Though Diego Cantina's over-the-top decor welcomes diners inside, its authentic Mexican cuisine crafted from fresh ingredients urges them to stay. Alejandrina Garza and her three children opened Diego's Cantina in an attempt to bring their Mexican heritage to Sugar Land. Described in Living magazine as a "little piece of Tampico, Mexico [the Garza family] left behind," the restaurant impresses visitors with its oversized replicas of Mayan hieroglyphics and paintings. Bathed in soft lighting emanating from chandeliers and tabletop candles, diners eat traditional dishes fueled by family recipes while sipping on beverages served from a blue, glowing tequila bar.
Beneath the soft whirring of ceiling fans at all three Houston-area locations, chefs transform fresh ingredients into meat-centric and vegetarian Mexican dishes. Dark wooden beams hover over the sprawling, sunlit dining rooms, framing artfully plated seafood and steaks with dramatic architectural details. Spy conventions furtively crunch their nachos in private dining rooms, and visitors to the Cypress location can toast to tortillas on the outdoor patio.
When discussing his kitchen's culinary techniques with reporters from Community Impact Newspaper, David Reyes explained, "The difference here is we are not just laboring—we are putting our feelings in the ingredients." By honoring his family's recipes in everything from salsa to mole, Reyes nurtures a passion for his native country's cuisine. The staff echoes this feeling in the care and attention they put into each dish. They marinate pork in a savory blend of achiote, orange, and garlic before slow-roasting it for their signature cochinita pibil. They fire-roast poblano peppers and grill tender beef for tampiqueña plates. And they spend hours on the mole sauce, which, in accordance with Reyes' grandmother's recipe, has 25 separate ingredients.
Out in the dining room of both restaurants, guests sip fresh-fruit licuados and aguas frescas or indulge in BYOB amid walls of blue and yellow, and strings of colorful paper flags stretch across the ceiling. At the Fonda Santa Rosa location, Mexican paintings, ceramics, and framed copies of Reyes family recipes speckle walls with a touch of history.
La Cocina’s chefs fill out its menu with house-made tortillas bulging with fresh ingredients, served in an atmosphere that calls upon its culinary influences with paintings of Mexican villages. The chicken, beef, or pork in the Carlitos Treat fajitas ($10.99) wears a crown of cheese, guac, and pico de gallo, just like the one worn by the good witch in the land of Oz. Carne Guisada, a south-of-the-border stew with Tex-Mex roots, comes with buoys of beef tips and veggies bobbing in a savory brown sauce ($8.99). Sauce infused with bacon, jalapeños, and wine bathes quail in the quail-and-fajita combo ($13.49).
Within the sun-baked walls of Las Ventanas, experienced chefs create an authentic Mexican culinary retreat for diners. The lunch menu touts a bevy of light soups and salads, such as the sopa las ventanas, a brothy blend of homemade chicken and tomato soup garnished with fresh avocado, sour cream, queso fresco, and tortilla strips ($6). More filling midday sustenance can fuel complex siesta dream sequences, such as tacos al carbon, two soft fajitas wrapped around chicken or beef and stuffed with guacamole, pico de gallo, sour cream, and charro beans ($12.50). Lasso a decadent dish off the dinner menu, such as beef tenderloin, a 7.5-ounce swatch of succulent beef marinated in a chipotle sauce with garlic and mushrooms ($26.95), or swan dive pout-first into tropical pescado al mango, featuring sautéed mahi-mahi over a rice pancake and topped with dry vermouth mango-habanero sauce ($18.95).