100 Favorite Dishes: No. 1, Cheese Enchiladas at Los Dos Amigos
This year leading up to our annual Best of Houston issue, we're counting down our 100 favorite dishes in Houston. This list comprises our favorite dishes from the last year, dishes that are essential to Houston's cultural landscape and/or dishes that any visitor (or resident) should try at least once.
I'm not an adherent to the trendy idea that everything tastes better with a fried egg on top. The truth is that not everything tastes better with a fried egg on top, just like not everything tastes better with bacon.
But here at Los Dos Amigos, the cheese enchiladas -- which are already tremendous on their own -- receive their crown as my favorite dish in Houston by offering two perfectly fried eggs perched on top, their soft white skin begging to be pierced with the tine of a fork, ready to let a torrent of golden yolk flow down the mountain of enchiladas and down into the gooey cheese beneath.
"Sometimes you just want Mexican food," my Texican boyfriend has been known to wax philosophically about Los Dos. He clarifies this statement by offering up other Mexican and Tex-Mex places that we both enjoy -- Xuco Xicana, Hugo's, Sylvia's, even Chuy's -- and I know exactly what he means. "Those places have great fajitas or great margaritas, but sometimes," he emphasizes again, "all you want is just plain old Mexican food."
It's the same sentiment behind Robb Walsh's summation of the now 34-year-old restaurant, one of the last remnants of the old Washington Avenue: "If you don't have a favorite Tex-Mex dive, then visit Los Dos Amigos for breakfast or lunch and see what you've been missing," Walsh wrote back in 2008.
Walsh, too, placed Los Dos's cheese enchiladas on his own list of 100 Favorite Dishes last year, albeit not as far up on the list as I have. But my reasoning for doing so hearkens back to that three-year-old review, titled "Places Like Los Dos Amigos Are Disappearing On Washington."
Here next to the dingy Premo's Grocery and across the street from the decades-old Wabash Antiques & Feed, you can almost picture Washington Avenue as it used to be. You can recall the ghost of the old Matamoros Meat Market that served the city's best chorizo breakfast tacos and conchas. You can remember driving to get steam table tacos from Guadalajara Bakery and not seeing hastily-built, half-abandoned stucco condos and shitty clubs at every corner.
On this, one of the very first paved roads in the city, we have allowed the kind of rampant gentrification that has pushed out the very people who lived, worked, ate and shopped along these streets for decades. Places like Los Dos Amigos are disappearing on Washington, and while not everything that has replaced those old businesses is bad, it's not all good either.
There's no denying that Washington Avenue has become an exciting restaurant row in the last five years, with places like Catalan, Coppa, Max's Wine Dive, benjy's, Beaver's, The Broken Spoke, Soma Sushi and Catalina Coffee cropping up where there once was only empty stores or vacant lots. And to fight the tide of gentrification is a losing battle, especially in Houston.
But I worry for the future of this corridor, this little street that's been around since 1849. Will it become the next Richmond Avenue, a dusty ghost town of abandoned clubs and distant memories? I worry that long-time establishments like Los Dos or Laredo Taqueria won't weather the constant storm of construction, of madding club crowds, of fickle yuppies who decide to move on after a few good years in their stucco paradise.
But perhaps I'm worrying for nothing. After all, while Los Dos barely has any customers at night, it's almost impossible to find a seat there at breakfast. People -- both white and Hispanic -- pack the tight booths, fill up the seats at the newish granite counter, take the few tables in the L-shaped dining room, many of them ordering those fried egg-topped cheese enchiladas for breakfast. They aren't on the breakfast menu, of course, but that doesn't stop the kitchen from making them for you anyway.
Inside the loosely rolled tortillas is cheese that's never greasy, onions that are diced too small to see. And the mild chile gravy on top contains no meat, just a warm undercurrent of dusky cumin. They're ultra-comforting on their own like this, but the fried eggs add a secondary -- and essential, for this list -- layer of richness that's matched only by the red vinegar sauce on each table. A few healthy swigs of the tart, bright sauce and your breakfast masterpiece is complete.
And if you don't get there early enough for breakfast, remember: Cheese enchiladas are just as good at dinner too.
