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a platter of beef fajitas.
Sizzling platters of fajitas are a given at most Houston Tex-Mex restaurants.
Kirsten Gilliam

19 Essential Tex-Mex Restaurants In Houston

From cheesy enchiladas to complex mole, these eateries will satisfy any hankering for Mexican cuisine

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Sizzling platters of fajitas are a given at most Houston Tex-Mex restaurants.
| Kirsten Gilliam

Home of the restaurant credited with introducing the United States to fajitas, it's no surprise that Houston has some of the best Tex-Mex food in the world.

Cuisine that spans the country of Mexico can be found all over Clutch City, including the grilled meats of Chihuahua, the complex moles of Puebla, and the fish stews of Veracruz. From upscale, tablecloth establishments like Hugo’s to the taco trucks and affordable cafes dotting the city, Houston captures Mexican food traditions with a breadth that’s hard to beat.

And it’s not only the various cuisines that can leave a person at a standstill when deciding on where to dine, it's also the wide variety of flavors — situated at the crossroads of Texan, Mexican, and Cajun — that really makes this segment of the city’s culinary scene unique.

Whether new to Houston or just stuck in a boring Tex-Mex rut, use this map as a guide for exploration.

Is your favorite Tex-Mex or Mexican spot missing from this map? Shout it out in the comments.

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Tacos La Bala

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With the allure of a taco truck, Tacos La Bala offers the best of both worlds. The meats here, including the falling-apart barbacoa, have been cooked masterfully, and the chicharron tacos are a must. Unlike most Mexican spots which serve them crispy, Tacos La Bala slow-simmers its version of chicharron to tender perfection.

Puebla's Mexican Kitchen

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Decorated in Mexican folk and pop art, this colorful cafe serves lunch and all-day breakfast with neighborhood charm. Classics like huevos rancheros and breakfast tacos are a given, as are the chilaquiles — made with lightly fried corn tortillas topped with beans and your choice of tomatillo, guajillo, or ranchero sauce — or the migas, made with fried tortillas, scrambled eggs and served with refried beans and queso fresco. The cinnamon coffee will beg you to sip and stay for a while.

Las Tortugas - Tortas Perronas

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This small restaurant’s namesake sandwich is offered in dozens of different ways at Las Tortugas. Keep it simple with the Guera (chicken, cheese, and avocado) or go meat-crazy with the Borracha (ham and skirt steak with two different types of cheese). Whatever the choice, it won’t cost much more than $8.

La Chingada Tacos & Tequila

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From the unassuming, no-frills storefront to the naughty name, La Chingada is bound to bring some raised eyebrows — though once inside, it’s easy to focus on the food. The restaurant prides itself on its made-to-order recipes. Passed down by generations from Oaxaca and Mexico City, there’s something for everyone — breakfast tortas; tacos of all kinds, including birria-style; and empanadas stuffed with your choice of cheese, chicken tinga, or picadillo. Stop by for their lunch specials, available on weekdays from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., and down a three-taco platter for under $10.

Teotihuacan Mexican Cafe

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Bring a date and indulge in one of the parrilladas, or platters, at any of this popular Mexican cafe's three locations. Fifty-five dollars scores diners the Teotihuacan parrillada — piled high with chargrilled quail, four jumbo shrimp, beef and chicken fajitas, and short ribs. A cheese-stuffed poblano pepper gilds the lily.

Cascabel

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This Spring Branch restaurant dishes out vegan renditions of Mexican and Latin favorites, including pozole rojo, burritos, tortas, creamy chile con queso, and tacos that can be filled with a variety of proteins, including soy al pastor, jackfruit, Mexican brisket from hibiscus, fajita-style mushrooms, soy bistec, and more. Bring the family on Monday, when children eat from the extensive kids’ menu for free.

Sylvia's Enchilada Kitchen

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Head to the domain of Houston’s enchilada queen, Sylvia Casares, where you’ll find more than a dozen different types of enchiladas, fajitas, heartwarming sopa de fideo, a Mexican-style Caesar salad, and hearty entrees, like grilled Chilean sea bass, that help give a culinary tour of cuisine throughout Mexico and Texas.

Margaritas made with fresh juice, al pastor tacos, ceviche, fajitas, and mole enchiladas aren’t the only highlights at this Mexican glass treehouse. The picturesque dining room, decorated with bright chandeliers, makes this restaurant feels like an elegant getaway, and the flan will melt in your mouth.

