El Taco Tote

Selling $3 tacos in Houston, a town of $1 taco trucks, is a difficult thing, but a new chain out of El Paso has just opened the first of what they hope will be eight or nine restaurants in the Houston area. El Taco Tote (6154 Westheimer, 713-706-3233) bills itself as a "Real Mexican Grill." Miguel Prieto, the director of operations for the chain, told Dish the story. "We opened our first store in 1988. We have about 23 locations in El Paso, Laredo, San Antonio and Phoenix, and we felt there were enough people in Houston who want a true Mexican taste, not Tex-Mex, that we decided to open our first store here."

The place is just west of the Galleria on Westheimer, and it is huge. "Tote" is a slang word that means "big" in Spanish, and the tacos are definitely overstuffed. You order at the counter, get a number and the food is brought to your table. All the tortillas are made fresh, there's a terrific salsa bar and the tortilla chips are self-serve. Prieto's favorite dishes are the pork adobado, the top sirloin, the bistek and the fish tacos. "If you have a large family," he adds, "we also serve all of the taco fillings family style, along with eight sides. That's the best value."

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Paul Galvani