Late Night Scene: Taco Cabana

Okay, confession: It's been years since I went to a Taco Cabana without the aid of a much-needed designated driver. But the bell tolls for all of us, and tonight it's my turn to drunk-sit and someone else's turn to drag me there for tortillas and queso.

Walking into the Kirby and 59 location, I notice it's both brighter and smaller than I remembered. After talking a couple friends out of ordering margaritas (it's unfortunately just shy of 2 a.m.), combining a couple of tables in the corner, and alternately laughing with my friends and staring daggers at the food pick-up spot in hopes of making it ready faster, I start talking to the only other people in the dining room (there's a couple in club wear sitting on the patio): three guys who say they're in town for a cricket tournament. They're really friendly, and when the table response is, "So that's kind of like baseball, right?" they are great sports.

Then, as our order numbers are called, the guys are all but forgotten. My platter of bean-and-cheese nachos is as messy as I remembered it, but I can't believe I'd never noticed how greasy the whole Styrofoam plate is, with half the chips soggy before I can eat them. I trade for part of my friend's chicken quesadilla, a much better pick, delicious even when toppings from the salsa bar are added into the equation.

The community order of a dozen tortillas and an eight-ounce queso is inhaled, but even this, a mainstay of my college experience, is a little disappointing. The queso is as awesomely bad as I remembered, all fake cheese and peppers in that perfect, not-from-nature, thick-but-not-too-thick consistency, but the tortillas taste a little burnt.

As we eat, the post-bar crowds begin to arrive in earnest: some mildly frattish college kids, a few black guys in Rockets jerseys, and a trio of two girls in seriously skimpy clubbing gear and a guy in a fishing trucker hat. That's what's nice about Taco Cabana and Houston -- to each his own.

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