Fast Times: Bodegas Taco Shop

When our 11-year old-nephew visited us last year, we showed him the town. We took him to the Houston Museum of Natural Science, an Astros game, we went swimming for hours on end, and we ate at a half-dozen restaurants. At the end of the trip we asked Zach what he liked best about Houston and he answered, "That taco place near the museum." Bodegas Taco Shop won Zach's heart over BB's, Little Bigs, and our own attempts at cooking his favorite dishes at home.

I can't say I love Bodegas that much, but it does rank pretty high on my "gotta eat somewhere quick" list. Whether I am totally exhausted, completely grungy, or sick as a dog, Bodegas is always there just a few blocks away, waiting to serve me a satisfying, quality fast-food meal.

In fact I have never had a horrible experience at Bodegas and I would rate most of my visits as "above average", with the occasional "average" meal here and there. Other online reviews have compared the place to Chipotle, but I think Bodegas is several notches above that in terms of quality, food options, and customer service.

I love the paint-by-numbers ordering method, laid out step-by-step on large placards on the wall behind the cafeteria counter. You start by choosing your base -- burrito, three tacos, salad, two tostadas, nachos, quesadilla, bowl, or taco salad -- and then load it with meats (rotisserie or fajita chicken, fajita steak, spicy ground sirloin, or pork carnitas) or veggies, stock it with sides and extras, and choose from their list of more than a dozen salsas. You can also order combos like chicken tenders, fish tacos, or Buffalo wings. I have waited longer at many a traditional fast-food chain than a standard wait at Bodegas, and the quality is consistently high.

I ran in quickly and ordered the vegetarian bowl ($7), pictured above, to-go, for a working lunch at home. While this particular bowl lands solidly in "average" territory, it's my own fault for not adding more sides. I do love the vegetarian mix at Bodegas: A simple mix of carrots, zucchini, and onion. I'm addicted to their corn relish, which is nice and sweet with just a hint of heat -- I usually order these two ingredients within the larger combination of my meal because they are delicious, as well as filling.

To spice up my lackluster bowl of rice, beans, and veggies I grabbed a few of my own leftover corn tortillas and loaded them with the bowl contents, topping it all with salsa. I like hot salsa, and Bodegas Mango Blaze and Papaya Habanero are two of my favorites.

And when you dine-in you can drink at Bodegas -- they have a full bar, and they make a pretty decent margarita to boot. With plenty of outdoor seating, this place is a great alternative to the drive-through.

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