The Skinny: The killer Margaritas are kin to the ones from their mother ship, El Tiempo. After two, you won't know who's who.
The Fat: Mexican food is Mexican food, some will say. This place is no better than the best, but better than most and that means a lot in a sea of Mexican restaurants.
While I'm a huge lover of the cultural fare that infiltrates the Houston area, back in my hometown of Tampa, Florida, I always despised the sorry attempts the local restaurants made to serve Mexican food. But after a few years of H-town living and after reconfiguring my taste buds' likes and dislikes, Tex Mex has moved near the top of my list of culinary cravings. What can I say? I'm a fan!
First of all, I love to take my time when I dine. If I want to eat something on the fly, I'll whip up a grilled cheese and a side salad in the comfort of my own home. So - Mexican restaurant or not - if I'm out, I'm in it for the long haul; the drinks, the apps, and the conversation between courses. And so we started, ever so slowly, with their Margaritas. Yowza!
Well, one drink later, I was fully prepared to skip my sentimental yearning for leisurely dining and head out to the bars. Still, with my dining companion as the sole voice of reason, we managed to get ourselves together and order some food. We were going to see a friend's band play later that night and wanted to be "vertical" for the event.
The chips are crisp and the salsas (green and red) are tasty and fresh. We decided on a few apps to share. The Seared Tuna appetizer was a bit of a let down; a little overpriced for the portion size, but perfectly cooked and delicious nonetheless. If you want seared tuna, I'd save my fresh fish craving for another spot.
We also ordered the 7 Cheese, Crab, Artichoke & Spinach Dip. This masterful pot-o-heart attack was out of this world. A side of warm tortillas is served with a bowl of a gazillion cheeses (seven, to be exact) melted together with bits of crab and -you guessed it- Spinach and Artichoke. It was hard to distinguish the flavors from one another, but yummy just the same. It's a dip. That's how they work.
The shrimp cocktail is fantastic; a huge sundae glass filled with shrimp & fresh avocado drenched in a perfectly spiced red sauce and served with toast points. Then get ready for the Cannonball. This thing could kill a village. It's a full avocado stuffed with cheese and chicken and then (get this) deep fried. Sure it's a heart attack waiting to happen, but you'll be done eating it long before that becomes an issue.
I'd take a pass on the Jicama and Mango Salad. While it sounds exotic and delectable (don't worry , we were fooled too), the careless cuts of jicama and mango were little more than an unflattering duo plopped on a plate and drenched in a flavorless lime dressing. The whole dish proved to be messy and quite unappetizing.
I love their classics, like quesadillas, with any filling of chicken, beef or shrimp. Their enchiladas are pretty great too.
If you're looking to be floored by ingenious preparations, have another drink. This place is major Mexican and good at...the basics. But that's what we all love about Mexican food anyway, isn't it? The basics. At 1308 Cantina, you really can't go wrong. Just stick to the things you love about Tex Mex and you'll be happy.
P.S. The service is fantastic! Your chip bowl never runneth dry. Many of the servers won't be able to describe the menu items to you, I think it's because there are about 1000 items on the menu, so stick with what you know.
Oh, and my favorite waiter goes by the name of Larry. He's Mexican, but says that his hippy parents just loved the name "Larry." It's a funny story, ask for him and ask him about it. Then ask him what his middle name is. Then, after your second Margarita, ask him what a "Jose Conseco" is. Good times!
Location: 1308 Montrose Blvd. 713.807.8996
Nobody likes a sad, skinny baby...nobody!
Whether I’m ordering a meal at a restaurant or cooking up something at home, enjoying what I eat brings me immense satisfaction. On the other hand, being disappointed in a meal sends me into tantrum mode.
I expect certain things out of a dining experience. I’m realistic about the standards I hold for each place, from the local taco bar to the five star steak house. What I've decided is that it's about a perfect balance between service, food quality, ambiance and price. That may seem like a lot to juggle, but Houston is a big city with a plethora of restaurants to choose from. There’s no reason to expect anything less than the best.
If you strip my needs down to the bare essentials, you'll find I'm very much like a baby; I love tasty food and I love to be happy. If an experience doesn't generate a sense of fulfillment for those two basic needs...you're gonna hear me cry.
Nobody likes a sad, skinny baby...nobody!