The holiday season is upon us and while it may not be as festive or grand as previous years, there are still many little joys to celebrate. One of those little joys are the sunshine-filled days that peek out occasionally in December. While our Houston summers are often unbearable, the mild winter days we enjoy are the envy of snow-bound Northerners who have a double whammy of COVID restrictions and weather obstacles.
It was one of those beautiful sunshine-y days when my husband and I found ourselves thirsty after running a few errands near the 610 Loop and our old stomping grounds. We used to live in Oak Forest as newlyweds, enjoying the neighborhood's proximity to Downtown, Midtown and all the places that were hip and cool and made us feel as if we were also hip and cool. In the late 1990s, Oak Forest and Garden Oaks had very few restaurants or bars to speak of. There were a couple of small Mexican restaurants and a bounty of fast food but not much else.
Now, as our kids are getting older, we find ourselves wishing we lived closer to the action. So, as we completed our errands and trip to Trader Joe's (our burb is TJ-less) I suggested we try Valencia's Tex-Mex Garage since it recently opened October 29 and looked pretty groovy. Plus, we had not had frozen margaritas in a long time.
As we entered, we admired the brightly decorated walls and the slick bar to the right, with backlighting that changes colors every couple of seconds. The Dia de los Muertos murals of calaveras adds to the funky vibe. Glass garage walls open to the patio which is surrounded by colorful, slat fencing making the patio feel more like part of the interior.
There was only one other table with guests so we felt safe social distance-wise. A couple of people were at the bar and a few employees sat taking a break. Our server showed up immediately and we were told that it was happy hour. We ordered our usual jumbo frozen margaritas.
Our margaritas were tasty, perfectly frozen and had a nice kick. I know most cocktail aficionados like to go for the premium margaritas but I feel it's a bit of a luxury especially since I can make premium margaritas on the rocks at home for far less money. When I go to a Mexican restaurant, I want the out-of-the-machine slushie that I cannot achieve at my own cantina. Even on happy hour, the jumbo house rita was a penny shy of ten bucks. The house margaritas are usually $8.99 for the regular and $11.99 for the jumbo.
I was glad to see that there was a red and a green salsa brought with the chips. That gladness turned to sadness when I tasted them. The chips were mediocre and the salsas were no better. Neither one boasted any sort of spiciness, or frankly, much flavor.
My chicken tacos on the other hand were a bland disappointment which is surprising considering that the rotisserie chicken is a main feature of the restaurant's menu. The three small tacos were served in a taco holder, or as I like to call it, a taco accordion. They were topped with way too much iceberg lettuce, some nicely ripe red tomato dices and a bit of queso fresco. Besides the fact that the tacos fell to bits when I lifted them from their stainless steel bed, the tender chicken was simply tasteless. My only hope was the red salsa, which I wasn't overly fond of in the first place. I offered one to my husband but he declined, happily immersed in his brisket quesadilla and making a major dent in my loaded queso.
All in all, the chicken tacos were a fail, as was the elote we ordered to go for our daughter. When we got home, there were only two mini cobs of corn rather than the three described on the menu. For $4.95, it was a bit of a bust. However, that could have just been a one-off. And, I realized later that I had received three chicken tacos instead of the two listed on the menu. It all balances out.
And I can deal with the lackluster salsa so long as I have that queso for chip dipping.
Valencia's Tex-Mex Garage
2001 W. 34th