Houstonians take their Tex-Mex very seriously. Search for Tex-Mex restaurants on Yelp, and you'll get over 1,000 hits. From holes in the wall to city-wide chains, there's no shortage of spinach enchiladas, chile con queso or guacamole. But even with so many great places to choose from, a few restaurants rise above the rest. Here are the five best places to get Tex-Mex in the Houston area.
“Mama” Ninfa Laurenzo didn’t technically invent the fajita — that credit belongs to ranchers and vaqueros in West Texas — but she did help popularize them in Houston when she opened this location in 1973. Back then, she was sizzling up skirt steak and wrapping it in a tortilla. These tacos al carbon later became known as fajitas, launching the once obscure dish into the Tex-Mex staple it is today.
While Mama Ninfa's menu has grown since then and the restaurant is now under new ownership, the fajitas (still listed as "tacos al carbon") are a must-order. And while swapping the skirt steak out for chicken is an option, beef remains the best (and if you ask locals, the only) way to order them.
2704 Navigation Boulevard
Houston, Texas 77003
Monday – Thursday | 11 a.m. – 10 p.m.
Friday | 11 a.m. – 11 p.m.
Saturday | 10 a.m. – 11 p.m.
Sunday | 10 a.m. – 10 p.m.
After the original Ninfa's was sold to new ownership in the 90s, the son and grandchildren of Mama Ninfa herself went on to start a business of their own: El Tiempo Cantina. What started as a single restaurant on Richmond Avenue has now grown into one of Houston's favorite local chains with more than a half-dozen locations.
Everything at El Tiempo is made from scratch — which is all the more impressive when you see the extensive Tex-Mex menu they offer. The selection of quesos alone is enough to make your mouth water, but the menu also boasts a wide variety of nachos, enchiladas, and other Tex-Mex staples.
There are multiple locations throughout the city. Check the restaurant's website for address details and hours.
Luna y Sol Mexican Grill
Blink, and you might miss this place. Tucked away in a small strip mall in Houston's Midtown, Luna y Sol is one of those local "hole-in-the-wall" places that's worth the extra effort to find. Among other traditional Mexican and Tex-Mex cuisine, this fast-casual restaurant has some of the best breakfast tacos in the city.
2808 Milam Street, Suite G
Houston, Texas 77006
Monday | Closed
Tuesday - Thursday | 11 a.m. - 9 p.m.
Friday| 11 a.m. - 10 p.m.
Saturday | 9 a.m. - 10 p.m.
Sunday| 9 a.m. - 3 p.m.
Like other sites on this list, Irma's has a great backstory that makes it that much more fun to visit. In the early 1980s, Irma Gonzalez Galvan's husband was killed, leaving her behind with four children. As a means to keep her family afloat, she started a small downtown sandwich shop that eventually morphed into the booming Mexican restaurant it is today.
The menu is constantly changing to incorporate new recipes or seasonal ingredients, but a few popular items like tacos, quesadillas, and enchiladas, are always available. Be sure to try the guacamole and a glass of Irma's homemade lemonade. Both are crowd favorites.
22 North Chenevert Street
Houston, Texas 77002
Monday - Wednesday | 8 a.m. - 3 p.m.*
Thursday - Friday | 8 a.m. - 10 p.m.
Saturday | 4 p.m. - 10 p.m.
Sundays | Closed
*Open until 7 p.m. during Astros home games at Minute Maid Park.
Lupita's Mexican Restaurant
If you don't mind a detour out to Houston's suburbs, Lupita's in Sugar Land is worth the drive. From its bean nachos and chile con queso to the ground beef burritos and cheese enchiladas, Lupita's is a great spot to sample all of the greatest hits of Tex-Mex.
Highland Square Shopping Center
3121 Highway 6
Sugar Land, Texas 77478
Sunday - Thursday | 11 a.m. - 9 p.m.
Friday - Saturday | 11 a.m. - 10 p.m.