Mexican Restaurant Tours
These tours start at the Visitors Center in downtown. They normally start at 11:00 AM. However, we can be flexible with the time. Most restaurants open at approximately 11:00 AM; however, a number of the restaurants open earlier and we can begin at 9:00 or 10:00 AM or start later in the afternoon. We offer 3, 4, and 5-hour tour options.
Bring money for food, drink, tax, and gratuity at each restaurant.
Most everyone has an opinion about Mexican food. The very reasons why one person loves the (warm and spicy with chunks of additives versus cold and mild like ketchup) salsa or the (corn versus flour) tortillas at one site are the same reasons someone else hates them.
Staples of Tex-Mex food are cheese and tomato sauce. What food does not taste good with these ingredients?
Do we eat Mexican food or is it Tex-Mex, Cali-Mex, Mexican fusion, or something else? You may not really want Mexican food, but some variation of it.
Some Mexican restaurants are known for excelling in one fare, such as fajitas, while another may be known for its tortilla soup, taco salads, guacamole, flan, chips, ceviche, frozen margaritas, fruit punch, et cetera. Is there something that you particularly like?
Generally, when judging food and or drink from one location to another, one should have a standard. For example, individually or as a group, for food, focus on one of the following to compare and contrast them with each restaurant:
You might want to focus on the (frozen or on the rocks, regular or strawberry) margaritas for drinks.
Mexican food can easily fill a person up. We recommend that each group share an order of nachos so that:
- The total price is reasonable. A party of 5 people may pay less than $5.00 per person per restaurant including tax and tip if they share an order of nachos.
- You have a common standard by which to judge.
- Not to fill you up too quickly.
- Keep the amount of time in each restaurant to a manageable length so that we can move onto other restaurants.
On the other hand, perhaps you want to have:
- Breakfast at the first restaurant.
- An appetizer at the second restaurant.
- Lunch at the third restaurant.
- Dessert at a fourth restaurant.
- Drinks at happy hour at a fifth restaurant.
Some Mexican restaurants may be better known for their ambiance, service, historical stature in Houston, location, or their value.
This tour can also be a fun way to explore new and different neighborhoods with which one is not familiar.
We normally spend about 45 minutes at each site with groups. Allow time to be seated, see the menu, order, wait for the food preparation, eat, use a bathroom, and pay. After factoring in travel time, we go to an average of 1 restaurant per hour. Be aware of starting a tour that runs into rush hour as slowing the tour down.
The factors for inclusion on this tour are:
- Locally owned and operated places that are unique to Houston.
- Within the I-610 Loop or very close to it to minimize the driving.
- These restaurants have been identified on surveys of the best Mexican restaurants in Houston. These include Zagat, Trip Advisor, the Houston Press, the Houstonia magazine, and more.
- They are reasonably priced – less than $20.00 for a lunch entre, in many cases less than $15.00.
- They have a variety of food and not just tacos.
- The restaurants have a reputation for being around and are not just a flash in the pan. Most of these were established in the last century.
Select the Restaurants that You Want
The list below is in alphabetical order. It is of some of the most acclaimed Mexican restaurants in Houston. Select the ones that you want to visit. Most of the restaurants that we include have only 1 location and/or are based in Houston. With a few exceptions, all are within the I-610 Loop; thus, less time is spent travelling greater distances. You have so many options that you could take this tour 3 to 5 times and visit completely different restaurants.
- Arnaldo Richards’ Picos Restaurant – Upper Kirby District. The current location opened in 2014. The original sites opened in Bellaire in the 1980s. It opens at 9:00 AM on Sunday and Saturday and at 11:00 AM on Monday through Friday.
- Don Carlos – East End, Harrisburg area. It was found in 1986. It opens at 7:00 AM on Sunday and Saturday and at 8:00 AM on Monday through Friday.
- El Patio Mexican Restaurant * – The Voss/Hillcroft area. It was found in 1964. It has the former Felix’s Restaurant’s (1937 – 2008) recipes, notably the chili con queso. It opens at 11:00 AM everyday.
- Guadalajara del Centro – Downtown. This site opened in 2008. It opens at 12:00 PM on Sunday and at 11:00 AM on Monday through Saturday.
- Irma’s Original – 2nd Ward, Downtown. It was found in the early-mid 1980s. It is closed on Sunday. It opens at 8:00 AM on Monday through Friday and at 4:00 PM on Saturday.
- La Mexicana – It has been in the Montrose area since 1982. It opens at 7:00 AM everyday.
- Laurenzo’s El Tiempo Cantina – 2nd Ward, East End. Found in 1998, this location opened in 2012. We also sometimes will visit the Washington Boulevard location in the West End when paired with Molina’s. They open at 9:00 AM on Sunday and Saturday and at 11:00 AM on Monday through Friday.
- Los Tios * – This restaurant is barely outside the I-610 Loop, across from Meyerland Plaza. It was found in 1970. It opens at 11:00 AM everyday.
- Lupe Tortilla – West University area. It was found in 1983 and this location opened in 1998. It opens at 11:00 AM everyday.
- Molina’s Cantina – Found in 1941, it is the oldest Tex-Mex restaurant in Houston. Located on Washington Boulevard, close to the West End. * We sometimes visit the Upper Westheimer location between Hillcroft Avenue and Dunvale Road when paired with El Patio Mexican Restaurant. We also will patronize the Bellaire location when paired with Lupe Tortilla. They open at 11:00 AM everyday.
- Ninfa’s on Navigation – 2nd Ward, East End. It was found in 1973. It opens at 10:00 AM on Sunday and Saturday and at 11:00 AM on Monday through Friday.
- Spanish Village – 3rd Ward. It was found in the 1960s. It is closed on Sunday and Monday. It opens at 11:00 AM on Tuesday through Friday.
- Teotihuacan Mexican Café – 5th Ward. It opened in 1997. It opens at 8:00 AM everyday.