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Must-Try Mexican Restaurants in Houston

Where to get delicious Mexican food when you’re in town.

The Greater Houston Area is home to America’s fourth-largest Latino/Hispanic population, and therefore, it’s no surprise that Mexican cuisine deeply entrenches the city’s culinary culture. H-Town loves its Mexican food, and this is attested to by the numerous Baja-inspired seafood restaurants and food trucks selling tacos at literally every street corner.

mexican foods in popular mexican restaurant in houston

On my recent visit to Houston, I got the opportunity to sample the city’s rich and diverse Mexican food scene. There are dozens of spots throughout the city that deserve mention in this review, but here’s my lowdown of the best Mexican restaurants in Houston that offer a little something for every food lover. Check out my list of the 15 best Mexican restaurants in Houston, Texas below!

Best Mexican Restaurants in Houston

  1. Hugo’s
  2. The Original Ninfa’s on Navigation
  3. Xochi
  4. Caracol Restaurant
  5. Teotihuacan Mexican Cafe
  6. Lupe Tortilla
  7. Pappasito’s Cantina
  8. Guadalajara Del Centro
  9. El Tiempo
  10. Chuy’s
  11. Tacos Tierra Caliente
  12. Lopez Mexican Restaurant
  13. Gringo’s Mexican Kitchen Restaurant
  14. Churrascos
  15. Irma’s Southwest

 Hugo’s

1600 Westheimer Rd, Houston, TX 77006
Phone: 713-524-7744
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My number one pick is Hugo’s. This award-winning restaurant is owned and operated by renowned chef Hugo Ortega and his wife, Tracy Vaught. It’s convenient to reach Hugo’s in the Montrose area, a culturally diverse neighborhood for food, art, and shopping. Hugo’s menu predominantly features traditional menus from across Mexico.

Hugos has an intimate and chilled-out vibe, and walking into the venue felt like entering a pal’s dining room. I was lucky to meet Hugo himself when I visited, and he welcomed me with a smile and a firm handshake like an old friend. One thing I loved about Hugo’s is their ability to bring the earthy and exciting flavors of Mexican cooking across the border.


The Original Ninfa’s on Navigation

2704 Navigation Blvd, Houston, TX 77003
Phone: 713-228-1175
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Next up is The Original Ninfa’s on Navigation. You’ll find the restaurant on Navigation Boulevard and a stone’s throw from the heart of downtown Houston. There’s ample parking at the venue and even valet parking. After reading so much about the restaurant, I visited, ready to embrace its signature margaritas, lobster enchiladas, and delicious tacos.

Indeed, I wasn’t disappointed, thanks to the establishment’s tasty food and pleasantly casual and nostalgic vibe. The moody and romantic atmosphere at Ninfa’s makes you want to go back time and again. What I loved the most about Ninfa’s is that it capably indulged my desire for classic Mexican food. Chef Alex Padilla deserves a thumbs up for his fantastic culinary creations.


Xochi

1777 Walker St, Houston, TX 77010
Phone: 713-400-3330
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I visited Xochi in downtown Houston on the first floor of the Marriot Marquis across from Discovery Green looking for a proper Tex-Mex meal, and I wasn’t disappointed. Another brainchild of Chef Hugo Ortega, Xochi celebrates the indigenous richness and culinary diversity of Oaxaca.

Xochi looks and feels homely and casual. When you walk in, all you’ll want to do is kick back, enjoy the food, and forget about your worries. The prices may be a little steep, but it’s worth the splurge to try the classic Oaxaca menu on offer. Another thing I noticed is that the restaurant is a hotspot for both locals and expats.


Caracol Restaurant

2200 Post Oak Blvd #160, Houston, TX 77056
Phone: 713-622-9996
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Caracol is the newest addition to Chef Hugo Ortega and Tracy Vaught’s culinary family, and Southern Living named it one of Houston’s Best International Restaurants in 2016. Dubbed as the establishment where seafood and classic Mexican cuisine meet, I was curious to visit Caracol to see (and taste) for myself.

