Habanera and the Gringo - Houston

I had been seeing raves about this place on Yelp. Rave reviews for a brand new place on the East side? Yeah, right. Then Alison Cook of the Chronicle started tweeting about her experiences and published a very positive review.

I was craving some more Mexican today so I set out across town. I almost talked myself out of it and turned back about half way over; it’s a long drive. But I persevered and found the place without much trouble (the La Tapatia sign is gone; the only signage is on the building itself, so it’s easy to miss).

I started with the thick, irregular, house-made chips with salsa cruda. It was nothing to write home about but this is comfort food to us Texans, of course, so i dug in.

Then came the Beef Cheek Tostadas and I immediately knew I was glad I’d made the trip. Beef cheek meat tinga on tostadas - there were two of them - with refried black beans, crema, avocado and lettuce. They looked a little over-dressed to me but I left a lot of the crema on the plate and I thought the balance of flavors was just fine.

For my main I went with the Enchiladas Rojas. The menu description says ‘my grammy’s very special blend of chili (sic) peppers over open faced enchiladas…’ How can you possibly pass up something made with grammy’s special sauce? The proprietress/chef, the Habanera of the name, is from El Paso as Cook notes, so these are West Texas style stacked enchiladas. The filling is Monterey Jack cheese and diced onions and it’s topped with a fried egg. This was a very big plate - would have more than enough for me by itself, without the tostadas; I wound up taking half of it home. The enchiladas were too oniony for my taste; I’d try something else next time. And whereas Cook had commented on the saltiness, I thought my dishes could have used a little. The plate was very aromatic, the rice very tomatoey. I should have punctured the egg yolk for the money shot, of course, but didn’t think to.

Conclusion - I’m glad I went and I will return. There’s more interesting stuff on the menu. It’s going to be even farther for all the rest of you on this board than it was for me, so think of it in terms of a stop off on the way to or from Galveston or the bay, or perhaps if you have to drop off or pick someone up at Hobby. It is right next to the new Eastside location of Hong Kong Market, so that’s something, also.

The Gringo of the name, who serves as the server, was sitting at a table next to me chatting as I boxed up my leftovers and signed the ticket. He mentioned that they had recently started opening for breakfast at 7 am, including brunch Saturday and Sunday, but said the couple is having trouble getting there by 7. He advised if you’re planning to stop by for breakfast, don’t show up before 8. And even if you’re planning on being there at 9, it’d be a good idea to call first! Yeah, even almost a year in, it’s still a rough around the edges operation, but promising.

Oh, and those margaritas Cook mentioned. Like the plates, the glasses are pretty big.



That last bit is hilarious. Open for breakfast when we get there, ha!

The beef cheek dish sounds really interesting, and I know a certain El Paso ex-pat that would find home in those enchiladas, so I will add this to my list when passing through as you suggest.

West Texans are also fond of New Mexican food. I’ve only heard of one of those in Houston, Santa Fe Flats in the Tomball area. Haven’t made it there yet though.

I wondered if more of the menu would be identified as West Texas/New Mexican fare? The Flautas de Papa Cook mentioned? They’re on the regular and brunch menu.

The breakfast enchiladas and Enchiladas Verdes specify that they’re rolled; the Enchiladas con Mole say that they’re chicken enchiladas ‘topped with mole, Monterrey (sic) jack and avocado’ - doesn’t say if they’re rolled or stacked.

I’m not that familiar with West Texas/El Pasan/New Mexican dishes that are different. The menu does specify the use of Anaheim and New Mexican peppers in several dishes.

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I had lunch here last week and now wish I had re- read this first. I got the enchy Rojas also and had the same reaction. There’s no salt on any of the tables either. Lots of onions. My El Paso native however, ate half of mine and was scooping the sauce with a spoon. He was nearly crying over the “taste of home,” and sent mega thanks back to Habanera in the kitchen. The white queso has poblano strips in it but is bland. The salsa was really good but needs more jalapeños.

We shared a black bean napolito to start which was good. The jalapeño and cucumber marg was good but weak on booze.

There’s no yellow cheese on the menu, this is not Tex Mex, it’s Mex Mex and El Paseoan. I might want to try the Mexi-Dog which I hear is good. A friend insisted we go, he’s been 3 times in a week after discovering it last week while dropping someone at Hobby, he’s in love. Not too many diners at lunch though.

And the name is changed to Habanera and the Guero after getting a cease and desist from Gringo’s. :roll_eyes::roll_eyes:



Good review and pics.

Never been to Gringo’s, places with gimmicky names scare me off,although it gets good yelp reviews. It looks a beef fajita place with grilled shrimp and strips of chicken. The words chicken, shrimp, and veggie fajitas repel me.

Looking at the photos it looks like it could be kid central which also scares me.

That should say “nopales.”

I should have 'splained. The word fajita means little belt in Spanish cut from the beef skirt steak so the others are misnomers. That’s just me being an…

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Anyone heard from Brucesw lately? He must be taking a break.


I think that train has left the station.
Fajita is a flavor in all sorts of things, although I have no idea what it actually tastes like in potato chips and such.
I’ve given up worrying about mutations of our language in the internet age.

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That looks like Arizona Mexican food. I’d be at this place pretty often if it wasn’t 2000 miles away.


I was way less than lukewarm on the chicken fajita thing, appalled by shrimp, and totally freaked out by veggie fajitas. What’s next, escargot fajitas?

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I had salmon fajitas at El Tiempo Montrose. Not bad for not fajitas.



I could go for some oyster or crawfish non fajitas.

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