Skillets of fajitas sizzle on their way to the dining room's deep booths. Chords from a Spanish guitar spill from the bar as laughs roll out from one of three banquet rooms. On the patio, some 40 tables share their brick-paved pen with a mechanical bull that snarls at passersby and inflatable moonwalks filled with playful children.
Such is a typical evening at Las Rosas Mexican Restaurant, where an unmistakable energy charges the entire facility. The current begins in the kitchen, where each day chefs follow family recipes to churn out handmade tamales, tortillas, and red and green sauces. The vibe then pulses through the dining room, where a white stone fireplace anchors an open space flanked by booths and 13 60-inch TVs that broadcast games and events. The patio hosts alfresco dining and amusements for the young and young-at-heart who aren't afraid to tumble off a carnival ride in public.
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 jalape?o, 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.
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.
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.