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The Zen Cook

A travel, food and wine writer. My main interests include travel, culture, food, wine and other related topics. My travel writing appears in many newspapers and magazines as well as in international and online publications.


Los TIOS Mexican Restaurant

 9527 Westheimer Rd
Houston, TX

Old School 70's Tex-Mex

Los Tios is a casual, old school Tex-Mex restaurant that is something of a Houston institution. This 47 year old restaurant is the kind of place where workers know your name and orders are done by memory, including Tex-Mex dishes served exactly as they were when the restaurant started four decades ago.

I hadn’t visited Los Tios since I was a child in the 1970’s. The dishes really haven’t changed all that much. All of the old school Tex-Mex options are still on the menu. Gary Adair, who purchased the restaurant from its original owner Rosemary Garnett in 2000 who took over Los Tios in 2000 has since added a few locations. The updated menu is more of an enhancement of the original, adding fajitas, homemade tortillas, and premium margaritas.

The food, ambiance and service remain pretty much the same since those days. Los Tios is perhaps best known for its pralines and queso puffs. The service is consistent, provided by employees who have remained with the restaurant throughout their entire careers.

Los Tios offers what I think of as old folks Tex-Mex; bland and inoffensive, similar to what you would experience from a frozen dinner purchased at your local supermarket. Los Tios is definitely ia place to take the kids or the grandparents. The food isn’t stellar and you’ll find tamales, enchiladas and other items covered in chile gravy and the ample use of seasoned grayish ground beef filling tacos and other items just like they were in 70’s.

The clientele generally matches the food; regulars who have been coming to Los Tios for years and don’t particularly like change or adventurous eating. Gray hair, white, golf shirts, cargo shorts and tube socks with sandals or orthopedic shoes abound here.

If you’re a vegetarian Los Tios is definitely not the best choice for you unless you’re willing to accept dining options generally involving queso or salads made with iceberg lettuce; hold the seasoned ground beef please.

Various combo meals have gone on and off the menu since my childhood, but these dishes are still available; the staff knows them all and knows how to ring them up much like a “Secret” Menu.

The combination plates on the current official Los Tios menu ostensibly go up to No. 8, though years ago there were as many as 14. I understand that the regulars rebelled against the truncated menu and continued to order these off-the-menu combination plates, and Los Tios — in humble deference to its patrons — continued to serve them. But only if you asked.

Today, the most popular “secret,” request-only combination plates are the No. 14 and the No. 12 (nachos, puffy queso, cheese enchilada and Mexican rice). Clandestine cooking must taste better because I enjoyed the No. 14 so much that I plan to order the No. 12 next time.

For me the puffy tacos, which have been on the menu since the original Beechnut location opened in 1970 are one of the most interesting menu options. They’re not just a San Antonio thing either. For 35 years, one woman, Juanita García, has made them. Apparently not just anyone can do it. Juanita shared that It takes the most tender hand, “like holding a piece of lace.”

If you’re seeking an advant-garde chef-centered restaurant offering an enlightened take on Tex-Mex Los Tios is definitely not the place for you. However, if you’re of a nostalgic bent, seeking comfort food from your childhood or looking for a kid-friendly venue or one bland and inoffensive enough to please your older relatives give this Houston institution a visit.

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  • 7/24/2017

    Alaingh tried Los TIOS Mexican Restaurant in Woodlake/ Briar Meadow.

  • 6/24/2017

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  • 2/15/2017

    Alaingh tried Seasons 52 Restaurant in Memorial, liked it, and rated it . Alaingh liked the food, liked the service, and liked the ambiance.

  • 6/26/2016

    Alaingh tried Casa Alberto, didn't like it, and rated it . Alaingh liked the food, didn't like the service, and didn't like the ambiance.

  • 3/06/2016

    Alaingh tried Brio Tuscan Grille in Memorial and liked it. Alaingh liked the food.

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