|From Taqueria Acapulco|
I live in a city that is dotted with restaurants with all types of cuisines and styles, each within arm distance of each other. However, the main staple of Houston is and has been for a long time, Mexican food. Our city pulses with Mexican influence. Big Mexican chains do not dominate here, although popular commercial places can be found as well, such as, Taco Bell, which I frown at, but will eat if I have to.
Houston is the mecca of small Mexican restaurants or eateries known as taquerias. Taquerias are small places to eat authentic Mexican food. They range from small dives that serve food out of mobile cantinas to trendy looking small cubic footage restaurants, very small, and almost always family owned and operated.
My hubby knows that I get really sad to see local, family-owned restaurants go out of business, really sad. Nothing upsets me more than to see a restaurant we ate at once or thought to visit go out of business, especially when I see how hard they tried to keep their businesses going. Their efforts range from "Free Kids Meals" on almost everyday of the week to 1/2 price off entrees with the purchase of one at regular price. It is hard to see someone's shot at the American dream disappear over time, until all you see of it is a "Closed" sign permanently placed on the door, a long with a "For Sale or Lease" sign strategically placed outside the parking lot. We see a lot more of this nowadays.
My effort to help is to visit as many of these restaurants when we can, WHEN we feel like eating out. I must confess, I hate eating out. I have yet to find one restaurant that makes me say, "WOW! I am so happy we blew that much money on food!" I am sorry to say, but I think I could make something just as good if not better (in most cases), then what we get, but I want to help and I want these businesses to succeed, because the little family owned and operated restaurants are more than just a business, they are someone's dream.
On that note, last week Gabe and I tried a new taqueria, Taqueria Acapulco, that opened up near our house about one month ago. We walked into see a few messy tables and no customers. The restaurant was being run by two women (one was the owner) who were still preparing food, washing earlier dishes, rolling silver ware, and trying to clean as fast as they could. The owner greeted us and apologized for the few messy tables, explaining her daughter could not make it to work to help. We smiled and complimented her on how nice the place was decorated. It was brightly lit and cheerfully decorated with vibrantly painted artwork. The smells coming from the kitchen were wonderful, scents of cumin and grilled meat filled the air. After we ordered and waited for our food, the owner animatedly talked to us about babies and family, since we had our baby with us. I ordered caldo con pollo, Mexican chicken soup, and Gabe ordered, the enchilada platter with cheese, beef, and chicken. We had very fresh guacamole, which she explained was not made until ordered, unlike other restaurants she knew that allowed their guacamole to sit out. Her homemade salsa was also very fresh and seasoned just right. It was spicy enough to bring out the flavors of the food and add zip to the chips, without taking out taste buds. Here are pictures of the main entrees:
The food was very good. I had not really been hungry when I arrived, but as soon as I tasted the soup, I started to devour it. Traditionally, the soup is served with chopped onion or pico de gallo, slices of lime, and rice, a long with corn tortillas (or flour), all meant to go in the soup. The restaurant served these along with the soup as well, Heaven. My husband's enchiladas were moist and rich. We were very happy with the quality of our food. As my husband began to take pictures of the food, she caught him, and asked me why he was taking pictures of the food. I told her in Spanish that I wrote a blog and liked to write about good food to share with people. She smiled. As we left, the owner earnestly said in Spanish that she wished for our return. You could sense the worry in her voice.
Since we have eaten there, I have tried to tell as many people about this place as possible. I hope the place will survive, but the outlook looks bleak. We have driven by it several times on our way home and have seen no cars, but I could be describing almost any of the other new restaurants opening up near our neighborhood.
I wish them all well.