A Houston favorite

More than margaritas: Berryhill Baja Grill impresses with north-of-the-border fare, too

More than margaritas: Berryhill Baja Grill impresses with north-of-the-border fare, too

Berryhill Baja Grill, November 2012, hot dog
Berryhill Baja Grill's Nathan's Hot Dog, so called because it's made with a Nathan's frankfurter. Photo courtesy of IntegratePR
Berryhill Baja Grill, November 2012, Lemonade
Berryhill's lemonade is infused with mint leaves for 24 hours. Berryhill Baja Grill/Facebook
Berryhill Baja Grill, November 2012, food truck
Berryhill's food truck is now on the prowl in Houston. Photo courtesy of IntegratePR
Berryhill Baja Grill, November 2012, Screw-the-Moon, beer, cocktail
The Screw the Moon cocktail, a frozen screwdriver topped off with Blue Moon Beer. Photo courtesy of IntegratePR
Berryhill Baja Grill, November 2012, hot dog
Berryhill Baja Grill, November 2012, Lemonade
Berryhill Baja Grill, November 2012, food truck
Berryhill Baja Grill, November 2012, Screw-the-Moon, beer, cocktail

Soon to celebrate 20 years of business, Berryhill Baja Grill opened its first restaurant on Revere Street in 1993. Today, there are a dozen locations in the Houston area and outposts in Austin and Mexico, plus a new food truck on the prowl.

The road to a multi-store franchise is especially notable when you consider that the company's namesake, Walter Berryhill, started the business out of a pushcart. When it came time to retire, having no heirs, Berryhill sold the name and tamale recipe to a Houston attorney for a mere $200 in the mid-1960s.

Jeff Anon, the current CEO of Berryhill Hot Tamales Corp., headquartered in Houston, took the helm in 1995 and is the driving force behind the company's expansion and rise.

 I sampled some of the not-so-south-of-the-border items on the menu — surprisingly palate pleasing, they don't take a backseat in taste or quality. 

Though the tamales were the initial trademark of the brand, Berryhill has since become as well-loved for its strong margaritas as its fresh, Baja Mexican-styled cuisine. On a recent visit, though, I sampled some of the not-so-south-of-the-border items on the menu — surprisingly palate pleasing, they don't take a backseat in taste or quality.

The Baja Burger, served on local baker Sheila Partin's jalapeño cheese bread, is quite tasty. The bread is a nice contrast of sweet to salty, perfect with pepper jack cheese, sautéed onions and red bell peppers and a side of fries.

It pairs well with the "Screw the Moon," a frozen screwdriver topped off with Blue Moon Beer. It's hard to mess up a screwdriver, and the beer just gives it a lighter texture, almost spritzer-like.

The Nathan's Hot Dog, so called because it's made with a Nathan's Famous Frankfurter, is a bacon-wrapped dog topped with homemade relish, pickled jalapeño, tomatoes and sautéed onions and served on a buttered bun. Although there was a little too much bread for my taste, you can never go wrong with bacon.

Wash it down with a lemonade, infused with mint leaves for 24 hours and "loaded" upon request. "Just ask the bartender to add shot of vodka or rum," Anon suggested.

Though these menu items break the mold, the more expectedly Mexican fare is always a safe bet at this Houston favorite. Especially the margaritas, which are only $3 every Saturday from open to close.

"Berryhill's margarita recipe has been the same since day one," said Anon, who assures that the restaurant uses only high-quality tequila and fresh juices. Judging by its popularity, Berryhill has its margarita mix down pat — why tamper with what works?

That's not to say that other things don't change, particularly on the ever-evolving drink menu that's constantly crafted by bartenders and customers. Next time you’re at Berryhill, suggest away.