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.
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.
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).
Madres Restaurant's new location matches the charm of the original Friendswood eatery, dishing out the same elegant takes on lime-marinated ceviche, sizzling fajitas, and sauce-slathered enchiladas. After finishing off the last bacon-wrapped shrimp brochette, patrons can request that a chef wrap bacon around other Madres offerings, such as buffalo wings or glasses of red wine.
Known for its award-winning margaritas, Don Julio’s also wins guests over at several Texas locations with a variety of Mexican specialties, including guacamole made tableside. The chefs take pride in using fresh chicken, housemade chipotle sauce, seafood bought fresh at local Kemah markets, and a hearty amount of beans and avocado to flavor dishes. Entrees take their names from various Mexican cities, such as the Puerto Vallarta—a combination of enchiladas, tacos, tamales, and puffed chili con queso.
Fernando's menus showcase South American ingredients and flavors amid an elegant supper club atmosphere, where weekends herald live music and dance-floor tours. An appetizer sampler ($7 for one, $12 for two) relieves decision-making anxiety with a bundle of favorites: golden-fried battered shrimp, shredded yucca crab cake with black bean sauce, and ceviche de pescado (diced marinated snapper, onions, tomatoes, and cilantro lime). Make good on your promise to eat the entire ocean with Fernando's classic seafood paella (saffron rice, clams, mussels, scallops, shrimp, fish, crawfish, calamari, chicken, and Spanish chorizo, $28), or dress your plate in a juicy steak Hickl, 12 ounces of char-grilled marinated rib eye served with mashed potato and asparagus ($28). For carb-fueled feeding, experience the signature mind-meld of European and American cuisine exemplified in the pasta Fernando's, which graces angel-hair pasta with tomatoes, black beans, garlic, basil, cilantro, and grilled chicken breast ($12.50).