One of the truest of Tex-Mex creations, the original fajitas came from the Mexican Cowboys or Vaqueros in West Texas and the Rio Grande Valley, who would cook the tough skirt steak right on the campfire. Today, we use the word “fajitas” to describe anything cooked on a grill and served hot, with an accompaniment of grilled vegetables, cheese and condiments. To me, fajitas are meant to be shared, in true family style. It’s an event when a huge platter of sizzling meat comes out, and the table is suddenly too small for all the accompaniments! The celebration of food can put a good-hearted plate of enchiladas to shame. From presentation to plate, traditional and those with a unique twist, here’s some of the best we’ve found around the state!
The Original Ninfa’s on Navigation, Houston Growing up in Houston, my first fajitas were at Ninfa’s, and to try them was to fall in love with them! Even though the Laurenzo family no longer owns the restaurants, the food at the original has never faultered. While they still offer grilled skirt fajitas, they also offer other meats as well as portobello mushroom. Executive chef Alex Padilla grew up at Ninfas, his mother was a cook.
Laurenzo’s El Tiempo Cantina on Richmond, Houston The original El Tiempo was opened in 1998 by two of Mama Ninfa’s sons, and carries on some of the same recipes, but offers unique twist with ahi tuna or salmon fajitas, too. Just as with Ninfa’s, the original location is still the best.
Lupe Tortillas 318 Stafford, Houston Sure, you’ll find Lupe Tortillas all over Texas, but like a broken record, I’m going to tell you that the location on Stafford is the best! Like most restaurants, they’ve tried to personalize their fajitas with jalapeno sausage and crab-stuffed shrimp, but it’s hard to beat their spicy beef!
El Ranchito, Dallas (And I’m pretty fond of the Arlington location as well) After an evening spent before a sizzling plate of fajitas, a margarita and the mariachi band playing in the background, you understand how fajitas have become so popular! The addition of tender, grilled cabrito to their fajitas makes it a favorite!
Mariano’s Arlington Once again, I prefer this original location to their newer ones, where they lay claim to creating the frozen margarita. Long time fans of the restaurant, I don’t remember ever trying the fajitas until the took their steak off the menu, but the beef fajitas drizzled in their garlic herb butter, which made the steak so good, is a definite reason to keep going back.
Rosario’s San Antonio While it’s easy to understand every tourist desire to dine on the Riverwalk in San Antonio, I think the King William Area is the heart of the Alamo City, and Rosario’s restaurant is what fuels that heart! The veggie Parrilla del Jardin with sweet potatoes, corn, cauliflower, mushrooms, zucchini and chayote squash and a poblano pepper is a definite favorite, and being the carnivore I am, we usually order it AND an order of the beef fajitas.
Los Bandidos Carlos and Mickeys, El Paso Mariachis and a plate piled high with tender, sizzling fajitas makes this El Paso location a favorite! The gigantic margaritas don’t hurt, either!
Vermillion Restaurant and Watering Hole, Brownsville Everything is amazing at this Rio Grande Valley restaurant, which has been open since 1934, but the fajitas are just stand outs! Owner George Perez grew up working in the restaurant with his mother since he was 13. In the cultural district, you’re just a few blocks from the Children’s Museum of Brownsville and the Gladys Porter Zoo.
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