Food Fight

Food Fight: Beef Steak Nachos

For this week's Food Fight, we pit two Houston Tex-Mex heavyweights against one another. We've got El Real Tex-Mex Cafe, the young, scrappy newcomer, against Teotihuacan Mexican Café (4624 Irvington), the cagey veteran. Will youth overpower age, or will the consistency of a Houston institution take down the rookie? We shall see.

Teotihuacan Mexican Café I've long considered Teo's beef steak nachos to be the best in the city, but it had been a good year since my last experience, so I was eager to see if consistency was still their game. That question was answered with one bite -- Teo's still serves damn good nachos. Meticulously constructed, these aren't your typical "dump a bunch of toppings on a pile of chips" nachos. Each thick chip is slathered with a thin layer of refried beans and topped with chunks of beef and shreds of cheddar cheese. All your standard accompanying ingredients are there (sour cream, guacamole, jalapenos, tomatoes, lettuce and salsa). I polished off my small order in about ten minutes. This proved to be an easy task. Everything together on one chip was Tex-Mex heaven, but make no mistake, the well-seasoned, tender, and generously portioned beef is what separates these nachos from the steep Houston competition.

El Real Tex-Mex Café El Real's nachos were also individually constructed chips, topped with creamy refried beans, cheese and beef steak. Surprisingly, the freshness of the lettuce and tomatoes really stood out. These two things usually get lost in the nacho equation, often overshadowed by the other, sexier ingredients. There was something else that really stood out about these nachos -- the beef! It was as tender as you could imagine. I never once struggled with a bite. That's the good news. The bad news -- there wasn't enough of it, and the meat's seasoning just didn't stand out. I'm getting picky here, because this slight misstep did not prevent me from polishing off my fair share. El Real's overall product was better than 95 percent of Houston nachos, and given the newness of the restaurant, very impressive.

The winner Teo's. This was extremely close, with both versions representing elite taste. Teo's beef just stood out. It wasn't quite as tender as El Real's, but it was more plentiful and just had a better overall flavor. I see a potential rematch in the future for these two restaurants. That's a fight I could get used to.

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Kevin Shalin
Contact: Kevin Shalin