This upscale establishment serves the best wood-grilled oysters in Houston. The food is incredible, and so are the margaritas. One thing that struck me was their inventive and delicious Mexican take on seafood. Everything, from the food and drinks to the music and decor, is curated to perfection. There’s also a beautiful patio at the venue for those who prefer outdoor dining.


Teotihuacan Mexican Cafe

Multiple locations
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You don’t describe yourself as an Authentic Mexican Cafe unless you’re just that. Located on Airline Drive, near Buckboard Park, “Teo” is an old-school yet vibrant cafe that serves classic Tex-Mex cuisines from breakfast to dinner. Teo Cafe is hard to miss when driving or walking along Airline Drive, thanks to its bright facade that reminds you of a carnival.

The restaurant is a great place to enjoy flavorful and tender fajitas, homemade tortillas, a unique Caliente Shrimp, and their signature Teotihuacan Parrillada. Regardless of what you order at Teo, you’ll be impressed by the overall quality of your feast as I was.


Lupe Tortilla

Multiple locations
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While tortillas are in the name here, Lupe Tortilla is a classic Tex-Mex restaurant chain that serves a range of Mexican dishes. The restaurants are a darling of the local Tex-Mex scene, and I didn’t hesitate to pay a visit. Whenever you’re in the mood for family-friendly and casual dining in Houston, there’s no better place to be than a Lupe Tortilla restaurant.

The cheesy and hot grub at Lupe Tortilla hit the spot, and I was also impressed by their gorditas and beans and Mexican tacos. There’s also a wide selection of regional Mexican staples, some of which I’d never heard of. The restaurants are in convenient locations, and service is excellent across the chain. 


Pappasito’s Cantina

Multiple locations
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This award-winning Mexican restaurant chain specializes in everyone’s favorite Tex-Mex food. When a friend recommended Pappasito’s Cantina, he described it as a typical Houston restaurant chain that serves hot and mouthwatering Mexican food, which piqued my interest.  

I was impressed that the restaurants serve my comfort Mexican foods, including mesquite-grilled quail, shrimp brochette, beef fajita nachos, and chicken fajita quesadillas.

Pappasito’s restaurants also boast an impressive drinks menu, and I particularly loved the hand-crafted margaritas that they perfectly mixed with premium tequilas and freshly-squeezed juices. There’s a wide selection of seasonal cocktails for the discerning imbiber.


Guadalajara Del Centro

1201 San Jacinto St, Houston, TX 77002
Phone: 713-650-0101
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Located at Space 141 at 1201 San Jacinto, Guadalajara Del Centro is a casual Tex-Mex restaurant where individuals, families, and even co-workers can share a meal. Here, I found familiar Mexican favorites along with weekend brunch and made-to-order guacamole. Takeaway and delivery services are also available.

Guadalajara Del Centro has excellent culinary options for everyone. So, whether you’re an organic diner or a vegetarian, you’ll find a tasty Tex-Mex meal waiting for you at the restaurant. There’s a unique menu comprising known staples and experimental dishes that I enjoyed sampling.


El Tiempo

Multiple locations
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Spread across seven locations in Houston, El Tiempo Cantina restaurants are a must-visit. Wherever you are in the city, the chances are that there’s an El Tiempo not so far from you. There might be several El Tiempo establishments in the city, but each of them is distinct while remaining true to the chain’s decades-long tradition of fine dining.

Each establishment in the chain has an eclectic and inviting space with vibrant art and exceptional touches. El Tiempo presents creative and tasty Tex-Mex menus along with sizzling margaritas. Thus, the restaurants are a must-visit for anyone who wants to sample the finest Mexican cuisine in a cheerful space.


Chuy’s

Multiple locations
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Chuy’s is another legendary Houston restaurant chain that deserves a spot on this list. There are seven Chuy’s restaurants in the city, and each of them offers the best Tex-Mex cuisine. All locations are casual spots with an extensive menu. The enchiladas and fajitas at Chuy’s are the best I’ve sampled anywhere. Across the chain, Chuy’s restaurants are known for serving classic Mexican cuisine.

Most reviews I’ve read suggest that locals primarily frequent the restaurants. Perhaps, this is because Chuy’s has deeply ingrained itself into the local dining culture. The establishments are light-filled and have a laidback and rustic vibe that enhances your dining experience all the more.


