Around the World in Houston: Discover Mexico

Photo courtesy of Houston Fiestas Patrias Parade

With a labyrinth of cultures represented in every nook and cranny of town, Houston is one of the most ethnically diverse cities in America. To celebrate this world-class melting pot, we’ll be exploring a new region of the globe through a Houston lens each week, from annual festivals and museums to restaurants and cultural experiences. Join the journey with our Around the World in Houston series.

From cultural festivals and holiday celebrations to Spanish language meetups and restaurants dishing out everything from scratch-made tamales to deep, rich moles, Mexico’s rich culture thrives throughout the city.

Annual Festivals & Cultural Events

  • Día De Los Muertos – Houston’s annual Day of the Dead celebrations include events and festivals from MECA, the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, the Lawndale Art Center, and the National Museum of Funeral History.
  • Fiesta Patrias Held at Traders Village, this annual festival commemorates Father Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla’s grito de Dolores, who called for the end of Spanish rule in Mexico. The 2018 celebration is set for Sunday, September 16, featuring a free live concert, festive folk dancing, and family fun.
  • Houston Latin Fest Celebrate Latin heritage through music and dance, art, food, and drink at this multi-cultural festival.
  • Tamale FestivalEach December, tamale season kicks off with this festive food and musical showcase, featuring a tamale eating contest, live music, and plenty of food and drink vendors offering tamales and festival eats. The 2018 festival is set for Saturday, December 1.
  • Texas Taco Music Fest – This fun festival combines food, music, and Latin culture to raise money for cultural programs. In addition to a taco throwdown, expect things like live bands, demonstration and crafts booths, wandering Mariachis, a mechanical bull, and a special kid’s block. The 2018 festival is set to be held on Saturday, September 15 in Discovery Green.

Museums, Art & Cultural Organizations

  • Institute of Hispanic Culture of Houston This local non-profit organization was founded in 1965 to preserve the richness of Hispanic culture and its language. Today, it serves the Hispanic community and provides various educational activities in collaboration with local universities and arts organizations.
  • Casa Ramirez This vibrant 19th Street folk art gallery showcases Mexican and Latin works, from portraits and antiques to ceramics, books, and handicrafts.
  • Museum of Fine Arts, Houston The Latin American Art collection boasts a core library of modern and contemporary art with more than 550 emblematic from Mexico, Central and South America, the Caribbean, and works by Latino artists in the United States.
  • Talento Bilingüe de Houston Located in the East End, this bilingual, non-profit cultural center strives to enhance Houston’s Latino arts experience through collaboration, education. and preservation.

