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A table scape with food and drink at Flora.
A festive spread at brand new Mexican restaurant Flora.
Kirsten Gilliam

10 Standout Mexican Restaurants in Houston

With dishes like grilled cactus, barbacoa tacos, and large, loopy churros, these restaurants draw from true Mexican traditions

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A festive spread at brand new Mexican restaurant Flora.
| Kirsten Gilliam

It’s no secret that Houstonians love their Mexican restaurants. And, what’s not to love? The lively destinations serve as worthy backdrops for cheese-filled feasts made up of stewed meats and grilled vegetables, fiery salsas, and tequila-fueled libations. While there are a number of excellent choices to consider in any given pocket of the city — from taquerias to Tex-Mex joints — there are a select bunch whose focus remains on true Mexican cuisine. These restaurants, not only present their versions of authentic Mexican dishes, but they incorporate cooking techniques long-utilized in Mexico, such as the nixtamalization — or proper preparation of corn — and on-site baking for the freshest of fresh torta bread.

From trustworthy standbys to upscale, new hotspots, there is plenty to discover about this beloved cuisine. Raise a cricket-salt rimmed marg, and cheers to Houston’s bountiful Mexican food scene.

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Note: Restaurants on this map are listed geographically.

Tacos Dona Lena

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Taco destinations are a dime a dozen in Houston, which makes newbie Tacos Dona Lena all the more impressive. Birria street tacos arrive properly dressed with cilantro, onion, lime, and house-made consome, and gorditas and tortas come with hearty fillings like chorizo, barbacoa, and meatless choices like soy pastor.

This decades-old, family-owned restaurant continues to shine in a city rich with Mexican dining choices. Barbacoa from 44 Farms often serves as the filling to tortas, tacos, and more, and saucy enchilada plates include house-made toppings like herb butter Suiza sauce and chili gravy.

The cuisine at Chivos stands entirely on its own — pointedly regarded as neither traditional Mexican nor Tex-Mex, but rather a more modern consideration of Mexican-American. Executive chef Thomas Bille has fun with items like pozole dumplings in pork broth and build-your-own bone marrow tacos. Save room for dessert, which is equally intriguing, as Bille presents a chocolate tamale with cajete and marshmallow.

Handmade flour tortillas with truffle butter and trout roe.
Chivos puts a twist on traditional bread and butter with its tortillas and trout roe-topped truffle butter.
Scurfield Group

Corn, or maize, is the star ingredient in much of the menu at Fabian Saldana’s new West Houston restaurant. Huaraches made with blue corn masa are topped with zesty chorizo and there is even a corn cocktail, crafted with sotol, corn syrup, corn liqueur, and roasted corn salt. Tres leches cake fan? Here the spongey classic is made with corn-infused milk.

La Fisheria

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With its splashy, Mexican resort-style dining space, La Fisheria is a Downtown oasis focusing on coastal cuisine. This means there is a multitude of ceviches to consider, from shrimp, scallops, and stewed octopus, to fish that is fried, char-grilled, or pan-seared.

Whole fish.
The whole fish is a head turner.
Megha McSwain

The beloved chandelier-bedecked space overlooking Buffalo Bayou Park, formerly known as The Dunlavy, has reemerged with a new name and buzzing energy. At Flora, cricket salt-rimmed margaritas, made with fresh lime juice and agave, are sure to wow your taste buds, along with its dedicated masa program resulting in satisfying tortillas made in-house daily. Opt for spicy barbacoa or juicy carnitas and build tacos your way, then explore the dessert menu where a rich vanilla bean flan steals the show.

Tacos al pastor.
Tacos al pastor get a little salsa finish.
Kirsten Gilliam

At Hugo Ortega’s new Uptown Park restaurant, the spotlight is on Mexican street eats. The fast-casual concept, which offers counter-service by day and a full-service format during dinner and weekend brunch, is known for its slow-roasted meats like birria and barbacoa that are used to build tortas and tacos. Urbe houses its own on-site bakery, too, producing fresh bread, tortillas, and pastries, plus large, spiral-shaped churros — presented just like in the mercados in Mexico.