The Original Ninfa's on Navigation

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It's impossible to have a discussion about Houston Tex-Mex (and Mexican fare in general) without bringing up the Original Ninfa's on Navigation. Credited with introducing the country to fajitas, it’s vital to try the sizzling dish at least once, but make room for the classic enchiladas, available a la carte, and the Ninfarita, Ninfa’s signature margarita, made with Espolon Blanco Tequila, fresh-squeezed lime juice, agave nectar, and Cointreau.

El Tiempo Cantina

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Launched by the same family that brought Houston the Original Ninfas, El Tiempo is similarly known for its potent agave tequila margaritas and its sizzling fajitas. Choose between the standard beef, chicken, spicy shrimp or veggie fajitas, or up the experience with the melt-in-your-mouth filet mignon, the salmon fajitas with a mango chimichurri, or the spicy ahi tuna, seared with sesame seed crust and topped with a light mole sauce. Take it to the next level with fajita add-ons, like the “durango” (bacon, tomato, jalapeno, and cilantro), or “la tana,” a mixture of serrano peppers, garlic, and cheese.

This inventive restaurant is known for its playful renditions of Mexican classics. (Think: squash soup, duck tostadas, and two types of mole.) The agave-roasted barbacoa has earned accolades, but for a truly unique dining experience, try the chapulines — crispy fried grasshoppers served with guacamole and tortillas.

entrance of Hugo’s covered in greenery.
Hugo’s welcomes diners to experience its playful approach to Mexican cuisine.
Bill Addison

Armandos

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Don’t let the white tablecloths fool you. This Mexican restaurant promises down-home Mexican classics, including its signature twice-refried beans, chile con queso, and a variety of enchiladas. In for a celebration? Head there Thursday night when the restaurant turns into a party, order the decadent lobster enchiladas, and spring for the $48 River Oaks Rita — a combination of Jose Cuervo Reserva de la Familia Tequila, Patron Citronge, fresh lime juice, and agave, that’s served with a green salted rim and a 24K gold lime slice.

Little Pappasito's Cantina

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A part of the Pappas franchise, Pappasito’s Cantina has been serving up Tex-Mex fare since the 1970s, and it’s fair to say they know what Houstonians like. Homemade tortilla chips with warm red salsa come complimentary, but appetizers like chicharrones con queso or the sweet and spicy ribs are worthy starters. And while the tacos and enchiladas are fool-proof options — here, the fajitas are the star of the show. Choose between the tender steak — typically cooked medium, the well-seasoned chicken, the grilled quail, or shrimp options. Can’t choose? Get a platter with a sample of each, and seal the experience with a tres leches.

Candente

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Using smoked and grilled proteins from its sister restaurant, the Pit Room, Candente offers Mexican food with Texas barbecue swag. In addition to traditional Tex-Mex items, there’s brisket enchiladas; brisket nachos; ceviche, made with redfish, shrimp, and scallops; and the Tampiquena for when steak night calls. The signature dish includes a 9-ounce prime rib-eye topped with two cheese enchiladas, grilled onions, and chili-lime butter. If dabbling in a drink or two, don’t leave without purchasing a margarita — frozen or on the rocks — in original, blood orange, strawberry, mango, or prickly pear flavors.

Candente’s brisket nachos, topped with pickled red onion and chopped white onion.
With brisket nachos, brisket tacos, and a 9-ounce ribeye topped with two enchiladas, Candente offers Mexican food with Texas barbecue swag.
Candente

Picos Restaurant

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Unlike the usual neighborhood Tex-Mex joint, Pico's tempers its tacos and enchiladas with extremely sophisticated entrees that can be hard to find elsewhere. A case in point is the chili en nogada — a roasted poblano pepper, stuffed with pork, fruit, and nuts and smothered in pomegranates and walnut cream.

100% Taquito

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What started as a project at the University of Houston soon morphed into an Upper Kirby favorite. Expect lots of lovable kitsch — a dated VW Beetle is parked in a window — and small plates that depart from heavy Tex-Mex fare. Get an asada or pastor torta. Although the bread is good and the meat is great, it's the sour carrot and jalapeno slaw that really makes these sandwiches sing.

M&M Grill

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Thanks to Houston's endlessly diverse community, this quick-service spot serves up excellent Mediterranean Tex-Mex fare made with halal meats. Wake up early for its breakfast burritos, or opt for the fajitas if visiting later.

Pancho's Meat Market

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For DIY tacos, Pancho's Meat Market is the spot. While there are a lot of great Mexican grocers in Houston, this local chain stands out for its prepared foods. There's a wide variety of Mexican staples to choose from, so get some fresh tortillas and stuff ‘em with meat. Don’t forget to save room in the cart for the charro beans and a side of menudo.

