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To my right, Rafael was already halfway finished with his chicken enchiladas, covered in an emerald-green salsa verde. "These are just like my mother used to make," he said happily. A tangy pop of sour cream worked its magic alongside the citrus-tinged salsa verde to liven up the chicken, and I could see why he was eating so quickly.
His wife's La Kineña enchiladas were less inspiring — overly salted beef fajita meat being the main culprit — but none of us had any problems polishing off our plates. And on the car ride home, Rafael continued his happy raving about our dinner: "That's the way South Texas food should taste," he proclaimed.
And then, after a few thoughtful seconds: "I haven't had Tex-Mex food that good since I moved to Houston."_____________________
6401 Woodway Drive
Houston, TX 77057
11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Fridays, noon to 9 p.m. Saturdays, 11:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. Sundays.
Queso flameado: $9
Queso de campo: $9
Caldo de fidello: $8
Refugio enchiladas: $11
La Kineña enchiladas: $13
Mexico City enchiladas: $12.50
The Hebbronville: $19
Sylvia's Enchilada Kitchen
6401 Woodway, 713-334-7295.
A Tuesday evening proved much quieter, with only a few tables in the butter-colored dining room. My boyfriend and I grabbed a table facing the bright-blue, Puebla-style "kitchen" that serves as the centerpiece of the room and ordered that wonderful queso flameado.
Eric hails from another South Texas town, Victoria. And he was just as quick as Rafael to find an old favorite dotting the menu here. When I couldn't choose between the tortilla soup and the fidello, he could barely wait for me to finish my deliberation: "The fidello!" he nearly shouted. Then, quieter, with a sheepish smile, "Yeah, you have to get the fidello."
This old comfort food classic is what Eric calls a "utilitarian meal," made with chicken and thin noodles — although it could just as easily be made with ground beef. It's the South Texas version of chicken noodle soup, and Sylvia's take on it, just barely jazzed up with sweet tomatoes, is an excellent homage to a foodstuff that so many grew up on. It could have used less salt, however, which is a bit of a recurring complaint with the kitchen here.
I didn't have that complaint with The Hebbronville — three mesquite-grilled quail served with spicy poblano grits and corn on the cob — although the birds came out rather haphazardly slung around on one of the greased-up wood-and-steel plates, ruining what could have been a beautiful presentation. Presentation, however, wasn't going to dampen my enjoyment of one of my own childhood comfort foods, as memories of grilling freshly killed quail with my father on weekend summer nights came flooding instantly back with each bite of the tender, dark meat. I alternated between bites of the mesquite-grilled corn — almost identical to the wonderful elote that the No Borders truck serves — and nibbling around the birds' tiny bones, stripping each one of all its flesh.
Eric and I spent most of the meal doing this, trading old childhood memories of growing up Texan and eating the foods that come along with that heritage. He playfully teased that his Refugio enchiladas didn't taste exactly like his mother's, but "like something one of our neighbors would have cooked."
"One of the neighbors you liked?" I asked.
"Of course," he said. "It's a good thing. There's something so familiar about the chili gravy. Not familiar enough to taste exactly like home, but still so close."
This capturing of a memory, of a childhood, of a distinct geographic region within a familiar and well-loved genre, is what keeps people coming back to Sylvia's. It's what has kept them coming back since 1998, and — I suspect — is what will keep them coming back to the new location for years to come.
Isn't that what you are supposed to feed your pet out of? The Press has absolutely -0- credibility when it comes to restaurant reviews. I am sorry. No.
Ok to be fair. These aren't the worst enchiladas. That title would belong to a place in El Paso called Moes. They use flavorless boiled breast meat chicken filler and cream of mushroom soup gravy. Yeech.
fyi, marg's should only use well gold teqila, using silver or triple distilled tequila has no taste. furthermore Patron is a Paul Mitchel product and isn't a well made tequila. Grand Marnire is the core of a good Marg.
She serves the most bland enchilada sauce (gravy); no depth of flavor, low heat index, not enough cumin. The best thing they do is breakfast at the Dairy Ashord location. But enchiladas, sorry, ou can get better tex mex at Goode Company.
It's spelled "fideo". Arabic has nothing to do with the spelling. ÙÙ Ø§ÙØÙÙÙÙ (fahrealz), dude.
Katharine - one minor nit to pick. The location on Westheimer and Dairy Ashford is actually Sylvia's *second* location - she actually started in a strip center on Westheimer and Windchase (it was one of the "A-list" lunch places for a group I worked with, when I was at the former Chevron facility on Hayes Rd.)
I think the "Fidello" on Sylvia's menu is spelling error. Its always been "Fideo" like it says on the red and yellow box of Vermicelli, not pronounced "Fi-da-yo," but "Fi-da-o." We grew up on the stuff and I've known what the box looked like since I was 5.
I wiki'ed it too and there is only an entry for Fideo.
I've seen both sopa de fideo and sopa de fidello in the past. Fideo are the noodles themselves, which have an interesting history on their own (brought over to Spain by Arabs and adapted further from there). The word comes from the Arabic for noodle -- fidawsh -- and when a word gets adapted like that over the years, there are so many different spellings that result from the adaptation. I love culinary linguistics. :D
Oh good, I'm glad to see I'm not the only one who had an unimpressive meal here. I'd ordered one of the plates that had four kinds of enchiladas and all of them were pretty blah. I can't remember which enchilada it was, but one had red sauce that tasted like lightly salted water. Just salted water, no other flavorings. I thought it might've been a fluke, but haven't been willing to pay the prices for another shot at mediocrity.
I personally have never had a bad meal at Sylvia's. Having spent quite a bit of time in the south Texas Valley it is one of the few places in Houston I can find authentic Tex-Mex. I sometimes believe on these boards once an establishment becomes popular, it also becomes popular to bash them.
Everyone get ready for Ms Caceres (sp) vitriolic reply like the one she did in the Chronicle a few weeks back. It's everybody's fault but hers
With so many better options in Houston, Sylvia's overpriced and mediocre food is pretty far down my list.
Homemade fideo is easy and awesome. My kids regularly ask for it in their thermos' for lunch. Sometimes with an addition like shredded chx, ground beef, stew meat, whole pinto beans, or potato chunks... and sometimes just plain fideo.
I kinda like Sylvia's. If friends wanted to go, I wouldn't say no. Their top shelf margaritas are really nice, stay away from the house 'ritas though.
Have to agree with most comments here. I'm a native Texan. Been eating this kind of food all of my life. I just don't get it. Each time I've tried Sylvia's, I was seriously let down. Also, the worst margarita I've ever had --- it was like lemon Crystal Light.
High priced, over valued, overrated. They'll nickel and dime you for everything. I emailed them after our last "visit" Never got an answer.
Tried this place several times, never figured out the high praise. A bit pricey for average enchiladas. Nothing special.
Can't get into this place -- never had anything besides enchiladas in three visits, but the enchiladas are more expensive and just not as good as a few other places.
I'm salivating now! Where can we find Sylvia's cookbook? I've been searching for years for a great Tex-mex one. Thanks!
I think lard is what you first think of when you see tortillas that have that appearance of being made with lard. They very well be made with vegetable oil, but they use alot so it looks "lard-laced."
I'm sure it's an honest mistake.
Sylvia says "1.) We do not and have never cooked with lard."http://www.29-95.com/restauran...
But the tortillas are "lard-laced"? Huh.
Now I want some cheese enchiladas. Mmmmmm.
hmmmm....never cooked with lard at a tex-mex joint?? What a shame. I doubt I'll visit Sylvia's any time soon then.