Meat-filled torta sandwich.
Urbe’s torta ahogado is a mouthful.
Paula Murphy

Dining at any one of Hugo Ortega’s restaurants is never a bad idea, but experiencing Xochi inside the Downtown’s Marriot Marquis hotel is particularly a treat. The modern-Mexican restaurant honors the cuisine of Oaxaca, where Ortega lived as a young man and learned to cook from his grandmother. Picture-perfect dishes like scallops in mole verde are presented with house-made masa dumplings, and cocktails like the Origen, chilled with a cucumber ice cube, are not to be missed. Spring for the mole tasting for a sampling of four of the restaurant’s varieties, presented with tlayuda, beans, and cheese.

Infladita plate.
The Infladita is a feast for the eyes and palate.
Julie Soefer

Cuchara

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Vacationing in Mexico City is all the rage these days, but for those looking to save on travel time and still get a taste of what all the fuss is about, a visit to Cuchara is an easy alternative. For a decade, this gem has been slinging casual Mexico City fare throughout its happy, light-filled Montrose dining room — decorated with art from Mexico City muralist Cecilia Beaven. Paloma cocktails presented in clay cups are Instagram-worthy and pair well with loaded plates like the crispy tostadas and the cheese-stuffed grilled cactus filet.

Pozole served with lime, red onion, and a small tortilla.
Cuchara’s pozole is comfort in a bowl.
Megha McSwain

Arnaldo Richards' Picos Restaurant

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For almost four decades, Arnaldo Richard’s Picos has shed a light on the seven regions of Mexico through its cuisine, and this year, it aims to dig a little deeper with the launch of its CURATED x Picos monthly dinner series. The multi-course tasting experience is limited to one evening only, and highlights one seasonal ingredient rooted in Mexican heritage each month. Missed out this month? Venture in for an a la carte meal on any other day — you won’t be disappointed.

Tostada with scallop sashimi.
A course from the new CURATED x Picos dinner series.
Alex Montoya

Tacos Dona Lena

Taco destinations are a dime a dozen in Houston, which makes newbie Tacos Dona Lena all the more impressive. Birria street tacos arrive properly dressed with cilantro, onion, lime, and house-made consome, and gorditas and tortas come with hearty fillings like chorizo, barbacoa, and meatless choices like soy pastor.

Alma

This decades-old, family-owned restaurant continues to shine in a city rich with Mexican dining choices. Barbacoa from 44 Farms often serves as the filling to tortas, tacos, and more, and saucy enchilada plates include house-made toppings like herb butter Suiza sauce and chili gravy.

Chivos

Handmade flour tortillas with truffle butter and trout roe.
Chivos puts a twist on traditional bread and butter with its tortillas and trout roe-topped truffle butter.
Scurfield Group

The cuisine at Chivos stands entirely on its own — pointedly regarded as neither traditional Mexican nor Tex-Mex, but rather a more modern consideration of Mexican-American. Executive chef Thomas Bille has fun with items like pozole dumplings in pork broth and build-your-own bone marrow tacos. Save room for dessert, which is equally intriguing, as Bille presents a chocolate tamale with cajete and marshmallow.

Handmade flour tortillas with truffle butter and trout roe.
Chivos puts a twist on traditional bread and butter with its tortillas and trout roe-topped truffle butter.
Scurfield Group

Maize

Corn, or maize, is the star ingredient in much of the menu at Fabian Saldana’s new West Houston restaurant. Huaraches made with blue corn masa are topped with zesty chorizo and there is even a corn cocktail, crafted with sotol, corn syrup, corn liqueur, and roasted corn salt. Tres leches cake fan? Here the spongey classic is made with corn-infused milk.

