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Exploring Mexican food in Houston, Texas

As the most diverse city in the US, Houston offers up a wide range of cuisines that make up its buzzing food scene. Our travel editor gives us a mini-guide to Mexican food in Houston.

Upon getting to Houston, if you’re not already there, immediately rent a car. It’s best to get in the frame of mind that lots of driving will be required to successfully navigate this sprawling city, or failing that, a very sizable ridesharing budget. If this idea seems horrible for your next trip, or you envision tons of picturesque photos in supporting documentation, you may be better off heading somewhere more suitable like San Francisco or New Orleans. The good news is that, compared to many places, Houston is extremely easy to navigate by car, with plenty of spaces in parking fields and unrestricted street parking throughout most of the city.

If you’re still reading, it’s time to talk restaurants. Houston is an extraordinary restaurant city, arguably third place in the US after NYC and LA, scoring points for both variety and value. To focus a bit, exploring Houston’s offering of Mexican food is a great jumping off point, and is a fairly broad mandate in and of itself.

For the 100-level courses, classic Tex-Mex is a must, and Pico’s Tex Mex (3601 Kirby Dr) on Kirby never fails to deliver. Sizzling marinated fajitas with peppers and onions, fresh guacamole, hot tortillas, and strong margaritas from the bar can establish a strong baseline, if you are more accustomed to many parts of the world which are, sadly, deprived of quality Tex-Mex. Other options to establish a decent watermark would be the original Ninfa’s on Navigation, Chuy’s, Pappasitos, Lupe Tortilla, or one of Goode Co Taqueria efforts. You cannot go wrong with any of those options, serving up classic Tex Mex favorites.

The high end is also worth a thought: Hugo’s (1600 Westheimer Rd) on Westheimer is a Mexican upmarket classic.  Or even Baja style: Berryhill’s (2639 Revere St) original River Oaks location gives Wahoo’s in SoCal a run for its money on the crispy fish taco, and the tamales are spot-on as well. And if your preferences skew more towards powerful margaritas with a nice atmosphere and solid food, check out one of the El Tiempo locations (and probably best to make sure your smartphone is charged up, and your ride-sharing apps are updated).

Venture beyond for the 200-level courses, to one of the La Tapatia locations (1749 Richmond Ave), which offer a more authentic take on the same. They have drifted upmarket over the years, but are still a fantastic value. The Chimney Rock location is a favourite, with excellent meat and fish dishes, and of course a full bar featuring strong drinks and Houston sports. Taqueria Mexico (6219 Bellaire Blvd) in Bellaire is another solid entry, as is the newer La Vibra Tacos (506 Yale St #A) in the Heights, which have more Mexico City/DF style tacos unadulterated by Tex-Mex influence.

And of course, the 300-level courses: Head a little farther afield from Central Houston to find tremendous food and value. A couple of bucks will get you outstanding carne asada tacos at Taconazo’s original location (4003 Fulton St), which is a parking lot in Southeast Houston, well-worth a 15-minute detour from the downtown area. This makes a nice starter to prelude a trip to Dichos Taqueria ( 614 S Wayside Dr) a short drive away, where the torta ahogada (delicious torta sandwich covered in salsa ranchera) is their specialty. And if you still have room after this, which is very impressive, why not just go through the Becks Prime drive-through for a milkshake while you’re at it, just to take the edge off some of the spice, of course. Eat it with a spoon, like a giant cup of ice cream.

And if it sounds like a lot of eating and driving, it is - but well worth it. Acknowledging that Houston’s not a walking city, it’s not a bad idea to bring trainers and jog a lap or two around Memorial Park or Rice University to even things out, and work up another appetite.

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