The secret lovechild of Texan and Mexican cuisines, Tex-Mex was kept hidden away in shame and forced to drink only generic-brand soda for years. Savor the forbidden fruits of this culinary union with today's Groupon: for $20, you get $40 worth of fine Mexican cuisine at Armandos on Westheimer Road in River Oaks. Per state law, this deal is not valid for alcohol.
For more than 30 years, restaurateur Armando Palacios has prided his bistro on exceptional Mexican food, unparalleled hospitality, and infamous margaritas. The menu combines Tex-Mex staples such as buttery guacamole, hearty nachos, and fresh black and pinto beans handpicked for their supreme jumping skills. To start, the queso flameado layers airy mozzarella cheese with a choice of chorizo or sautéed vegetables on homemade thin tortillas ($9 for three tortillas, $14 for five). Sink eager bicuspids into a hearty meal of eight-ounce fresh-cut boneless rib eye, two cheddar cheese enchiladas and chili con carne sauce ($22). Or, feast on fish tacos (grilled tilapia in spinach tortillas with fresh avocado, green and red cabbage, cheddar and mozzarella cheese, and chopped tomatoes, $18). The tres leches, a deceptively innocent-looking moist white cake accented with cinnamon and white frosting ($8), puts diners under the table with the inebriating decadence of three milks.
Originally opened in 1978, Armandos reopened in 2007 after a seven-year hiatus and a full redesign. Heavy wood rafters and soft golden light create a cavernous space filled with heirloom mirrors, intricate ironwork, and sumptuous crimson drapery just begging to be fashioned into Grecian tunics. Dark wood cabinets exhibit a collection of authentic Mexican pottery that points to Palacios's other enterprise, the New World Museum, a home for world-class Hispanic contemporary art. With Armandos open for dinner every day of the week after 4 p.m., call ahead to make a reservation.
- Like everything else I have eaten at Armandos, the enchiladas were remarkable for their simplicity. Thin, handmade corn tortillas were wrapped around chunks of juicy roasted chicken and served in a tart sauce of tomatillos and green chiles. – Robb Walsh, Houston Press
- “Socialites” and other “loyal”, “older” customers make the scene at this “clubby” River Oaks Tex-Mexer set in “flashy” art-adorned digs, where the “solid”, “not-too-adventurous” cooking gains a lift from “wonderful margaritas” – Zagat