Devouring Houston: Exploring Houston One Bite at a time

Houston has so many incredible food establishments...from sumptuously designed restaurants to fun storefronts selling gourmet cookies. From Mexican Food Carts to the Best BBQ in the World. And...I want to expore it one bite at a time.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Ninfa's on Navigation

I'm embarrassed.  After growing up in Houston, I have to admit that I had never been to the original Ninfa's on Navigation before.  I blame my parents for this, of course.   I'm not sure how a Native Houstonian can get away with this kind of behavior.  Clearly, I had to make amends.  I finally tried Ninfa's.  Well, what did I think?  Were my expectations too high?  Was the original Tex-Mex eatery everything I had hoped?   A little of both, actually.

I loved the Old School Tex-Mex Charm -- open kitchen and freshly baking tortillas right inside the front door.  The Mexican Tiles on the wall and Saltillo Tile on the floor.  The wait staff in Mexican dresses and shirts.  The no frills and low lighting.  All of this does make the perfect, authentic Tex-Mex place.  It reminded me of the Molina's I grew up with on Westheimer (before they moved to the Old Boston Sea Party Restaurant location -- and totally lost the authentic charm, if you ask me).  I digress.

For starters, The Navigation Margarita ($9:50) - Espolon Blanco Tequila, fresh squeezed lime juice, agave nectar, and Cointreau - was delicious.  Again, Classic.  Fresh.  Cold.  The tangy lime juice and cointreau is a perfect pairing - and contrast -- to the salt.  A good margarita.

The Navigation Margarita

Queso.  Ahhhhh....My Love.  Again, I love that Classic, Old School-ness of what Ninfa's serves up.  Their Chili con Queso ($7.95) was smooth, velvety.  The cheesiness coated my mouth with melted goodness.  Heavy on the melted cheese, light on the peppers.  No spice at all (contrary to their menu description as "spicy cheese").  Fine with me -- this Queso is the way Queso was invented.  Ninfa's serves their melted cheese with fried flour chips - instead of corn.  Very different.  I prefer corn, however.  The flour ones reminded me of layers of thin fried pastry  Interesting.  Corn wins.

Chili con Queso

Next up, Tortilla Soup.  Their tortilla soup was different.  I couldn't determine if it was broth or cream based.  I think broth with their jalapeno crema combined.  It was a thinner soup, with corn, bacon, cheese, shredded chicken and tortillas strips.  I tasted a sweetness in the soup, but our sever swore there was no cinnamon or sweet spice or condiment in it.  Maybe the sweetness from the bacon and corn? Seemed more than that, though.  Lots of kernels of corn making way for big corn flavor.  Fresh, ripe, yummy avocado on top.  I am a tortilla soup freak.  And, while this was really good soup, by far not the best I have had. 

Tortilla Soup

The Nachos - with fajita chicken ($8.95 + $3.95 for chicken) -were fine.  The refried beans and melted cheddar were layered on top of the chips, of course.  But, Ninfa's uses the flour tortilla chips here as well.   We all agreed that corn chips are a better nacho base.  The chicken was a hunk of chicken.  They were fine.

Nachos with Chicken Fajita

For our Enchilada Dish -- we went with the Antiguas Enchiladas ($10.95) -- Cheese and Ranchera Sauce with rice and beans.  More old school goodness.  The Ranchera sauce was a little heavy on the tomato flavor -- but very good.  Classic.  And, the rice was very moist. 

Antiguas Enchiladas

Finally, The Fajitas.  I mean, Mama Ninfa Laurenzo brought THE Fajita to the masses ($17.95 for 1/2 pound).  We had to try it.  We were not disappointed.  This is the real deal.  The meat - real skirt steak - had great grilled flavor.

Beef Fajitas

So, in summary, how was  my experience you ask?  Well, very good.  I did feel rushed -- a churn in and out kind of place.  I felt the food was Classic, Old School - as Tex-Mex should be.  I was not disappointed.  However, I don't know that would not make a special trip there just for Mexican.  There are many other super great Tex-Mex eateries in Houston.  We are so lucky to live here!

Ninfa's on Navigation
2704 Navigation
Houston, Texas 77003

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