Tacos Tierra Caliente

Multiple locations

If you’re looking for a low-key dining experience in an unconventional setting, make Tacos Tierra Caliente your go-to Tex-Mex restaurant. Unlike other establishments on this list, Tacos Tierra is a mobile truck restaurant mostly found at the corner of the West Alabama Icehouse. However, you’re also likely to come across the truck at other locations.

Tacos Tierra serves Mexican classics, including tortas and tacos. Wherever the truck is parked, there’s always a welcoming vibe that reminds you of home. Overall, the restaurant was casual, relaxing, and excellent. I will be glad to visit them again when I’m in Houston.


Lopez Mexican Restaurant

11606 S Wilcrest Dr, Houston, TX 77099
Phone: 281-495-2436
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Lopez is a long-standing family restaurant serving margaritas and Tex-Mex fare in a bustling and spacious setting on South Wilcrest Drive. It features exquisite Spanish decor, and the employees are pleasant and knowledgeable. The restaurant is also clean and comfortable. There’s a local and casual vibe at Lopez Restaurant.

When I visited, the establishment was a little crowded and noisy, but I guess that attests to their quality and price. I loved their chips and salsa, which I washed down with the tastiest margarita I’ve had anywhere. I’ll certainly revisit the restaurant next time I’m in Houston.


Gringo’s Mexican Kitchen Restaurant

Multiple locations
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Gringo’s is a Houston mainstay serving authentic and hearty Mexican cuisines. Antique decor pieces that embody Mexico and the Old West adorn the upscale restaurants. There’s also a friendly atmosphere that makes the restaurants the ideal place for families to meet and sample their favorite dishes.

When I visited, I was delighted by their wide selection of shaker margaritas, delicious quesadillas, and fresh seafood specials; all served in a festive atmosphere. So, whether you’re in the mood for a bowl of tasty queso or sizzling fajitas, pop into a Gringo restaurant near you and have your culinary urges satisfied. They have a unique and experimental menu that you’ll love, irrespective of your culinary leanings.


Churrascos

Multiple locations
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Churrascos is widely-known as one of the best-run Tex-Mex restaurants. Established in 1988, the restaurants’ claim to fame is their tasty food and warm and inviting atmosphere. Michael Cordúa is the in-house chef at the restaurant chain, and he curates meals that warmly transport guests to an orchestra of flavor.

The tamales, enchiladas, tacos, fajitas, and everything else you’ll sample is delightful. When it comes to the food choices at Churrascos, it’s hard to go wrong. During my stay in Houston, I visited their River Oaks establishment severally, and the food was consistently excellent throughout. The orders came quickly, and the employees were friendly.


Irma’s Southwest

1475 Texas Ave, Houston, TX 77002
Phone: 713-247-9651
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If you’re looking for a neighborhood restaurant that serves exceptional food in Houston, Irma’s Southwest is the ideal spot for you. Located at 1475 Texas Avenue on the ground floor of the Catalyst apartment building, the establishment counts Irma Glavan as its in-house chef. Irma’s is a casual spot for familiar Southwest delights and claims to offer exquisite Texan cuisine with Mexican spirit.

There’s a sense of spontaneity at Irma’s, and the fact that it operates without a menu attests to this. When I visited, they told me about what was on offer for the day. Irma assembled the meals from ingredients already in the kitchen. The location also boasts event rooms and a bar and lounge with beautiful fire pits.


Final Thoughts

Regardless of your definition of Mexican cuisine, Houston has something to offer for people from all walks of life with different Mexican cuisine preferences. The city has a vibrant Mexican culinary landscape that every food enthusiast will love.

I hope that my list of the best Mexican restaurants in Houston will blow you away as they did to me. If you’re looking for a bit of privacy, however, you may want to check out these restaurants with private dining rooms in Houston.

Did we leave a restaurant out of this list? Make sure you leave us a comment, and we’ll check it out!

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Written by Erin B.

Erin lives in East Passyunk and enjoys checking out the local restaurants in South Philly and beyond. Her favorite restaurants are those with spicy food and outdoor seating so that she can bring along her dog, Miss Piggy.