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Pure Puerto Rico

Tex Chick goes from fast food to home food of the island

Tex Chick seats 14 maximum, and when the place is full, it's a tight fit. Friendships are quickly made as all seats are occupied, strangers or not. And nobody seems to mind that none of the cutlery or plates match.

A Tex Chick meal begins (if you don't order the mofongo) with a plate of lettuce and tomatoes accompanied by a pair of tostones, another plantain dish, this one sliced, then flattened, sometimes with the back of a large kitchen knife, before being fried. The result looks something like a johnnycake, with a crunchy outside shell that gives way to a tender interior on the first bite. To accompany this you might select a drink popular among Caribbean Hispanics called malta. Thick, dark and very sweet, malta has a heavy, rich taste and a smell similar to the malt extract used by homebrewers to brew beer (though one dining companion likened it to drinking melted Sugar Daddies). Another beverage is the champagne soda, which has a similarity to cream soda, though with a slight banana flavor.

For a main course, I ordered the carne frita. Literally translated, that means fried meat, but in reality it's a delicious, hearty beef stew not unlike the Cuban ropa vieja. It had just the right amount of green olives -- any more, and the olives would have overpowered the other flavors. As with many Spanish Caribbean dishes, the base starts with a sofrito made of onions, garlic and bell peppers. Another favored dish is the bacalao, or salted cod chopped up and served in a moist sauce. For those raised on bland white fish, this might be a bit strong, but for those who like fish to actually taste like fish, the bacalao is a feisty find. And as with all the cuisines of the Caribbean, beans and rice are the preferred side dish; a heaping helping of both accompanies each meal.

Location Info

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Tex-Chick

712 1/2 Fairview
Houston, TX 77006

Category: Restaurant > Central American

Region: Montrose

The only dessert available is a flan, but it's a delicious homemade one, with a texture as smooth as satin and a caramel sauce that doesn't run all over the plate. When I asked the Gonzalezes if they had any arroz con dulce -- a creamy rice pudding made from coconut milk that's a Puerto Rican favorite -- I was told that, sadly, they didn't. But I was also told that if I called a day in advance, they'd be happy to make some for me.

Your own mom couldn't be more accommodating. What the Gonzalezes have created, with their home-style cooking and nudging concern over how much their customers are consuming ("You didn't eat all of your meal," Teo scolded one woman, only to add, "You didn't like it, maybe? Could I make something else for you?"), is the equivalent of a some friendly Puerto Rican neighbors who are happy to have you nose around their kitchen. The Gonzalezes' two person show opens at 9 a.m. and closes down by 6 p.m., but the odd hours do little to prevent a steady stream of Houston's Caribbean Hispanics from making their way in. Portions are generous. All entrees are either $6 or $7. Occasionally, the entrees change, but even if you don't see your favorite listed, if they have the ingredients, they'll be happy to oblige. That's what neighbors are for.

Tex Chick, 712 Fairview, 528-4708.
mofongo, $2.50;
carne frita, $6.50;
bacalao, $7;
malta, $1.

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