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.
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).
With traditional dinner and lunch menus chock-full of seafood, poultry, and meat plates, Las Alamedas quells a litany of cravings in an elegant dining room. In the fajita prime-sliced entrée ($16 for lunch; $20 for dinner), slices of mesquite-grilled beef mingle with onions and poblano peppers on a plate flanked by guacamole, pico de gallo, charro beans, and flour tortillas that can be used to smuggle bottles of hot sauce out of the restaurant. A serving of camarones Cozumel fills bellies with coconut pan-fried shrimp, a habanero and mango dipping sauce, and a side of potatoes ($18 for lunch; $24 for dinner), while the robalo chileno coats a serving of sea bass in herbs and sundried-tomato sauce ($27; dinner only). The vegetarian plate accommodates meat-free diets, slinging spinach-and-cheese enchiladas with grilled vegetables, rice, and guacamole ($15, dinner only) . Though the high ceilings and elegant arched doorways might tempt diners to stay indoors, Las Alamedas offers patio seating for those who want to breathe fresh air or make fake mustaches out of plant life.
Chefs at Aztecas Margarita Bar & Grill prepare a full menu of authentic Mexican fare including guacamole made to order, dark mole poblano sauces, and fresh ceviche. The pollo Azteca—marinated and chargrilled chicken breast with Azteca sauce, grilled onions, and chili con queso—ignites palates with more flavor and fewer missing teeth than chewing firecrackers. Meanwhile, mariscos mex-tex enchiladas with sautéed shrimp and crab topped with house-made ancho poblano cream sauce follow up orders of Azteca nachos and twice-fried, cheese-filled jalapeños rellenos. The red, green, and yellow walls adorned with exposed bricks and flat-screen TVs surround diners during the day and dancers twirling to live music or DJs throughout the night. Behind the full bar, bartenders pour signature margaritas, frozen or on the rocks, infused with fruit flavors such as guava or mango. An outdoor patio holds additional seating for dining alfresco or picnicking without bears.
Carlos Mencia, the owner of Maggie Rita’s Mexican Kitchen, has his face emblazoned across menus tinged with Mexican, Spanish, South American, and Texan culinary traditions. In ceviche, a traditional Peruvian dish, citric acid from lemons or limes cooks cubes of white fish infused with the flavors of spices and peppers. Empanadas burst open, spilling steam and revealing spicy mango and pork. The Tex-Mex influences shine in enchiladas, burritos or tacos, corn tortillas that cradle roasted pork or beef fajitas. Traditional Tex-Mex ingredients, from poblano peppers to cream sauces infused with cilantro and jalapeño, fill the plates of diners and the briefcases of lawyers who don’t mind not being prepared for a trial.
Berryhill Baja Grill continues an 84-year-old culinary tradition begun by Walter Berryhill, who sold his handmade tamales around Houston with nothing but a pushcart, a tortilla press, and his personal recipe. Today, the grill’s tamales pack savory cornmeal and fillings such as beef, pork, and spinach within cornhusks recently liberated from overcrowded cornucopias. Elsewhere on the menu, fish tacos combine tempura-battered fish, special sauce, and cilantro in a hearty corn tortilla, and pollo platters smother grilled chicken breast with affection in the form of poblano peppers and mushrooms—the hugs and joint tax returns of the food world.