Dining Deals

$13 at Tampico Seafood Restaurant

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:

Where: 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.

Photos by Russell Cobb

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

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