Mexican Food & Drink

Restaurants & Bars

  • 100% TaquitoThis Greenway/Upper Kirby haunt offers small tacos with fillings like pollo con mole, spicy chipotle brisket and al pastor, plus a lineup of tostadas, tortas, quesadillas, and ensaladas.
  • Arnaldo Richards’ PicosRaised in Monterrey, Mexico, Arnaldo Richards is a third-generation restaurateur. Hit his namesake spot to indulge in the culinary riches of the seven regions of Mexican cuisine—North, South, Central Mexico, South Pacific Coast, The Bajio, Northern Pacific Coast, and The Gulf, with a menu ranging from huachinango tikin xik (red snapper charbroiled on banana leaves with habanero salsa) to chiles en nogada tradicionales (roasted poblano peppers stuffed with pulled pork and cooked in a peanut sauce with green olives, almonds, and raisins).
  • Casa De LeonThis Long Point hole-in-the-wall is fully authentic, offering dishes like cabrito adobado, whole-fried snapper, and enchiladas verdes.
  • CaracolOne of hometown hero, chef and restaurateur Hugo Ortega’s Mexican-influenced jewels, Caracol celebrates the bounty of sea life and flavors from Mexico’s coasts. Dine on crudos and cocteles, whole-roasted fish, and the house favorite ostiones asados—wood-roasted Gulf oysters positively with chipotle butter.
  • Connie’s SeafoodCure your hangover with Vuelve a la Vida soup and spicy micheladas at one of these cult favorite seafood spots.
  • CucharaYou’ll find traditional eats inspired by Mexico City at this artsy Montrose bistro. Enjoy dishes such as picaditas, gorditas de chicharron, mole negro, and mixiotes de camarón.
  • Dona Maria Mexican CafeHit this East End Mexican cafe for enchiladas, tacos, and huevos rancheros on the cheap.
  • El Big BadYou’ll find all the tequila at this Mexican gastro-cantina in Downtown. El Big Bad infuses varieties in-house, with flavors ranging from horchata and habanero to mango and toasted hominy. Sip a margarita alongside elote, carne asada and al pastor tacos, and bread pudding finished with goat milk caramel cajeta.
  • El Gallo de Jalisco From menudo and mole to carne guisasa, Mexican fare is just as cheap as it is tasty at this unassuming White Oak joint.
  • El Hidalguense Dine on cabrito, nopales, and tripe tacos on handmade tortillas at this Long Point staple.
  • El Tiempo Hit an outpost of this local institution to dig into a towering parrillada mixtas, overflowing with things like carnitas, quail, shrimp, fajitas, lobster and chile relleno, and served alongside fixin’s and scratch-made tortillas.
  • Hugo’sChef Hugo Ortega’s namesake eatery brings the earthy flavors of Mexico to Montrose, with one of the city’s hottest brunch buffets, to boot. Indulge in slow-roasted cochinita pibil, braised duck mole, lamb barbacoa, and pulpo al carbon, and don’t forget to save room for pastry chef Ruben Ortega’s unbeatable desserts, from capirotada (Mexico’s version of bread pudding) to pastel de chocolate al chipotle (dark chocolate chipotle-infused cake).
  • La Guadalupana Bakery & CaféVisit this small Montrose bakery and café for authentic dishes like chilaquiles, machaca nortena, menudo, pollo guisado, pescado a la veracruzana, tres leches, and flan.
  • La MacroHead here for city’s best trompo, juicy pork meat slow-spun under a juicy pineapple on a spit.
  • La Mexicana RestaurantThis Montrose haunt draws a brunch crowd on weekends thanks to its killer desayunos plates—think chilaquiles, migas, huevos rancheros, and tacos stuffed with huevos, papas, frijoles, chicharron, and chorizo.
  • Laredo Taqueria With multiple locations dotting the city, Laredo has gained a cult following thanks to its breakfast tacos and soft, handmade tortillas.
  • Luna Y Sol Mexican GrillGet homestyle Mexican fare at this Midtown eatery, from queso fundido and pozole to enchiladas and adobo pork.
  • The Original Alamo TamalesThis East End tamale house uses old-school family recipes to make grandma-style tamales in flavors like spicy pork, chicken, beef, jalapeño and cheese, and bean.
  • The Original Ninfa’s on NavigationWhile it may been known for its iconic Tex-Mex fajitas, you’ll also find authentic Mexican staples like chiles rellenos, cochinita pibil, cabrito flautas and enchiladas de mole at this East End institution.
    The Pastry War
    This popular Downtown mezcaleria rocks agave spirits cherry-picked from family-owned distilleries in Mexico. Sip mezcal margaritas and expertly crafted cocktails kissed with things like grapefruit, tamarind and pineapple-Mexican saffron soda; or get acquainted with the lengthy mezcal and tequila list, straight-up.
  • Puebla’s Mexican KitchenOver on North Main, this bright and vibrant Mexican kitchen offers all day breakfast (think chilaquiles, egg, and chorizo stuffed gorditas and huevos con nopales), plus dishes like caldo de pollo, torta, picaditas, chile relleno, and housemade mole.
  • Tacos Tierra CalienteSitting a parking lot next to West Alabama Ice House, Tacos Tierra Caliente is one of Houston’s favorite food trucks. Stop by to pickup excellent tacos stuffed with pastor, barbacoa, lengua and more.
  • Tampico Refresqueria –  Get raspas (Mexican snow cones) and aguas in flavors like mango, raspberry, white coconut and papaya, plus snacks from elote to arroz con leche.
  • Teotihuacan Mexican CafeWith three locations, get molten queso fundido, pescado Veracruz, chile relleno, and mixed parrilladas at this vintage Mexican joint.
  • Tortas El AngelThis Heights area sandwich stop rocks a lineup of tortas alongside dishes like huevos rancheros, whole fried tilapia, milanesa, and weekends-only menudo.
  • Villa ArcosSee why Villa Arcos’ super breakfast tacos, filled with things like eggs, beans, potato, chorizo, and chicharones, have become an East End staple.
  • XochiChef Hugo Ortega’s latest creation is a much welcome addition to Downtown. Located on the first floor of the Marriott Marquis Houston across from Discovery Green, Xochi shows off the flavors of Oaxaca through a creative lens, with highlights including housemade masas, earthy moles, housemade chocolate, and specialities like grasshoppers and tlayudas (huge tortillas, fire-roasted with toppings).

