Just like the savory, oval-shaped loaves of bread that inspired its name, El Bolillo Bakery is a culinary staple amongst Houston's Hispanic community. Though it started as a modest corner bakery, El Bolillo is now nothing short of a legend. Its reputation can be traced back to the droves of people who flocked to the original Greater Heights location once word of its fresh pastries, churros, and tres leches cakes got out. Growing demand led the crew to open up a second and third location just to keep up with the crowds. Today, the bakery continues to craft fresh bolillos, tortillas, and empanadas every day. Though these would be highlights at almost any other restaurant, here they take a backseat to El Bolillo’s famous custom cakes. Available in a variety of flavors, these cakes can be made to resemble anything from a favorite cartoon character to a designer purse that looks and tastes just like the real thing.
The cooks at Fish Place fill their menu with Cajun and Creole-inspired seafood dishes, such as rich seafood gumbo and shrimp po-boy sandwiches with jalapeño mayonnaise. They also fry up oysters, redfish, and popcorn shrimp, and assemble 25-to-75-piece “Family Seafood Packs” with combinations of catfish, tilapia, chicken, hushpuppies, and fries.
Words such as “shrimp” and “gumbo” decorate the wallpaper in a handwritten pattern, just as they did in the oval office during the Jimmy Carter presidency. Furthermore, the cooks’ daily specials appear as vivid chalkboard portraits.
You could say fate is the reason Merida Mexican Restaurant is able to purvey its authentic Mayan and Mexican dishes today. Founders Olga and Rafael Acosta started their culinary journey in the 1950s after U.S. citizen Olga personally wrote President Eisenhower to request a visa and passport for her new husband. The young couple then moved to Houston, where, after much toil in the refrigerator repair business, Rafael converted his shop into the family’s new restaurant, crossing numerous hurdles as new business owners to set up their original 12-table eatery. Soon the restaurant began to grow around the unique recipes from Rafael’s home, Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula, drawing in customers with specials and flavors lovingly prepared by Olga. Today the restaurant continues to thrive thanks to its fresh, home-cooked dishes and the continuing spirit of the Acosta family, who stills run it.
Merida’s recipes have spanned three generations, with Rafael’s grandson Junior now behind the restaurant and its culinary specialties, such as cochinita pibil. To prepare it, chefs marinate seasoned pork in an adobo paste, top it with pickled onions, and serve it with Yucatan style black beans. These flavors join the menu’s other subtle flavors and nuanced Mayan dishes that mingle with the crispy tacos and burritos of their traditional Tex-Mex dishes. On weekends, live entertainment injects Merida with the lively sounds of contemporary Latin soul and other energetic acts, creating a destination for fans of the menu’s unique recipes and authentic spirit.
Poblano peppers, queso blanco, house-made flour tortillas, and other Mexican influences join Southern staples such as pecans and spinach dip on Tejas Grill and Sports Bar's expansive menu of burgers, salads, and fajitas. A longhorn skull peers over tap pulls as they loosen drafts of Shiner Bock, Fat Tire, and Lone Star and affable barkeeps pour more than 23 tequilas into cocktails and shots. Between stacked stone columns and Texas ephemera such as metal stars, vast plasma TVs dapple the walls of the airy dining room, flickering with sporting events and perpetual loops of The Lawrence Welk Show.
El Rey means “The King,” which is owner Manny Diaz’s nickname. If Manny is El Rey's king, then his grandmother is certainly its queen, as many of the menu's Cuban and Mexican staples come straight from her original recipes. These include a signature tortilla soup, cuban tacos topped with plantains, and ceviche marinated in lime juice and studded with mangoes. El Rey also serves breakfast tacos and desserts such as tres leches, which, when paired with a steaming cup of Cuban-style espresso, might convince morning roosters to crow in Spanish instead.
"Gogi" means "meat" in Korean, but the Oh My Gogi! food truck doesn't cater to carnivores only—when ordering a kimchi quesadilla, you can fill the tortilla with short ribs, chicken, Spanish pork, or veggies. Indeed, the truck is more concerned with playing with your food than limiting your options. Its menu combines Mexican street food with Korean barbecue, complete with homemade marinades and secret sauces. Add-ons such as a fried egg to fries and caramelized kimchi make meals out of barbecue tacos, which come with meat, double meat, or doubledouble meat. To find the truck at any given hour, fans can check Twitter and Facebook or commit to sleeping on top of it.