What exactly defines the Southwestern genre? How does it differentiate itself from Tex-Mex and Southern fare? These are good questions, but you won't find any answers at TQLA (pronounced "tequila"). Instead executive chef Tommy Birdwell is content to mix and match at will between the genres, creating some spectacular dishes that can't be found anywhere else in Houston. Apps and entrees like the wild mushroom tamale, crawfish and spinach enchiladas and fried oysters stand out, with a particular focus on their outstanding sauces. But would be silly to talk about the food at TQLA and not mention the namesake spirit. TQLA has 172 kinds, to be exact, and offers a guide with flavor profiles like you might find at a restaurant with a great wine cellar. In fact GM Scott Lindsey is one of three certified tequiliers in the United States, and he is taking it seriously, mixing up cocktails (like the excellent tequila Old Fashioned) and margaritas with only 100-percent agave tequila.
TQLA has the only bottle in Texas of the limited-edition Jose Cuervo 250 Aniversario Tequila, retailing at $2,250. You're going to have to ask the server what a shot retails for.