Grocery Stores & Bake Shops

  • Canino Produce Open since 1958, this bustling farmers market sprawls over 20,000 square feet, with the store in the front and tapestry of produce stands behind it. You’ll feel like you’re at a true Mexican market as you pick through the large variety of goods and produce and stop for bites at the various food stands and trucks.
  • El BolilloHouston’s finest Mexican bakery sits on Airline across from Canino. Here, you’ll find a plethora of pan dulce in the form of freshly baked bolillo, torta, conchas and churros, plus some of the best tres leches cakes in town.
  • Fiesta Mart With locations across Houston, Fiesta offers a lively atmosphere and no shortage of flavor. Shop for locally-sourced produce, fresh meats and seafood; pickup housemade tres leches and bollilos; and find Mexican specialty items like Abuelita chocolate to Zulka brown sugar.
  • La Familia Meat Market Hit this East End market to pick up specialty meats, baked goods, and tacos.
  • Mi TiendaWith a duo of locations, this massive Mexican grocery store carries aguas frescas, nopalitos, pan dulce, freshly made tortillas, costillas, lengua and more.

Language Classes, Education Centers, Groups & Meet-Ups

  • Habla Houston Learn to speak Spanish through weekly classes, interactive meetups and more.
  • Spanish over CoffeeBrush up on your Spanish language skills with all-level classes that help you learn through conversation. Program experiences include dinner parties, game nights, scavenger hunts, and grocery shopping.
  • The Houston Spanish Language MeetupThis meetup connects Spanish speakers of all levels, offering fun activities around Houston.
  • Hispanic Association for Cultural Enrichment at Rice Known as HACER for short, this Rice University student group sponsors social and cultural events.
  • Houston Hispanic Chamber of Commerce The Houston Hispanic Chamber of Commerce is the leading advocate for Hispanic business and civic interests in the Greater Houston area, fostering networking and partnerships, organizing a wide array of programming and identifying business opportunities.
  • Latin Women’s Initiative This nonprofit organization strives to make difference in the lives of Latin women and their families by providing both financial and volunteer support to several local nonprofit organizations in the Houston community.
  • Houston Aztec Dance The Calmecac Tonantzin Yolilitzyotl Aztec Dance & Drum Group is an open community-based group dedicated to learning and teaching Mexicayotl dancing, drumming, and culture. Try a class or check out the calendar of events to learn more.

Other Notables

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Brooke Viggiano is a food and lifestyle writer residing in Houston. When she's not contributing to publications like 365 Things to Do in Houston, Thrillist Houston and the Houston Press, she's on the hunt for the coolest happenings in the city. You can follow her musings on Twitter @BrookeViggiano .