$13 at Picazo

Patio dining at Picazo
Patio dining at Picazo
Photos by James Holmes

Where: Picazo, 1421 Preston St., 713-236-1300

What $13 gets you: The first page of the menu. You will be able to take your pick from a pretty wide selection of appetizers, pizzas and soups or salads. Picazo has a little something for everyone, including the over $13 crowd if you stray farther into the menu.

My dinner companion and I were waiting for a concert at Toyota Center that night. Picazo's most immediate draw is simply their location: The prime corner spot is almost literally in the shadow of Minute Maid Park, which makes for a great view from the big patio out front.

As we took a seat on the corner of the patio closest to the ballpark, the busboy brought out complimentary chips and salsa. The waitress was quick to greet us with a smile after that. The menu was an amalgam of Tex-Mex and Italian. Pizzas and pastas comingled with fajitas and mole in an inspiring rainbow of cuisine-based tolerance.

My dinner partner quickly chose the Pizza Margherita ($8.99) from the group of four varied options on the pizza portion of the menu. I took a little longer choosing among the nachos, the pizzas and the hot spinach salad tossed with mushrooms and bacon.

The nachos ($7.99) that I finally decided on did not disappoint from the moment they hit the table, the sight immediately making our mouths water. My nachos were piled high with cheese, pico de gallo, guacamole, sour cream, jalapenos and fajita. The beef even passed the solo taste test, good even without the toppings that lesser restaurants use to hide the taste of the meat itself. The small cubes of beef were juicy, the chips crisp and the jalapenos spicy. Even the cheese tasted better than your usual Taco Bell goop.

What do you call cheese that doesn't belong to you? Nacho cheese.
What do you call cheese that doesn't belong to you? Nacho cheese.

Everything about the pizza looked appealing. The crust was doughy but fairly thin, almost like pita bread. The mozzarella was pleasantly melted but wasn't burned at the edges, which can often be the case. The tomato was obviously cooked, but still held some its natural firmness and juice. The first bite elicited an exuberant "Mmm!" from my dinner partner. My taste of it was no less disappointing. The basil sprinkled atop the entire pie mixed with the tomato, cheese and savory sauce to create one of the better pizzas I've had.

Recommended?: Yes. The food is good and fresh, with some unique pizza toppings and appetizers that I would love to go back and try.

Don't miss: The chance to get there early on game days and take advantage of the half-price appetizers before you're trapped inside the stadium with an empty stomach and $8 hot dogs.


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