Where: Mucho Mexico Restaurante and Seafood Bar (formerly Molcajetes Restaurant), 1310 N. Wayside, 713-673-4598
What $13 gets you: My favorite carnitas in the city, hands down. The Carnitas Estilo Mexico plate (Mexican style carnitas) checks in at $11.90 including tax, so you'll have to drink water in order to leave a tip and still get in under the $13 mark, but it's worth the liquid sacrifice. The carnitas are succulent, juicy, tender roasted and then slightly fried slices of pork with just the right amount of seasoning. The guacamole, which was named Best Guacamole in the 2007 Houston Press Best of Houston awards, by the way, is smooth and creamy. There's not much to say about the rice and beans, which complete the plate, except that they're perfect. Be sure to get the flour tortillas; they're hand-made and delicious.
Mucho Mexico grew from just a tiny storefront in the 1970s to its current mega-size complex. There's a huge restaurant on the end, and next to it is a narrow seafood bar that dishes up oysters and Dos Equis beers by the bucket. Next to that is the Mucho Mexico bakery, with all the traditional sugary, buttery treats. You'll find an extra parking lot behind the building.
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Bonus points: There’s extra hot salsa they’ll bring you only if you ask for it. . The salsa you get with your chips is tomato based and medium hot. The salsa only insiders know to ask for is made of roasted peppers for a smokey taste. It has less tomato and more bite.
Insider tips: Try Mucho Mexico during lunch for low-priced specials.
Fair Warning: First, Mucho Mexico has a full bar so the temptation to add a margarita or fresh-made lemonade might be too much to resist for some. You'll blow your $13 budget, but hey, you'll be happy. Second, Mucho Mexico is mucho loud, there are live mariachis every weekend and it can get a little noisy sometimes, especially late nights. -- Olivia Flores Alvarez