Texas' representative for Esquire's Best New Restaurants 2011 feature is Austin's Congress, which got props from John Mariani for bringing the capital the kind of Texas-focused steakhouse that Rick Perry can brag about and for employing a waif-like blond hostess who raises chicken.
Then again, we have to take the picks with a grain of salt — not just because Houston was snubbed from the big categories, but because the writers can't even keep our Tex-Mex faves straight.
The list of "Other New Restaurants Not to Miss" included Houston's El Rey alongside spaces like Lucia in Dallas, Chicago's The Girl and the Goat and Husk in Charleston. Who would have thought Houston's mini-chain of low-frills Cuban/Mexican joints with kick-ass tacos would be so esteemed? Except that El Rey isn't exactly new — it's been around for 14 years — and it doesn't serve tacos al carbon, which the article names as the "best dish."
It looks like Mariani was actually talking about the new El Real Tex-Mex. I'm not sure how owners Bryan Caswell, Robb Walsh and Bill Floyd should take the honor. On one hand, Esquire says the trio succeeded at doing Tex-Mex better than anyone in Houston. On the other, it can't even remember the right name.
In Esquire's defense, navigating Houston Tex-Mex can be tricky. I can explain the difference between Ninfa's and Ninfa's on Navigation until I'm blue in the face, but I have a nasty habit of mixing up El Pueblito Patio, El Patio and El Tiempo (and it doesn't help that two of them are on Richmond Ave).
Do you ever confuse El Rey with El Real? What's your biggest Houston restaurant mix-up? And do you think Esquire is uninformed or just sloppy for picking the wrong place?