Restaurant Reviews

Early Mex

Here's a secret I've been reluctant to share for fear that crowds would ruin a relative idyll among breakfast spots: Pico's Mex-Mex serves breakfast, all day, every day, starting at 9 a.m. In true Mexican style, to which Pico's has stayed loyal, you can get migas con huevo or menudo at any time during the restaurant's operating hours. You can also get an American-style breakfast, though why anyone would is beyond me; I don't come to Pico's for something that can be found at any Denny's or IHOP. Nor, I admit, do I come for the menudo, having never bought into the belief that a breakfast of champions involves organ meat.

No, what I come for is the relative peace and quiet, a nice contrast to battling inner-Loop crowds at the few breakfast spots that have been anointed as fashionable. I also come for the best tortilla chips in town -- the thick, bumpy, yellow kind -- which are served with a creamy verde sauce and a heat-packing red and green salsa. I come for the fresh squeezed orange juice with its layer of mango-colored, mustache-producing foam (fresh squeezed juices should be de rigueur for all restaurants venturing to serve breakfast). I come for the steaming, pliant flour tortillas with their crinkly, paper-thin epidermis. And I come for the ranchero sauce, warm, orangey-red, chunky with tomatoes and onions.

That ranchero sauce adds just the right acidic tartness to a plateful of migas con huevo y chorizo, sienna-colored and slippery with oil from the mild sausage. Or to a tortilla that has been smeared with a spoonful of goopy refried beans. Or to the huevos divorciados, literally "divorced eggs," a plate of two eggs cooked over easy, separated by a side dish of roasted potatoes and each topped with a different sauce. The verde sauce that covers one egg is less satisfying than the similar sauce served with the chips, being too heavy on the oregano and too thin with tomatillos.

Self-interest should stop me from mentioning any of this. But some secrets, alas, are too good to keep. And breakfast at Pico's, I've finally decided, is one of them. -- Kelley Blewster

Pico's Mex-Mex, 5941 Bellaire Boulevard, 662-8383.

Pico's Mex-Mex: cup of menudo, $2.50; migas con huevo y chorizo, $3.95; fresh-squeezed orange juice, $1.95.

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Kelley Blewster