Tantalizing Tex-Mex: A Texas Dining Primer
Savor the flavors of Texas's home-grown cuisine
No matter which region of Texas you visit, you’ll find yourself in close proximity to Tex-Mex cuisine. It might be served in a stylish spot by an up-and-coming chef who adds upscale twists to traditional favorites. But you’re just as likely to enjoy it in a generations-old joint with no frills, where homestyle foods such as tortillas are made by hand daily.
The History and Flavors of Tex-Mex
If there’s one element that unites restaurants across Texas’ Tex-Mex spectrum, it’s the aroma of tender meat, locally grown chilis and uniquely blended spices sizzling away. Beans and rice get thrown into the mix, with hot tortillas of corn or flour bringing the dishes together. Fundamentally, Tex-Mex is a regional and heritage cooking style heavily influenced by history.
The style is a hybrid of Spanish, Mexican-Indian and Anglo fare that was originally created by Tejanos when Texas was part of Mexico. On today’s menus, the style manifests as crispy and soft tacos; enchiladas stuffed generously with meats or vegetables; nachos topped with savory meat, refried beans and melted cheese; fajitas loaded with grilled chicken and beef; chili con queso, a dip of velvety cheese swirled with diced tomatoes and jalapeños or green chilis; and chili con carne, a meaty stew invented in San Antonio. Traditionally, Tex-Mex meals begin with a basket of tortilla chips served with freshly made tomato salsa.
Fajitas — usually flour tortillas filled with sizzling skirt steak, bell peppers and onions and accompanied by salsa or pico de gallo — are a favorite Tex-Mex dish
Sample San Antonio's Best Tex-Mex
If you don’t have time for a statewide sampling of Tex-Mex cuisine, San Antonio provides a delectable overview. As a culinary gateway to Latin America, the presence of heritage cooking is especially strong here, and you’ll find outstanding examples of both Tex-Mex and authentic Mexican cuisine in the city. Mi Tierra is a must for traditional favorites, from spicy pork tamales to tortilla soup studded with chicken and avocado. (Afterward, treat yourself to one of the sweet breads from Mi Tierra’s onsite bakery.) For modern Tex-Mex, Acenar experiments with bold flavors, such as Gulf fish tacos dressed with jalapeño honey mayo, cabbage slaw and pickled red onions. For Mexican street foods interpreted by acclaimed chef Johnny Hernandez, head to La Gloria.
Enjoy a selection of delectable Tex-Mex dishes with a scenic water view along the popular River Walk in San Antonio
Head to Houston
As a foodie city, Houston is also a sure thing for Tex-Mex, and two restaurants are classics: At El Tiempo Cantina’s weekend brunch, order saucy huevos rancheros with jalapeño sausage; at Ninfa’s on Navigation, check out the legendary fajita menu. For a contemporary take, hit Cyclone Anaya’s at happy hour for an icy margarita and lobster enchiladas drizzled with Chardonnay cream sauce. (The restaurant offers vegetarian and gluten-free selections too.) For authentic Mexican cuisine — from ceviche to braised duck in rich mole sauce — don’t miss Hugo’s.
Beneath softly glowing chandeliers, waiters serve up authentic Mexican cuisine at upscale Hugo's in Houston
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