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).
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.
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.
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.
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.