Why we couldn’t like Los Tios as much as Jay Francis seems to

On every table at Los Tios there is a framed card from Jay Francis extolling the crispy taco, so we had to try it. We tried some other things too. This is a place we went to when the kids were little, but gave up on because of its weary tex-mex predictability. Now I hear Danny went here regularly in high school, so maybe we should feel nostalgic, spying into his high school self. I guess it is not far out of the way between Bellaire High School, and our home. What Jay apparently liked so much was the way this flat, fried tortilla falls apart in crispy goodness. He even speculated that Houston may be the only place to find them. I was surprised because what I remember as being hard to get was the soft corn tortilla tacos, like we ate at home or on the street in Mexico. Doesn’t even Taco Bell have crispy tortillas, bent into a U?

We didn’t try much. The salsa was based on canned tomatoes, as far as I could tell, and was acceptable, though it could have been hotter. The green was too bland. To my palate there was no hint of the subtle sauces of Mexico. No evidence of dried and toasted guajillo, ancho, chipotle, or other chiles that give the salsas their complexity. The bite of tomatillos, the mustiness of epazote, no, not present. Mexican oregano might have been in the red salsa, but it too was not special.

I suppose the place Los Tios excels is texture, crunch, crumble, melt. That is except for in the mushy fish taco, but that is certainly relatively new, since I don’t remember it from earlier, and it is more of a baja thing. The restaurant on Beechnut is an apparently clean, and certainly well-lighted place, and there is some comfort in that. It is crowded and cheerful, so why should we care if the food isn’t so special?

I have a theory that Mexican restaurants don’t have to worry too much about their food because people abandon their normal beer or glass of wine for powerful margaritas, and taste only through an agave alcohol haze, when everything seems better. Maybe I should try that, but margaritas are generally too strong for me. I had the iced tea and it was acceptable.

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The tortilla chips were light, bland.

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This salsa was good, sharp, slightly sour, slightly picante, but predictable.

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Skip the green sauce.

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That table was only empty a moment! Even Sunday night there were big lines.

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Dave got a combo, with that puffy, velveeta-drenched tortilla.

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Danny’s cheese enchiladas reminded me of everything I didn’t like about this place. No real sauces.

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Don’t get the fish taco. The fish was mealy, the breading crumbly.

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According to the little card, this is the taco Jay just loves. It was the best thing we tried, mild, honest flavors,but no zing.

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About Joan E. Strassmann

Evolutionary biologist, studies social behavior in insects & microbes, interested in education, travel, birds, tropics, nature, food; biology professor at Washington University in St. Louis
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One Response to Why we couldn’t like Los Tios as much as Jay Francis seems to

  1. Danny says:

    The cheese enchiladas were good, but a bit salty. Los Tios is the type of place where you have to accept the fact that you will be getting the most Americanized version of Tex-Mex possible (and its packed full of gringos to nail the point home). As long as you go in there with the proper expectations, and avoid their non-staples (like fish tacos), you should be fine. Not fully satisfied, but fine.

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