It’s time for another installment of $13, where we hit the streets and find out what you can get for 13 smackers in this restaurant-crazy city.
Russell Cobb goes fishing:
: Tampico Seafood Restaurant, 2115 Airline Dr., 713-862-8425
What $13 gets you: A lot of tilapia and even more red snapper envy. I prowled Airline Drive looking for fresh snapper. The folks at Canino’s Produce pointed me toward Tampico. Much to my chagrin, all the red snapper dishes—including the plat de résistance, pescado a la veracruzana—were over $13, so I settled for the Bud Light of fish, tilapia. I ordered tilapia a la veracruzana for $11.95 and got four tasty pieces of fresh fish, baked in a sauce of olive oil, tomatoes, onions, olives and garlic. The traditional recipe for Veracruz-style fish calls for jalapeños, but I didn’t detect the slightest bit of spice, which was fine. The plate also came with a side of battered fries and a piece of toast. There were the de rigueur free chips and salsa, which is always a welcome sight. There are certain salsas that are only one step removed from spaghetti sauces and, unfortunately, Tampico’s was one of them.
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Tampico is all about the seafood, so it’s a bit pricier than most Mexican places in town. You can build your own seafood platter with combinations of scallops, shrimp and catfish for $12. If your heart’s set on snapper, though, you’ll have to shell out at least $14 for a whole fish. “If you have a good eye, you can pick your own fish,” our host told us. I stared at the pinkish fish on ice, only wishing I could pick one out. Lunch specials are considerably cheaper, so if you want the snapper for under $13, come during the daytime.
Recommended? Only when you’re feeling flush. Tampico doesn’t have a whole lot of ambience, so you’d think you would get a bargain. If you’re in the mood for a full meal of seafood, drinks and appetizers, however, plan to spend at least $22 a person. The service at Tampico is exceedingly friendly and helpful. My waitress urged me to count the pieces of fish on my plate before I dug in to make sure there were four. “Sometimes they only give you three,” she said. Don’t say you weren’t warned. As friendly as it is, Tampico seems to have a real problem with kids. There are signs posted on every wall telling parents to keep their children in their seats or they will be refused service.
Bonus point: Tampico is one of many fresh seafood places on Airline. You could try the same dish at various places before settling on a favorite. – Russell Cobb