La Fisheria

Whole fish.
The whole fish is a head turner.
Megha McSwain

With its splashy, Mexican resort-style dining space, La Fisheria is a Downtown oasis focusing on coastal cuisine. This means there is a multitude of ceviches to consider, from shrimp, scallops, and stewed octopus, to fish that is fried, char-grilled, or pan-seared.

Whole fish.
The whole fish is a head turner.
Megha McSwain

Flora

Tacos al pastor.
Tacos al pastor get a little salsa finish.
Kirsten Gilliam

The beloved chandelier-bedecked space overlooking Buffalo Bayou Park, formerly known as The Dunlavy, has reemerged with a new name and buzzing energy. At Flora, cricket salt-rimmed margaritas, made with fresh lime juice and agave, are sure to wow your taste buds, along with its dedicated masa program resulting in satisfying tortillas made in-house daily. Opt for spicy barbacoa or juicy carnitas and build tacos your way, then explore the dessert menu where a rich vanilla bean flan steals the show.

Tacos al pastor.
Tacos al pastor get a little salsa finish.
Kirsten Gilliam

Urbe

Meat-filled torta sandwich.
Urbe’s torta ahogado is a mouthful.
Paula Murphy

At Hugo Ortega’s new Uptown Park restaurant, the spotlight is on Mexican street eats. The fast-casual concept, which offers counter-service by day and a full-service format during dinner and weekend brunch, is known for its slow-roasted meats like birria and barbacoa that are used to build tortas and tacos. Urbe houses its own on-site bakery, too, producing fresh bread, tortillas, and pastries, plus large, spiral-shaped churros — presented just like in the mercados in Mexico.

Meat-filled torta sandwich.
Urbe’s torta ahogado is a mouthful.
Paula Murphy

Xochi

Infladita plate.
The Infladita is a feast for the eyes and palate.
Julie Soefer

Dining at any one of Hugo Ortega’s restaurants is never a bad idea, but experiencing Xochi inside the Downtown’s Marriot Marquis hotel is particularly a treat. The modern-Mexican restaurant honors the cuisine of Oaxaca, where Ortega lived as a young man and learned to cook from his grandmother. Picture-perfect dishes like scallops in mole verde are presented with house-made masa dumplings, and cocktails like the Origen, chilled with a cucumber ice cube, are not to be missed. Spring for the mole tasting for a sampling of four of the restaurant’s varieties, presented with tlayuda, beans, and cheese.

Infladita plate.
The Infladita is a feast for the eyes and palate.
Julie Soefer

Cuchara

Pozole served with lime, red onion, and a small tortilla.
Cuchara’s pozole is comfort in a bowl.
Megha McSwain

Vacationing in Mexico City is all the rage these days, but for those looking to save on travel time and still get a taste of what all the fuss is about, a visit to Cuchara is an easy alternative. For a decade, this gem has been slinging casual Mexico City fare throughout its happy, light-filled Montrose dining room — decorated with art from Mexico City muralist Cecilia Beaven. Paloma cocktails presented in clay cups are Instagram-worthy and pair well with loaded plates like the crispy tostadas and the cheese-stuffed grilled cactus filet.

Pozole served with lime, red onion, and a small tortilla.
Cuchara’s pozole is comfort in a bowl.
Megha McSwain

Arnaldo Richards' Picos Restaurant

Tostada with scallop sashimi.
A course from the new CURATED x Picos dinner series.
Alex Montoya

For almost four decades, Arnaldo Richard’s Picos has shed a light on the seven regions of Mexico through its cuisine, and this year, it aims to dig a little deeper with the launch of its CURATED x Picos monthly dinner series. The multi-course tasting experience is limited to one evening only, and highlights one seasonal ingredient rooted in Mexican heritage each month. Missed out this month? Venture in for an a la carte meal on any other day — you won’t be disappointed.

Tostada with scallop sashimi.
A course from the new CURATED x Picos dinner series.
Alex Montoya

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