Gringo’s Mexican Kitchen {The Original}

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Gringo’s features around a dozen locations across the Houston area, but if you’re interested in seeing where it all began, head to the original spot in Pearland. Each outpost showcases Old West meets Mexican art and antiques while delivering Tex-Mex favorites like taquitos, grilled seafood, and some of the best fajitas and margaritas Houston has to offer. If you’re feeling festive, try the star-spangled banner — a combination of strawberry and lime margarita, swirled with blue curacao, or the sparkler — a margarita of your choice topped with Korbel brut champagne. End your visit with the complimentary soft-serve ice cream.

Tacos La Bala

With the allure of a taco truck, Tacos La Bala offers the best of both worlds. The meats here, including the falling-apart barbacoa, have been cooked masterfully, and the chicharron tacos are a must. Unlike most Mexican spots which serve them crispy, Tacos La Bala slow-simmers its version of chicharron to tender perfection.

Puebla's Mexican Kitchen

Decorated in Mexican folk and pop art, this colorful cafe serves lunch and all-day breakfast with neighborhood charm. Classics like huevos rancheros and breakfast tacos are a given, as are the chilaquiles — made with lightly fried corn tortillas topped with beans and your choice of tomatillo, guajillo, or ranchero sauce — or the migas, made with fried tortillas, scrambled eggs and served with refried beans and queso fresco. The cinnamon coffee will beg you to sip and stay for a while.

Las Tortugas - Tortas Perronas

This small restaurant’s namesake sandwich is offered in dozens of different ways at Las Tortugas. Keep it simple with the Guera (chicken, cheese, and avocado) or go meat-crazy with the Borracha (ham and skirt steak with two different types of cheese). Whatever the choice, it won’t cost much more than $8.

La Chingada Tacos & Tequila

From the unassuming, no-frills storefront to the naughty name, La Chingada is bound to bring some raised eyebrows — though once inside, it’s easy to focus on the food. The restaurant prides itself on its made-to-order recipes. Passed down by generations from Oaxaca and Mexico City, there’s something for everyone — breakfast tortas; tacos of all kinds, including birria-style; and empanadas stuffed with your choice of cheese, chicken tinga, or picadillo. Stop by for their lunch specials, available on weekdays from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., and down a three-taco platter for under $10.

Teotihuacan Mexican Cafe

Bring a date and indulge in one of the parrilladas, or platters, at any of this popular Mexican cafe's three locations. Fifty-five dollars scores diners the Teotihuacan parrillada — piled high with chargrilled quail, four jumbo shrimp, beef and chicken fajitas, and short ribs. A cheese-stuffed poblano pepper gilds the lily.

Cascabel

This Spring Branch restaurant dishes out vegan renditions of Mexican and Latin favorites, including pozole rojo, burritos, tortas, creamy chile con queso, and tacos that can be filled with a variety of proteins, including soy al pastor, jackfruit, Mexican brisket from hibiscus, fajita-style mushrooms, soy bistec, and more. Bring the family on Monday, when children eat from the extensive kids’ menu for free.

Sylvia's Enchilada Kitchen

Head to the domain of Houston’s enchilada queen, Sylvia Casares, where you’ll find more than a dozen different types of enchiladas, fajitas, heartwarming sopa de fideo, a Mexican-style Caesar salad, and hearty entrees, like grilled Chilean sea bass, that help give a culinary tour of cuisine throughout Mexico and Texas.

Flora

Margaritas made with fresh juice, al pastor tacos, ceviche, fajitas, and mole enchiladas aren’t the only highlights at this Mexican glass treehouse. The picturesque dining room, decorated with bright chandeliers, makes this restaurant feels like an elegant getaway, and the flan will melt in your mouth.

The Original Ninfa's on Navigation

It's impossible to have a discussion about Houston Tex-Mex (and Mexican fare in general) without bringing up the Original Ninfa's on Navigation. Credited with introducing the country to fajitas, it’s vital to try the sizzling dish at least once, but make room for the classic enchiladas, available a la carte, and the Ninfarita, Ninfa’s signature margarita, made with Espolon Blanco Tequila, fresh-squeezed lime juice, agave nectar, and Cointreau.

El Tiempo Cantina

Launched by the same family that brought Houston the Original Ninfas, El Tiempo is similarly known for its potent agave tequila margaritas and its sizzling fajitas. Choose between the standard beef, chicken, spicy shrimp or veggie fajitas, or up the experience with the melt-in-your-mouth filet mignon, the salmon fajitas with a mango chimichurri, or the spicy ahi tuna, seared with sesame seed crust and topped with a light mole sauce. Take it to the next level with fajita add-ons, like the “durango” (bacon, tomato, jalapeno, and cilantro), or “la tana,” a mixture of serrano peppers, garlic, and cheese.

