100 Favorite Dishes 2015: No. 95, Combo #5 at Soto’s Cantina

The Combo #5 platter at Soto's Cantina with a pork tamale, cheese enchilada, taco al carbon, rice and beans.
The Combo #5 platter at Soto's Cantina with a pork tamale, cheese enchilada, taco al carbon, rice and beans.
Photo by Phaedra Cook

It’s called Soto’s “Cantina” but it’s about the most family-friendly place you can ask for (although Mom and Dad might still appreciate the $5.75 house margaritas). It’s in far Northwest Houston at 10609 Grant, far removed from the dominance of the trendier, bigger-named places inside the 610 Loop. It’s a quintessential neighborhood Tex-Mex place, the likes of which are found all over Houston.

What sets Soto’s apart, though, is the consistency. I’ve never had a bad dish here—not once. There are several seafood dishes to choose from, but that's not what normally brings me in. I'm after classic, homey Tex-Mex.

The pork tamales have as much shredded meat as they do masa. (I’m most fond of the jalapeño cheese ones, though, truth be told.) My particular weakness, cheese enchiladas, are exactly the way I want them, with the right ratio of queso fresco to tortilla, covered in chili gravy and shredded cheddar.

The crowdpleaser—for meat eaters, at least—is the deceptively simple tacos al carbon. It’s just beef fajita meat wrapped in a toasted flour tortilla, but the meat is flavorful and tender to the bite. There’s no clumsy struggle to eat this, like when you try to bite through a strip of meat and the whole thing comes out of the taco. It’s absolutely imperative to order a side of queso for dipping, although dipping it into Soto’s roughly-hewn salsa isn’t bad, either. Their salsa has such coarsely chopped tomatoes and onions that it’s almost like it was made with pico de gallo.

The great thing is I don’t have to choose. Combo #5 has them all. It normally comes with a chicken enchilada but they never have a problem substituting the cheese one. If you want guacamole, you can add it for $2.

I hope everyone has a neighborhood Tex-Mex place like Soto’s in their lives. If not, you're welcome to visit mine. 

The List of Top 100 Dishes of 2015 So Far:

No. 96, Carnitas Salad At Chipotle
No. 97, Pickled Shrimp At Punk's Simple Southern Food
No. 98, Lobster Roll At Maine-Ly Sandwiches
No. 99, Chili-Cheese Coneys At JCI Grill
No. 100, Corned Beef Hash And Eggs At House Of Pies

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