Houston’s Best Mexican Restaurants for Cinco de Mayo and Beyond

Tamales forever.

While Houston is well known for its rockin’ Tex-Mex cuisine (seriously, you can’t throw a rock without it landing in a vat of queso), our traditional Mexican food game is just as fuerte. In this city, taco trucks are as common as potholes, tamales are a way of life, and if devouring a bowl of pozole isn’t your go-to hangover cure, you ain’t from around these parts. When you’re craving a trip across the border but you can’t for the life of you track down that pesky passport, get your fix at one of these top tier destinations.

Xochi

Downtown

The complex flavors of Oaxaca are on full display at this hotel hotspot from Chef Huge Ortega and Restaurateur Tracy Vaught. Set in Downtown’s gorgeous Marriott Marquis (yes, the one with the Texas-shaped lazy river), you don’t have to book a room to experience Ortega’s sensational landscape of moles—think: chicken tamales smothered in an earthy black elixirs, a zippy green number engulfing head-on shrimp, and even ant mole pork ribs, plus traditional dishes from tlayudas (AKA Oaxacan-style pizza) to moletes.
How to reserve/order: Make a reservation for dine-in or order take-out online.

El Hidalguense

Spring Branch

Tucked away in a strip center out on Long Point, this family-owned hole-in-the-wall is a local institution. That’s thanks to a righteous roster of eats straight out of the central Mexican state of Hidalgo, including two must-try house specialties: spit-roasted cabrito asado (al pastor-style goat) and barbacoa de borrego (lamb cooked in penca leaves and served with consomme). You want both. Trust. 
How to reserve/order: Stop by for COVID-safe dine-in service or call 713-680-1071 for pick-up.

Chef Thomas Bille earned his spurs in L.A. and sharpened his skills the aforementioned Xochi beforing reinvigorating Old Town Spring with this buzzy New World taqueria and scratch-made Mexican kitchen. You’ll want to see what all the hype is about, of course, and you can do so via bright strawberry and white shrimp ceviche, seared scallop and chorizo in mojo verde, and delightful tacos al pastor made with Berkshire pork and pineapple chutney. There’s brunch, too, like piping hot chilaquiles and tender lamb barbacoa
How to reserve/order: Stop by for first come, first served dine-in seating or order take-out online.

Caracol

Galleria

All three of Chef Hugo Ortega’s restaurants deserve a spot on this list—which is exactly why all three are making an appearance. A sibling to Hugo’s and Xochi, Caracol explores the cuisine of coastal Mexico, with a custom wood-burning oven as the star of the show. Don’t miss the ostiones asados, wood-roasted Gulf oysters dripping in chipotle butter and topped with melted cheese and toasted breadcrumbs, then work your way down the shoreline by way of ceviches, crudos, smoked octopus, calamari, and wood-grilled butterflied fish.
How to reserve/order: Make a dine-in reservation or order to-go online.

La Fisheria

Downtown

Brimming with clams, mussels, mahi, and shrimp, the Vuelve a la Vida soup at this essential seafood emporium will legitimately bring you back to life. As will well-balanced dishes like Acapulco-style seafood cocteles, citrus-kissed butter-roasted pompano, and beautifully crisp whole-fried tilapia. Finish with classic desserts like almond tres leches and Mexican-style flan.
How to reserve/order: Make a dine-in reservation via OpenTable or order take-out online.

Cuchara

Montrose

The bold, zesty flavors of Mexico City steal the show at this artsy Neartown bistro, which has recently reopened its patio and dining room for in-person service in addition to their curbside to-go menu. Treat yourself to cervezas, margaritas, and other tasty libations to pair alongside upscale shareables like gorgeous ceviches and plump pork belly-stuffed gorditas plus mains like red snapper Veracruzana and a 34-ingredient mole negro. On weekends, brunch favorites include Hidalgo-style lamb barbacoa, spicy pozole rojo, and satisfying chilaquiles.
How to reserve/order: Stop by for first come, first served patio and dine-in seating or order take-out via Toast.

Hugo's

Montrose

Chef-restaurateur Hugo Ortega is a hometown hero, epitomizing the American dream by moving up from dishwasher to James Beard Award winner (not to mention co-owner of Caracol and Xochi, two other list-topping establishments). His roots were planted in Mexico City, and his passion for tradition continues to impress with dishes like crispy-skinned, achiote-rubbed suckling pig and braised duck with mole poblano. A true family affair, Hugo’s epic desserts are the brainchild of Ortega’s brother, the talented Pastry Chef Ruben Ortega.
How to reserve/order: Make a reservation for dine-in, order pick-up online, and get delivery via Postmates.

Raised in Monterrey, Chef Arnaldo Richards has perfected his grandmother’s authentic recipes, and then some. His namesake eatery explores seven regional cuisines, from the Spanish-influenced Gulf to the achiote-kissed South. Order margaritas made with the restaurant’s exclusive barrel-aged tequilas to chase your enchiladas de mariscos, chile de arbol-spiced veal shank osso bucco, and chiles en nogada (AKA poblanos stuffed with pulled pork and topped with a walnut-based cream sauce).
How to reserve/order: Make a reservation for dine-in or order take-out online.

