This week, we paid our first visit to El XX, or Xuco Xicana. It was happy hour, so we did what we always do: sidle up to the bar, order a couple of cocktails and pick the brain of the person standing opposite us. On this occasion, we ordered one of the famous margaritas ($5) and a "TnT," El XX's "happy meal" consisting of a shot of tequila and a Tecate ($4), and got to know a little bit about bartender Julio.
Where are you from? I'm originally from Acapulco, but I've been in Houston since I was five. So I guess I'm really from Houston.
How long have you been bartending at El XX? I've been here for about two years. It opened as El XX last year on Cinco de Mayo, but I was here before, when it was El Patio.
How would you describe the bar's aesthetic? It's more laid-back than a lot of bars. When you go to a lot of places, they put a set menu in front of you and those are your choices. We have some great drinks on our menu, but we try to please everyone here, and as long as we have the ingredients, we'll make anything you'd like.
How would you describe the crowd? We have regulars that live in the neighborhood, and we get a lot of people in the service industry that go upstairs, to the Ambassador Bar, on the weekends. It's a large, open patio. We have an Airstream that opens up into a full bar, and we'll have DJs up there. Can't get the DJ inside the Airstream, though...we tried it.
Do you have a specialty or a drink you pride yourself on? Definitely my margarita. We use fresh lime and lemon juice and add a little limoncello liqueur. The limoncello is key.
Fill in the blank: At the end of my shift, I pour a ______. Water. Okay, maybe tequila if it was a long day. I like Cazadores Reposado.
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Do you have a favorite menu item? Our posole (pork stew with guajillo chile broth, hominy, lemon, onion, chile pequin, radish, cabbage, Mexican oregano and tostadas) is so good. It's traditional.
Aside from your own establishment, what's your favorite place to get a drink or something to eat? I have two. I'd say RA Sushi...I love the "RA"ckin' Roll...and Firkin & Phoenix. It's my home away from home. I've been going there for years. Everyone's really laid-back, and the food is awesome, like the chicken-fried chicken.
*Wildcard: If you're at a garage sale, what do you look for? A Guns N' Roses CD. Can't go wrong.
El Xuco Xicana, located at 2416 Brazos in Midtown, is open Tuesdays through Thursdays from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., Fridays and Saturdays from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. and Sundays from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. The extra-long happy hour goes from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesdays through Sundays. Party on the patio at the Ambassador Bar and get fresh-outta-the-Airstream margaritas from 5 p.m. to 11 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays. Swing by, say hi to Julio and if it's almost closing time, remember, he likes Cazadores Reposado.