light-covered Almeda location eventually outlasted the Lillian location and is the only remaining Spanish Village today, serving what Walsh once called "vintage Tex-Mex at its finest." The enchiladas a la Taylor are the best example of that vintage Tex-Mex, topped with plenty of chile con carne, chili gravy and raw white onions, while the margaritas and their signature dagger-like ice shards remain the stuff of Houston legend.
Photo by Katharine Shilcutt Parts one and two of the three-part Mexico City plate at Molina's.
Molina's is famous for a few things: The Jose dip, in which seasoned beef taco meat is blended together with queso. For being President George Bush's favorite Tex-Mex restaurant, which he visited with regularity for decades. And for being the oldest continually operating Tex-Mex restaurant in Houston, open for over 70 years. Walsh proclaimed its enchiladas de Tejas to be some of the best in the city, while I'm a fan of the Mexico City combo platter -- another Tex-Mex standard -- that hasn't changed since the restaurant was founded in 1941.
11623 Katy, Houston, TX
416 N. 76th St., Houston, TX
1201 Westheimer, Houston, TX
11606 S. Wilcrest, Houston, TX
4720 Almeda, Houston, TX
7901 Westheimer Road, Houston, TX
2704 Navigation Blvd., Houston, TX
1511 Airline, Houston, TX
1018 Fairview, Houston, TX