Hugo's

This inventive restaurant is known for its playful renditions of Mexican classics. (Think: squash soup, duck tostadas, and two types of mole.) The agave-roasted barbacoa has earned accolades, but for a truly unique dining experience, try the chapulines — crispy fried grasshoppers served with guacamole and tortillas.

entrance of Hugo’s covered in greenery.
Hugo’s welcomes diners to experience its playful approach to Mexican cuisine.
Bill Addison

Armandos

Don’t let the white tablecloths fool you. This Mexican restaurant promises down-home Mexican classics, including its signature twice-refried beans, chile con queso, and a variety of enchiladas. In for a celebration? Head there Thursday night when the restaurant turns into a party, order the decadent lobster enchiladas, and spring for the $48 River Oaks Rita — a combination of Jose Cuervo Reserva de la Familia Tequila, Patron Citronge, fresh lime juice, and agave, that’s served with a green salted rim and a 24K gold lime slice.

Little Pappasito's Cantina

A part of the Pappas franchise, Pappasito’s Cantina has been serving up Tex-Mex fare since the 1970s, and it’s fair to say they know what Houstonians like. Homemade tortilla chips with warm red salsa come complimentary, but appetizers like chicharrones con queso or the sweet and spicy ribs are worthy starters. And while the tacos and enchiladas are fool-proof options — here, the fajitas are the star of the show. Choose between the tender steak — typically cooked medium, the well-seasoned chicken, the grilled quail, or shrimp options. Can’t choose? Get a platter with a sample of each, and seal the experience with a tres leches.

Candente

Using smoked and grilled proteins from its sister restaurant, the Pit Room, Candente offers Mexican food with Texas barbecue swag. In addition to traditional Tex-Mex items, there’s brisket enchiladas; brisket nachos; ceviche, made with redfish, shrimp, and scallops; and the Tampiquena for when steak night calls. The signature dish includes a 9-ounce prime rib-eye topped with two cheese enchiladas, grilled onions, and chili-lime butter. If dabbling in a drink or two, don’t leave without purchasing a margarita — frozen or on the rocks — in original, blood orange, strawberry, mango, or prickly pear flavors.

Candente’s brisket nachos, topped with pickled red onion and chopped white onion.
With brisket nachos, brisket tacos, and a 9-ounce ribeye topped with two enchiladas, Candente offers Mexican food with Texas barbecue swag.
Candente

Picos Restaurant

Unlike the usual neighborhood Tex-Mex joint, Pico's tempers its tacos and enchiladas with extremely sophisticated entrees that can be hard to find elsewhere. A case in point is the chili en nogada — a roasted poblano pepper, stuffed with pork, fruit, and nuts and smothered in pomegranates and walnut cream.

Related Maps

100% Taquito

What started as a project at the University of Houston soon morphed into an Upper Kirby favorite. Expect lots of lovable kitsch — a dated VW Beetle is parked in a window — and small plates that depart from heavy Tex-Mex fare. Get an asada or pastor torta. Although the bread is good and the meat is great, it's the sour carrot and jalapeno slaw that really makes these sandwiches sing.

M&M Grill

Thanks to Houston's endlessly diverse community, this quick-service spot serves up excellent Mediterranean Tex-Mex fare made with halal meats. Wake up early for its breakfast burritos, or opt for the fajitas if visiting later.

Pancho's Meat Market

For DIY tacos, Pancho's Meat Market is the spot. While there are a lot of great Mexican grocers in Houston, this local chain stands out for its prepared foods. There's a wide variety of Mexican staples to choose from, so get some fresh tortillas and stuff ‘em with meat. Don’t forget to save room in the cart for the charro beans and a side of menudo.

Gringo’s Mexican Kitchen {The Original}

Gringo’s features around a dozen locations across the Houston area, but if you’re interested in seeing where it all began, head to the original spot in Pearland. Each outpost showcases Old West meets Mexican art and antiques while delivering Tex-Mex favorites like taquitos, grilled seafood, and some of the best fajitas and margaritas Houston has to offer. If you’re feeling festive, try the star-spangled banner — a combination of strawberry and lime margarita, swirled with blue curacao, or the sparkler — a margarita of your choice topped with Korbel brut champagne. End your visit with the complimentary soft-serve ice cream.

Related Maps