where to eat now
Where to eat in Houston right now: 6 best new Tex-Mex and Mexican restaurants — from classic to creative
Houstonians have demonstrated a seemingly limitless appetite for both Tex-Mex and traditional Mexican cuisine. Of course, the city has an almost endless number of restaurants to cater to those cravings.
The end of 2023 brought a number of new options that range from classic Tex-Mex fare to an ambitious, chef-driven restaurant that uses Mexican flavors and techniques as a platform for all kinds of creative expressions.
As always, these are presented in order of how urgently diners should plan their visits. Recommended dishes are taken from meals at the restaurants.
Belly of the Beast
Chef Thomas Bille and his wife Elizabeth have revived their shuttered Mexican restaurant in a new location on FM 2920. Whereas the original Belly of the Beast had a cramped interior, the new outpost has a little more room and a little more atmosphere courtesy of low light that takes diners away from its strip center setting.
The new location also brings an expanded menu with Bille showcasing dishes such as pozole dumplings and empanadas that earned him acclaim at Chivos, the short-lived Mexican American restaurant in the Heights. While Belly of the Beast classics like ceviches, including a can’t-miss tuna tostada with uni emulsion, and birria tacos are available, the standouts are house made pastas such as squid ink tagliatelle with mushrooms and chorizo or honeynut squash mezzaluna with brown butter and sage. A wagyu zabuton with pomme purre, onions, and mushrooms might be one of the city’s better steak deals at $52.
The level of creativity and consistency on display marks Belly of the Beast as one of the city’s most exciting Mexican restaurants. Even inner loopers should contemplate making the drive up I-45 to see what all the fuss is about.
Agricole Hospitality has replaced Texas comfort food restaurant Indianola with this new Tex-Mex concept that’s inspired by the old school joints partners Morgan Weber and Vincent Huynh dined at during their childhoods. Breeze blocks, vintage tables and chairs, and a checkerboard floor give the space a retro look.
Huynh, Weber, and Agricole chef Paul Lewis worked together to develop the wide-ranging menu that supplements all the usual Tex-Mex faves — think queso, enchiladas, and fajitas — with a few more off-beat items like roasted oysters, octopus escabeche, and tempura-fried fish tacos. They’re paired with an extensive selection of cocktails made with tequila and other Mexican spirits, including the margarita from sister concept Eight Row Flint.
The location’s proximity to Minute Maid Park, Toyota Center, and Shell Energy Stadium makes it an appealing pre-game destination. Being open for lunch makes it a tempting option for a little relief after a late night at any of EaDo's popular bars.
Mi Tierra Mexican Kitchen
Chef Martin Weaver (Kuu, Brennan’s, Railway Heights Market) and his partner Kate Mancia opened this casual Tex-Mex spot on the western edge of Oak Forest. Located in a former Pizza Hut, the casual aesthetic puts the focus on Weaver’s food and Mancia’s cocktails, which works out well.
A recent visit offered a diverse range of highlights, including street-style pastor tacos, seafood enchiladas that get a little umami from sliced mushrooms, and classic beef and chicken fajitas with housemade flour tortillas. Weaver even makes his own desserts, so save a little room for tres leches or flan. Those who can be patient with the friendly but inexperienced staff will find an affordable option that would be welcome in any neighborhood.
Julia Sharaby and chef David Grossman have opened the third location of their globally inspired taco restaurant in the former Gratifi space at the corner of Fairview and Taft. The restaurant, which evolved out of Sharaby’s pioneering food truck, uses tacos as a platform for a range of global fillings such as grilled redfish, fried oysters, lamb keema, falafel, and seared Brussels sprouts. Tuna poke in a crispy hard shell taco is a clever twist on a tostada, and the expertly-fried shrimp tempura would not be out of place at a Japanese restaurant.
Taco fillings also show up as toppings for salads and rice bowls. They’re paired with margaritas and other libations from the bar. It’s all set in an appealing two-story space with a wraparound patio that has a view of the downtown skyline.
The Dallas-based Tex-Mex staple has reentered the Houston market with a new location near River Oaks District. No traces of its former life as Seasons 52 are evident in the remodel, which sports a clean, comfortable look — and a speakeasy-style bar in the back of the dining room. The menu covers all the Tex-Mex basics. Highlights include the brisket tacos, quesadillas, and nachos. Pair them with a Mambo Taxi, the restaurant's signature frozen margarita with a sangria swirl.
What really stands out are the prices. With lunch specials in the $10 range and most dinner entrees around $15, even River Oaks residents will appreciate Mi Cocina’s value.
Ronnie Killen may have closed Killen’s TMX, but some of its signature dishes live on at the Pearland location of his popular barbecue joint. Now open for dinner Tuesday-Saturday, the menu includes brisket enchiladas, brisket quesadillas, brisket and pulled pork tacos, and beef fajitas. Even better, customers can make reservations on Open Table, so they know the drive to Pearland won’t require waiting for a table.