This year, leading up to our annual Menu of Menus issue, Kaitlin Steinberg counts down her 100 favorite dishes as she eats her way through Houston. She'll compile a collection of the dishes she thinks are the most awesome, most creative and, of course, most delicious in town. It's a list of personal favorites, things she thinks any visitor or Houstonian ought to try at least once and dishes that seem particularly indicative of the ever-changing Houston foodscape. It's a list to drool over.
On the wall of La Guadalupana are framed newspaper clippings lauding the restaurant's fine, classic Mexican food. There are images of the Virgin of Guadalupe and other religious symbols. And there's a small handwritten sign taped above a fake $100 bill.
It reads, simply: "Love people. Make them tasty food."
If ever there were a mantra for a chef to live by, I think that ought to be it.
Owner and head chef Trancito Diaz has been serving soulful Mexican food at La Guadalupana since 1995, and through the years the small, unassuming bakery and cafe has been praised for everything from its tres leches to its migas and its carne guisada. But my favorite thing on the menu is the hearty chicken enchiladas smothered in smoky, spicy mole.
I'm a sucker for mole in general, but the silky-smooth dark mole at La Guadalupana is some of the best you'll find in Houston. The enchiladas, nestled close together underneath the layer of mole, are wonderful on their own -- juicy dark and light meat packed inside thin, flavorful corn tortillas. But it's the mole that makes the dish.
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Most varieties of mole are admired for their complexity, and the rich, supple sauce at La Guadalupana is no exception. I didn't ask how many ingredients are in it (as I often do), but the complexity of the flavor profile speaks for itself. There's definitely a touch of dark chocolate and coffee, smoky chilies and maybe even some pumpkin seeds.
But then there's also something hot that makes my lips tingle from the capsaicin, even after I wipe them clean of the mole. And then there's what truly sets the enchiladas de mole at La Guadalupana apart from other enchiladas topped with a creamy brown sauce: fresh shredded lettuce, chopped onions, slices of avocado and a sprinkling of queso fresco. These ingredients help make the heavy mole and meat a bit lighter and crispier.
It's no wonder that this traditional dish won best enchiladas from us in 2007 -- a distinction proudly printed on the menus. Six years later, and all I can add is: well done, La Guadalupana. You still got it.
The list so far: No. 100: Bangkok Fries at Boheme No. 99: Almond Croissant at Phoenicia No. 98: Bulgogi Tacos with Kimchi at Chi'Lantro No. 97: Soft Pretzel from Mongoose Versus Cobra No. 96: Chicken and Waffles at Adair Kitchen No. 95: Sweet Potato Gnocchi at Brooklyn Athletic Club No. 94: Foie Gras Mac & Cheese at BRC Gastropub No. 93: Vuelve a la Vida Soup at Connie's Seafood No. 92: Homeroom at Bernie's Burger Bus No. 91: Lobster Cake Benedict at Sorrel Urban Bistro No. 90: Uncle Daryl's Cake at The Chocolate Bar No. 89: Porchetta e Fagioli at Giacomo's Cibo e Vino No. 88: Sesame Soft Balls at Golden Dim Sum No. 87: Crab Daddy Bao at Fat Bao No. 86: Ham, Egg & Cheese Crepe at Melange Creperie No. 85: Pork Tamales at Irma's No. 84: Greek Burger at Hubcap Grill No. 83: Lobster Roll at Maine-ly Sandwiches No. 82: Grilled Ahi Tuna at St. John's Fire No. 81: Catfish and Grits at The Breakfast Klub No. 80: The Marie Laveau Sandwich at Sandy Witch No. 79: Carnissima Pizza at Coppa Osteria No. 78: Mortadella Sandwich at 13 Celsius No. 77: Lamb Lollipops at Américas No. 76: The Heights Burger at Gratifi No. 75: 'Date With a Pig' at Sparrow Bar + Cookshop No. 74: Taco al Pastor at Taco Keto No. 73: Chili Cheese Mac from Jus' Mac No. 72: Chicken Pot Pie at Kenny & Ziggy's No. 71: Lazy Lane Frites at Brasserie 19 No 70: Banana Split at Cloud 10 Creamery No. 69: Dozen Raw Oysters at Pappas Seafood No. 68: Green "Hurry Curry" at Nit Noi No. 67: Bad Ass Hambur-Torta at Pistolero's