Craving Tex-Mex? You won’t be disappointed in Houston. For more than 100 years, the cuisine has held a special place in the city’s culinary scene, making it one of the first items visitors seek out when they are in town. Want to know where to find the best puffy tacos, nachos, fajitas and margaritas? Read on for our top picks.
Armando Palacios’ Upper Kirby namesake is as famous for its upscale Mexican fare as it is for its see-and-be-seen clientele. The iconic restaurant has been a style staple among well-heeled Houstonians and celebrities for decades. White linen-topped tables set the stage for Armandos’ famously-potent margaritas, verde-sauce-topped enchiladas and the eatery’s signature appetizer—chorizo queso flameado paired with piping-hot tortillas.
Set in a converted 1930s movie theater, El Real Tex-Mex Café brings plenty of life to Lower Westheimer. Created by food writer Robb Walsh, restaurateur Bill Floyd and Chef Bryan Caswell, El Real serves more than just Houston’s favorite Tex-Mex dishes. Customers will also find green chiles sauces from West Texas, shrimp dishes from Brownsville and lots of San Antonio-style puffy tacos.
El Tiempo Cantina’s dusky lighting, chummy servers and enjoyable salsa tunes make patrons feel like they just landed in a classy, crowded border-town cantina. El Tiempo attracts a brisk, discriminating happy-hour crowd for good reason: Stout, limey margaritas paired with chips and the legendary tomatillo sauce inherited from Mama Ninfa.
If you can’t make dinner, stop in for weekend breakfasts, which are fit for a king.
Molina’s Cantina, which is thought to be the oldest continually operating Tex-Mex restaurant in Houston, has tempted fans with their tacos al carbon since 1941. For a little variety, go for the Mexico City Dinner, which includes a beef taco, cheese enchilada, tostada, tamale and rice and beans. It’s been a staple on the menu since the restaurant opened.
The Tex-Mex taqueria that launched the local chain still manages to look authentic. Ask anyone who's ever been to this original Ninfa's on Navigation if it's better than the franchises around the city and you'll get a resounding "yes." Want fajitas? Come to the birthplace of them. Mama Ninfa is credited with inventing the beef and flour tortilla combo and fans can’t get enough.
There’s a reason that there are more than a dozen Pappasito’s Cantina locations in the Houston area. The look of a border town cantina, the feel of a fiesta and sizzling platters of the tastiest fajitas and margaritas this side of the Rio Grande bring guests back again and again. Don’t miss their half-priced fajitas every Wednesdays where regulars flock for the flavorful beef, hot off the grill.
Catch the MetroRail to Tacos a Go Go in Midtown for some casual, wallet-friendly fare. From breakfast tacos to late night grub, the funky restaurant does tortilla-wrapped food right. Regulars appreciate the variety of tacos on the menu with lamb barbacoa and al pastor taking top nods. Be sure to stop by the salsa bar to try all of their house-made sauces.