Monday, June 23, 2014

Tex-MexRetch ‘Food’

Do you live in Houston, in or near the surrounded small city of Bellaire? Have you noticed a small Mexican restaurant named Carmelita's, located in the shopping center called the Bellaire Triangle (legend has it that SUVs enter and are never seen again)? Hungry for some good Tex-Mex?

Not Carmelita's - Probably Better
Resist... resist... resist the temptation to stop at Carmelita's. On the recommendation of a friend, we tried it yesterday, and it was the worst dog‑awful Tex‑Mex food I have ever had in my life. The. Worst. The spinach enchiladas, I kid you not, were made with canned spinach; nothing else could possibly account for the watery texture and absence of flavor. Stella's enchiladas first arrived, one cheese, one chicken; she sent them back, and they sent out cheese enchiladas with onions... not in the menu ingredient list, and Stella is very allergic to onions. They corrected that as well, but everything happened in slow motion, rendering (oops, bad choice of word) what could have been at least acceptable performance instead unbelievably incompetent.

They say the proof is in the eating, so I tried to make a go of it, but I failed. I left about half the meal on the plate. We're talking about a guy who almost never doesn't finish his Tex‑Mex, but I couldn't do it. If you have a hankering for Tex‑Mex, don't stop at Carmelita's; if you do, you'll be sorry.

AFTERTHOUGHT: I really should provide newcomers to the Houston area a few suggestions of where they can get good Tex‑Mex:

  • (Our old favorite, the formerly down-home and reasonably priced Pico's Mex‑Mex, has moved to upper Kirby and doubled its prices; we don't go there often now.)
  • Our top pick is Chuy's (2706 Westheimer and two other locations): you are guaranteed a good meal; vegetarian options are available (they even make a gravy without meat) and the food is promptly delivered piping hot (what does that expression mean, anyway?). Prices are moderate; service is excellent. I've never had them make a mistake on an order, and they are accommodating about reasonable substitutions. (The Austin Chuy's is [in]famous for carding Jenna Bush back in the day. The manager decided even a president's kid must abide by the liquor law.)
  • Best hole-in-the-wall: Fajita Pete's, in the center near Stella Link and Bellaire. Good food, fast service, flexible about off-menu items for sprout-eaters... what more could you ask? what's that? oh, yeah... CHEEP! CHEEP! Tiny, though, and the small staff necessitates closing between lunch and dinner.
  • Teotihuacan (3 locations) has excellent, very flavorful food, decent service and prices, and only one downside: all three locations are a bit of a drive away from us. Nonetheless, it's well worth the drive. Go for breakfast.
  • Molina's (about 6 blocks from Our House, on Holcombe [same street as Bellaire]), is an old-line mainstream Tex-Mex source, probably in business since my early childhood and still delivering quality food. Not cheap, but not knock-me-down expensive, either. The new one near us is lacking in the Austin atmosphere of the old place, but one can ignore that for the food.
And that should get you started!


  1. How sad... maybe a bad day if the restaurant was recommended? Maybe the chef quit and the owner was reading the recipe book?... The food delivery truck didn't make it and they had to run to the grocery store?... I bet Carmelita's doesn't last very long...

    1. ellroon, maybe they had a bad day, but Houston is not a town in which a Mexican restaurant can have very many bad days and still attract a following... there are just too many of them out there, hundreds at least.

      Whatever the reason, we will not be giving them a second chance... it was that bad. For us, it's back to our regulars!



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