With three full locations, wallet-friendly prices, and more-than-generous portions, Teotihuacan—or “Teo,” as it’s affectionately called—counts devotees from all over the city. Each outpost is open for dine-in service in addition to take-out perks like to-go margs and family-style party packs for those who prefer to feast at home. Hit it up for Veracruz-style fish, tomatillo-smothered enchiladas, colossal chiles rellenos, and parrilladas overflowing with grilled short ribs, quail, jumbo shrimp, beef, and chicken. Tack on tres leches or fried sopapillas dusted with cinnamon and sugar for dessert because after the year we’ve had, we deserve it.
How to reserve/order: Stop by for first come, first served dine-in seating or call 713-695-8757 for pick-up.

This longtime treasure is currently offering both dine-in service and continuing its take-out program. Expect a menu that switches things up based on seasonality and ingredient availability (and, more importantly, James Beard Award-winning chef-owner Irma Galvan’s culinary intuition). If you can get it, the handmade pork roast tamale shines with its seamless meat-to-masa ratio, though you can almost always fill up on fresh spinach enchiladas, picadillo chiles relleno, fish tacos, and Irma’s homemade flan. 
How to reserve/order: Call 713-222-0767 for dine-in reservations and take-out.

Tacos Tierra Caliente
Tacos Tierra Caliente | Photo by Brooke Viggiano for Thrillist

Fact: Stuffing your face with this truck’s righteous tacos whilst sipping a cold one at the neighboring West Alabama Ice House is a Houston rite of passage. You’ll need at least three of the palm-sized gems to even begin to satisfy that hunger pang, but at around $2 a pop, that’s extremely doable. Choose flour or corn, top with barbacoa, pastor, or lengua, say “yes” to chopped onion and cilantro, and pile on the tremendous red and green salsas.
How to reserve/order: Stop by to order take-out—the rest is up to you.

Top notch cuisine is served all day at this friendly neighborhood cafe, which is open for onsite dining and take-out from 7 am to 3 pm Monday through Saturday. Also of note: Breakfast is as cheap as it is delicious, with the entire menu sitting under $6 per dish ( lunch plates don’t exceed the $11 mark). Kick things off with huevos con machado, a mess of farm-fresh scrambled eggs peppered with Mexican-style dry beef and served with refried beans, spicy salsa, and tortillas, or opt for the traditional chilaquiles, a “breakfast nacho” situation loaded with your choice of tomatillo, guajillo, or ranchero sauce, all made in-house with plenty of soul. 
How to reserve/order: Stop by for first come, first served dine-in seating or order pick-up online.

Laredo Taqueria
Taqueria Laredo | Flickr/T.Tseng

Laredo Taqueria

Washington

Laredo’s notorious line out the door looks a little different these days, but the dreamy fat-laden tortillas look and taste exactly the same. Stop in or order out for legendary spicy potatoes, nopales, perfectly blended chorizo and eggs, crispy chicharrones, refried beans, and salsas. If you’re extra hungry, toss in unbeatable tamales, enchiladas, and weekend-only hangover-anhilliating menudo. 
How to reserve/order: Stop by for carry-out, call 713-861-7279 for pick-up (Snover location), and order delivery via GrubHub and Postmates.

Though Ninfa’s made a name for itself with its classic Tex-Mex fajitas, locals make a bee-line for its roster of decidedly more traditional Mexican fare. “Mama” Ninfa Laurenzo got things started when she saved her family’s struggling tortilla factory from demise in 1973, and Chef Alex Padilla has done an incredible job of manning the reins since then. Both locations are open for dine-in and take-out service, and those dining at home can order Ninfa’s scratch-made tortillas by the dozen plus oh-so tender cochinita pibil, chile relleno stuffed with cheese and brisket picadillo, and family-style enchiladas. Wash it all down with boozy margaritas (also available to-go) to keep the fiesta going.
How to reserve/order: Make a reservation via Navigation or Post Oak or order pick-up and local delivery online.

We Houstonians are all about that tamale life. Sit at any bar long enough, and you’ll likely hear that beautiful “tamale, tamale” siren song, prompting you to fish out a few precious dollars in exchange for a foil-wrapped pack of the good stuff. And while your local dive’s tamale guy may tote the best in town, the second best are undoubtedly found here at Alamo. The Northside spot is open for carry-out and drive-through service, offering steamy hand-rolled beauts loaded with jalapeño and cheese, sweet corn, or shredded pork alongside addictive red and green salsas. Eat. Rinse. Repeat.
How to reserve/order: Stop by or call 713-692-6363 for carry-out.

Brooke Viggiano is a Houston-based writer who suddenly has a ton of weekend plans. Follow her journeys on IG @brookiefafa or on Twitter @brookeviggiano.