I recently made a weekend trip with my family to visit the city of Houston, TX. It was a quick last-minute decision to make the trip, and a couple of days before setting out I contacted my friend Jay Francis, who lives in Houston.
I wanted to let him know that I was going to be in town and would appreciate any advice he had, since I was looking forward to getting to know the Mexican grocery stores in the area. Well, let me tell you, Jay really knows the food scene in Houston! We met up and he took me to several amazing places in just one afternoon. I was excited to see all that Houston had to offer: farmers’ markets, bakeries, supermarkets, tamalerias, candy stores, and even a store where they sell fresh nixtamal masa to make your own tortillas at home! It was just like taking a little trip to Mexico. I hope you guys enjoy Jay’s guest post, along with his pictures and recommendations.
Jay Francis is an engineer, professionally, but has counted food history and food anthropology as his major hobby for many years. Because of friends and family in Mexico, he has traveled all over Mexico for over 50 years. He was fortunate to be able to assist Robb Walsh on three cookbooks as a recipe tester and researcher (The Tex-Mex Cookbook, Legends of Texas Barbecue, and The Chili Cookbook). He lives in Houston where, in retirement, he teaches cooking classes and also offers ethnic market and food tours of the city.
Recently, I had the pleasure to put together a little tour of my favorite places for Mexico related food and shopping here in Houston for my friend, Mely Martinez (www.mexicoinmykitchen.com).
Mely and her husband and son had decided to come down to Houston for a few days of vacation. Now, Houston is not really a tourist destination in my opinion; compared to, say, Austin or San Antonio. We do have some wonderful museums and some outsider art venues that are world class. But, Houston is kind of a business and industry kind of place.
However, Houstonians have found that the best way to socialize with friends is over food and this, plus the incredible multi-culturalism of Houston has led to a city with amazing selections of places to dine, of every ethnicity and of every price range.
Whole areas of our town have sprung up around dining:
Bellaire Boulevard – Chinese and Vietnamese (incorporating Beechnut and Bissonnet now)
Hillcroft Street – Indian and Pakistani primarily, but also Persian and Middle Eastern
Long Point Road – Korean and Central American
Airline Drive – Mexican
Harrisburg – Mexican
Scott / Cullen / OST – African-American
But on this particular meet-up with Mely (Facebook friends for several years, first physical meeting), we focused on Mexico!
Our tour began on Airline Drive, and this is the route that I am mapping out for you today:
El Bolillo Bakery (2518 Airline Drive) (www.elbolillo.com) - The person that started El Bolillo had a doughnut shop or two, originally in Galveston. His workers were from Mexico and one day they suggested to him that if he opened a Mexican bakery, they would join him and make all of the types of breads of Mexico. This is the default bakery for Mexican breads and your jaw will drop when you see the selection here. It is a beautiful venue and very pleasing to just hang out.
And then, a walk across the street to the Canino’s Farmer’s Market complex (2520 Airline Drive) (www.caninoproduce.com).
Canino’s has been Houston’s market since 1958. The Farmer’s Marketing Association is a private corporation whose shareholders are the original farmers or their descendants. As you walk through the complex, you will discover all things Mexican: dry goods like molcajetes, masa grinders, toys, piñatas, and more; food products associated with Mexico like dried chiles, huazontle, flor de calabaza, chepil, cilantro, tropical fruits and more.
Next, cross back over the street to Lone Star Culinary (formerly Flores Spices and still owned by the same family) (1299 Gibbs at Airline). Recently remodeled, the place looks fantastic. Here, you will find any spice you could think of and much more, in the way of specialty products. Special note: the Houston location of Penzey’s Spices is also located in the Heights at 516 W 19th Street.
And now, across the street again the Carniceria Teloloapan for shopping or something to eat (2430 Airline Drive). And then, next door to Reyes Produce (2426 Airline Drive) for a look-see at their extensive collection of cookware, candies, dried chiles, and more.
Finishing up, we now head south on Airline for a stop at the local cheese purveyors: Houston Dairy Maids (2201 Airline Drive) (www.houstondairymaids.com)
And then, across the street to Tampico Seafood (2115 Airline Drive) (www.tampicoseafood.com) for a huachinango. You will pick your fish from their market section, which will then be grilled a la plancha style and served on a bed of grilled onions and bell peppers with a side of fries or fried rice (a Tampico tradition from the large Chinese population there). They have a full bar and other food choices too.
We continue south on Airline Drive crossing Cavalcade (just to the west on Cavalcade is the Asia Grocers, featuring Thai, Lao, Cambodian goods and serving food as well) and come to the best candy store, Delicias Mexicanas (1777 Airline Drive) (www.lasdeliciasmexicanas.com), your one-stop shop for traditional Mexican candies including glorias, dulce de leche, cajeta, hard candies, candied fruits and more. Reyes Produce also carries sweets, so you can cost compare at both places if you wish.
Further south, where Airline Drive dead-ends into North Main, three recommended restaurants: Spanish Flowers Mexican Restaurant, Teotihuacan Mexican Restaurant, and Pinkerton’s Barbecue (quickly turning into one of the top five places for barbecue in Houston)
The tour is finished. Turning west on North Main will take you to the Heights via 20th and turning east will take you to I-45. Both of which will have even more interesting places to shop and eat. But we will save those for another time.
I hope you enjoyed this great post about the Mexican food markets in Houston.
Don't forget to share on your Social Channels and also visit this guests posts by Mexican Chef Adrian Herrera & Chef Julio Ortega