The list so far:
No. 100: Dumplings at Heights Asian Cafe No. 99: Mixta Pizza at Friends Pizzeria No. 98: Veggie tacos from Radical Eats No. 97: Bean pie from Conscious Cafe No. 96: Swiss chard crepes from Giacomo's Cibo e Vino No. 95: Eggs Mia Bella at Mia Bella No. 94: Mulligatawny soup at the Queen Vic No. 93: Helado de Lúcuma from Pollo Bravo No. 92: Black bean burger from Natachee's No. 91: Chupacabra pizza from ERA No. 90: Roast chicken from El Norteño No. 89: Eggs El Salvador from Brasil No. 88: Frank the Pretzel from Eatsie Boys No. 87: Caldo Tlalpeño from Tacos del Julio No. 86: English pea soup at Brasserie 19 No. 85: Falafel from Zabak's No. 84: Buttermilk-fried pork loin with fried eggs at Canopy No. 83: Grillades and grits from BB's Cajun Cafe No. 82: Haemul dolsot from Seoul House No. 81: Pandan waffles at Parisian Bakery III No. 80: Pita bread and hummus at Phoenicia No. 79: Goat pepper soup at Peppersoup Cafe No. 78: Melon and Texas feta salad from Beaver's No. 77: Hot Italian beef from BB's Beef & Hot Dog No. 76: Bacon-avocado burger from Facundo Cafe No. 75: Pancakes from Fountain View Cafe No. 74: Hobnobs from Fluff Bake Bar No. 73: Chu chee eggplant from Nidda Thai No. 72: Sausage sampler from King's Biergarten No. 71: Shawarma from Abdallah's No. 70: Moules-frite at the Broken Spoke No. 69: Hong Kong-style French toast at House of Bowls No. 68: Sashimi sampler at Sushi Miyagi No. 67: Baleadas from Honduras Mayan No. 66: Snow ice from Star Snow Ice & Teriyaki No. 65: Boudin balls from MerCheri's No. 64: Miso ramen at Umai No. 63: Grim burger at Lankford Grocery No. 62: Dabeli at Bansuri Indian Food Corner No. 61: Wine and cupcakes at 13 Celsius No. 60: Pâté de France from Spec's No. 59: Steak and eggs from Ninfa's on Navigation No. 58: Breakfast pita at Niko Niko's No. 57: Vegan curry at Cafe TH No. 56: Samosas at Shiv Sagar No. 55: Ceviche at Latin Bites Cafe No. 54: Wicked Philly at Pappa Geno's No. 53: Pork chop at Perry's Steakhouse No. 52: Soft-shell crab at Pico's Mex-Mex No. 51: Sno-balls at MAM's House of Ice No. 50: Whole catfish at Saigon Pagolac No. 49: Nova fish box at New York Bagel & Coffee Shop No. 48: Sojok mana'eesh at Cedars Bakery No. 47: Pho ga at Pho Ga Dakao No. 46: Sicilia salad at Trevisio No. 45: Dahi puri at Sweet 'n' Namkin No. 44: Hot dogs at Moon Tower Inn No. 43: Real guacamole at Yelapa Playa Mexicana No. 42: Akaushi short ribs at Soma Sushi No. 41: Country-fried chicken livers at Haven No. 40: Seafood gumbo at Cajun Town Cafe No. 39: Tacos at Karanchos No. 38: Crepes at Melange Creperie No. 37: Gua bao at Yummy Kitchen No. 36: Guanciale burger at Plonk No. 35: Snapper al cilantro at Teotihuacan No. 34: The Houstonian at James Coney Island No. 33: The Montrose at Amy's Ice Cream No. 32: Lobster bisque at Philippe No. 31: Tacos de cabeza y orejas at El Ultimo No. 30: Oyster stew at Danton's No. 29: Fried oysters at TQLA No. 28: Banh mi at Cali Sandwich No. 27: Captin's fried chicken at Zelko Bistro No. 26: The Brisket House Special at The Brisket House No. 25: Menudo at La Mexicana No. 24: Chargrilled oysters at Wild Cajun No. 23: Breakfast tacos at Revival Market No. 22: Sticky toffee pudding at Branch Water Tavern No. 21: Tex-Mex burger at El Real Tex-Mex Cafe No. 20: Lasagna at Capri Pasta Pizza & More No. 19: Pork rillette at Feast No. 18: Chicken fried steak at Triple A No. 17: Crème brûlée bread pudding at Killen's No. 16: Migas at La Guadalupana No. 15: Snapper with grapefruit at Kata Robata No. 14: Venison carpaccio at Thanh Phuong No. 13: Mesquite-grilled shrimp poboy at Goode Co. Seafood No. 12: Tamarind-glazed salmon at Samba Grille No. 11: Bone marrow service at Stella Sola No. 10: Ribs at Gatlin's No. 9: Shrimp and grits at Brennan's No. 8: Barbacoa at Hugo's No. 7: Texas shrimp chaat at Pondicheri No. 6: Saigon burger at The Burger Guys No. 5: Tagliarini with black truffles at Da Marco No. 4: Oysters on the half-shell at Casey's No. 3: Boudin kolaches at Shipley's No. 2: Ceviche at Xuco Xicana
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