Restaurant Reviews

Los Compadres: First Look at a Hidden Gem

The steak fajitas could have been a little more tender.
The steak fajitas could have been a little more tender. Photo by Lorretta Ruggiero
When the weather is beautiful and warm in Houston on a February day, it's tempting to play hooky from work and responsibilities. If you can find a partner to join you, that's even better.

Such was the case recently when I convinced my spouse, Classic Rock Bob, to step away from the drudgery of the computer and go out for a late lunch. He's easily persuaded by the promise of a frozen margarita. There are a number of places to get a frosty cocktail and enchiladas near our suburban neighborhood but I thought we should try something outside our normal Tex-Mex trifecta.
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We know where we're spending our summer.
Photo by Lorretta Ruggiero
I posed the idea of going to a new place, Los Compadres, that had recently opened this past January.  We hadn't tried it yet, put off somewhat by its strip center proximity to a smoky dive bar and other questionable retail businesses. Its location in the former home of what had been a hookah bar twice over also gave us some pause. I looked at its website and was no nearer to gauging its quality since it was mostly in Spanish, a language I know I should acquaint myself with beyond the basics of eating and drinking.

Still, we decided to give it a shot. And we were very glad we did.

From the outside, it looks like a basic strip center Mexican restaurant . We did notice that it had a good-sized patio but for our first visit, we wanted to check out the inside. They must have seen us coming across the parking lot because a staff member already had menus and rolled silverware in hand when we opened the door. We were led to a hybrid booth/table which looked like a remnant of its hookah bar days.
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A well-kept restaurant is important.
Photo by Lorretta Ruggiero
There were only two other tables occupied in the restaurant so we were quickly supplied with chips and salsa. We were also given two large tortilla chips with some refried beans and a drizzle of white queso as a sort of Tex-Mex amuse bouche. Things were looking good so far.

We were asked if we spoke Spanish. When we said 'not really', another server appeared. All in all, at least five different people appeared at our table within a span of a few minutes. We were half-expecting the dishwasher to come out and say hola as well.
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Margaritas at lunchtime are a guilty, tasty pleasure.
Photo by Lorretta Ruggiero
We ordered our frozen margaritas and meals with a mix of Spanglish between all of us. It was particularly entertaining to watch Classic Rock Bob being taught how to say onions in Spanish by one of our attentive servers. CRB wanted extra cebollas on his enchiladas and now he knows how to ask for them.

Our frozen margaritas were served to us quickly and they were accompanied by a shot glass of strawberry puree. I thought it a nice freebie, though CRB passed his on over to me. The margaritas were on the icy side and not particularly strong but they tasted good. And it was only two in the afternoon.

We ordered off the lunch menu and the food was what one would expect at a decent Mexican restaurant. CRB had the cheese enchiladas and I had the El Cowboy which was a plate consisting of a tamale, cheese enchilada and a crispy beef taco. I normally do not eat crispy tacos ever at a Mexican restaurant but this one was well-seasoned, had fresh tomatoes and lettuce and the shell stayed crispy. There was also a tortilla cup filled with chili con queso, so it was a pretty good deal for $10.99.
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The El Cowboy has enough stuff.
Photo by Lorretta Ruggiero

As for the chips and salsa, they were delicious. The red salsa was served warm and was redolent with smokiness. The green sauce was a good version of salsa de aguacate, creamy and mild.

As we enjoyed our meal, staff were dropping by the three tables consistently. Other employees were busy cleaning. The restaurant was immaculate, which is always a good thing.

We ordered a second margarita to split but the server misunderstood and brought us each another. No big deal, especially since we soon learned that the margaritas at lunch were less than $3.

After paying our tab and saying our farewells to the staff, we left feeling as if we had been served in a home with hosts eager to please. Which is why a week later, we chose to take our friend Big Hair Kim for a meal at Los Compadres.

The second visit was similar. We had a late lunch with very few other tables sat in the restaurant. We also were visited numerous times by a number of different employees. Our main server spoke some English, always with his hand on his heart. Another fellow would come by and give us two thumbs up in question. We would reply with thumbs up and off he would go. Eventually, we met the owner and got his back story and we told him how impressed we were with everything.
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The Street Tacos make cilantro fans happy.
Photo by Lorretta Ruggiero
And no one was more impressed than Big Hair Kim. She had ordered the Street Tacos ($13.99) with chicken. They were served in a convenient taco holder and she appreciated that they were generous with the cilantro and onions (ceballos).  She loved her tacos but it was the bean soup that she raved about. Days later, she was still talking about it.

It was unlike any charro bean soup we have seen around town. In fact, beans were not the main ingredient. It was filled with fresh tomato and bell pepper chunks with some sausage thrown in as well. It was a from-scratch cup of comfort food.
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A complimentary snack is always welcome.
Photo by Lorretta Ruggiero
I ordered lunch steak fajitas ($15.99). Though the meat had good flavor, it was rather tough. Perhaps it was a one-off. Everything else, however, was tasty including the refried beans. The version at Los Compadres gets the balance of creaminess perfect; not too thick, not too thin. And the grilled onions were the star for me, more so than the steak. They were sweet and slightly caramelized.

We had also ordered frozen margaritas. This time they came with shot glasses of mango puree. On our second round we told them we didn't need any more puree but they brought out sides of strawberry anyway. My friend commented that it wasn't a very profitable choice considering the cost of fruit purees. It might be best for them to offer it as an upcharge.

Classic Rock Bob had an event to attend later so he didn't order a meal but he managed quite well off my plate and the yummy chips and salsa. When the check came, we were shocked to see that it was only $48. For six margaritas and two big plates of food, that was astonishing. Maybe the margaritas are more expensive at dinner but $2.50 at lunch is crazy cheap.
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Big Hair Kim gives the bean soup two manicured thumbs up.
Photo by Lorretta Ruggiero
With all of the employees and the owner dropping by our table and seeming so earnest about our dining happiness, my friend was quite overcome with emotion. She'd had a difficult month and the friendliness of the staff brought her to tears. She told us, " When I come to visit you guys, we're always coming here."

It's nice to indulge in steakhouse celebrations and blow-your-mind (and wallet) sushi but sometimes you just want a place to hang out with friends, eat a casual meal and feel like the owner and staff really care about your experience. Los Compadres delivers on all accounts.

Los Compadres
11902 Jones Road
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Lorretta Ruggiero is a Houston Press freelance writer based in Cypress, Texas. She loves entertaining her family and friends with her food and sparkling wit. She is married to Classic Rock Bob and they have two exceptionally smart-aleck children.