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, March 28, 2011

El Real Tex Mex

I couldn't wait to try El Real Tex Mex, the new Tex-Mex partnership between Robb Walsh (Food Critic, James Beard Award Finalist, and all round Foodie Rockstar), Bryan Caswell (Chef/Owner, Reef, and also James Beard Finalist), and Bill Floyd (Restaurateur and co-owner of Reef).   El Real is located in the old Tower Theatre on Westheimer in Montrose. 

El Real Tex Mex

I loved the super high ceilings, thanks to the architecture left over from the theater.  The old projection room is still there along with the movie screen, playing old black and white Western movies.  The floor is polished cement and the walls are painted with vibrant colors.  One entire wall consists of windows, allowing lots of natural light during the daytime.  The owners bought the tables and chairs and memorabilia from the old  El Felix restaurant (which had been housed down the street for 60 years, closing 3 years ago).  El Real also pays homage to those Tex-Mex legends who made Houston's Tex-Mex scene what it is today -- including Ninfa Laurenzo and Felix Tijerina himself.   Also, the musical selection was fantastic -- ranging from Tejano to Merle Haggard to Robert Earl Keene.  One of my dining companions said, the food is San Antonio and the music is Austin, yet the cafe is located in Houston = the best of all worlds. 

Old Western Movies in the tradition of Tower Theater

Okay, so, the food, right?  We started with margaritas, of course.  I opted for the Skinny Margarita (espolon blanco, tequila, fresh lime and agave nectar) ($7.25).  Delicious and fresh.  As was the El Real Rita ($7.25) - both frozen and on the Rocks were cold, fresh, and yummy.  I also enjoyed the chips and salsa - the chips were light and crispy (and salty!) and the salsa was fresh and full of tomato flavor.

Skinny Margarita and the El Real Margarita

Being open only a week, the menus were still Xeroxed on paper and they were working out some kinks, but that is to be expected.  I thought the service was pretty good considering the newness of the eatery.   We ordered the regular queso and a queso with Picadillo (ground beef) (small $5.95).  The melted cheese was creamy, with an excellent consistency, and a little kick of spice.  The picadillo beef was delicious.  Good enough to just eat it with a spoon.  Yum!

Chili Con Queso and Queso with Picadillo

Next, we ordered the Nachos with smoked chicken.  The Nachos were delectable -- and the kind I expect as a native Houstonian.  The chips were a little thicker than the ones in the baskets, but not too thick.  Just enough to be able to hold up the mound of shredded cheese, chicken, and beans.  Substantial nachos.  Very good.

Nachos with Smoked Chicken

The 3 Cheese Enchiladas #7 with salsa verde ($12.95) had excellent sauce.  The enchiladas were very traditional and very delicious.  Lots of thick cheddar enveloped in the tortillas.  The enchiladas were classic Tex-Mex, done perfectly. 

3 Cheese Enchiladas #7

We also tried the Enchiladas Borunda - pork enchiladas with guajilla chili (a type of chili pepper common in Mexican dishes).  ($10.95).  Another classic Tex-Mex plate.  Savory, meaty, and very substantial.  This dish had a great deal of food to fill up even the hungriest customers. 

Enchiladas Borunda

Our biggest complaints were the rice and the beans.  While the rice was light and fairly fluffy, it had zero flavor.  The beans were very thin and runny and did not contain any spice or seasonings.  Obviously, these two items are crucial to a Tex-Mex dish, so I'm hoping these issues get worked out. 

For a week old restaurant, the flow of the service was pretty good.  The menu was still limited (no dessert yet) and no lunch service yet.  But, all of these growing pains will be conquered soon enough.  I can't wait to go back in the near future when El Real has hit its stride.  I'm so happy that El Real has opened its doors in Houston.  Houston Rejoice - we have a new classic!

El Real Tex Mex
1201 Westheimer
Houston, Texas 77006

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