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Pena's Is Donut Heaven

Pena's in Pearland gives Shipley's a run for its money.

The burger was gloriously messy, full of crunch and ooze and sharp tanginess from the mustard and white onions. My only complaint was the overcooked patties, but even those were easy to forgive, hand-formed and craggy like the face of the Moon. Less appealing was Ray's Frito pie burger, which was an open-faced mess of chili and Fritos poured atop a stack of those patties and a bun. It needed more cheese and fewer Fritos, being too dry otherwise — even with the addition of sautéed onions on top.

Those sautéed onions are used to greater effect in Debbie's soft tacos (Peña has a habit of naming dishes after his friends and family), which are essentially fajita tacos. Beef or chicken fajita meat is tucked inside those same flour tortillas, along with sautéed bell peppers and onions. It's such a simple thing, that basic fajita taco, beautiful in its unadorned flavors — and an easy dinner that you can pick up to go on the way home.

In the mornings, the restaurant encourages sort of a reverse tactic, tempting patrons to pick up a to-go salad for lunch while they're getting breakfast. It was an irresistible proposition one busy day last week when I knew I wouldn't be able to leave the office once I got in. I ordered a Cobb salad to go along with my chorizo kolache, then was surprised to find that I had to wait a good five minutes for my salad.

Pearland residents stop by in the morning for a chorizo kolache or a maple bacon bar.
Troy Fields
Pearland residents stop by in the morning for a chorizo kolache or a maple bacon bar.

Details

Pena's Donut Heaven & Grill
11601 Shadow Creek Pkwy., Pearland, 713-340-3231. Hours: 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. Mondays through Fridays, 6 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturdays, 6 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sundays.
Dozen glazed donuts: $5.79
Kolache: $1.49
Breakfast taco: $1.75
Cheeseburger: $6.50
Ray's Frito pie burger: $7.25
Debbie's soft tacos: $6.25
Cobb salad: $6.95
READ MORE
SLIDESHOW: A Little Slice of Pena's Donut Heaven & Grill
BLOG POST: Everyone Loves Raymond Pena's Donut Heaven & Grill

I wasn't at all mad; instead, I was delighted to be presented with a salad featuring ingredients that had clearly been prepped and chopped à la minute, with more of that thick-cut, home-cooked bacon from the maple bars and a mad jumble of hardboiled eggs, meat, veggies and cheese over a lettuce blend that was more than just iceberg. This salad hadn't been pulled, premade, out of a refrigerator. It was beautifully fresh and worth every cent of its meager $7 price tag.

It's these little surprises that Peña's has in store every time that make me eager for each return visit. I'm told there's a hot dog I have to try: the foot-long Mastiff, which is covered with chili, cheese and onions on Thursdays for Peña's daily lunch special, perfect for the increasingly summery weather. Those quiet suburban views under a red umbrella are already beckoning me back.

katharine.shilcutt@houstonpress.com

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