It's about to get easier than ever to pick up tamales from Picos for the holidays.
The news came during the rollout celebration of a bigger, bolder Picos logo yesterday. The tamale stand will be open from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. on November 28-30, the weekends of December 6 and 13 and then again from December 20-24. It will be set up in the parking lot, so it will be easy for guests to phone in their order, roll in, get tamales by the dozen and then head off to their holiday gatherings. The number to call and place orders is 832-831-9940.
It's going to be easier to find the place now, too. The new sign, sporting a burgundy background, an agave plant and the restaurant name in a bold, rustic font, replaces the old white one at Kirby at Richmond Avenue. While undoubtedly some of us will be nostalgic for the old toucan logo, an eye-catching change is likely a good move. Kirby Drive has not exactly been kind to restaurants over the past year.
"My family and I believe that we needed to make a change to reflect what we're doing here," said chef Arnaldo Richards. "We picked the agave plant because it reflects a lot in Mexican culture, not just the culinary part, but in many things. It provides paper, needles, pulque (a fermented beverage made from agave sap), it represents fertility--there are so many things behind that."
Considering that Picos is legendary in Houston for its margaritas, an agave plant makes sense. "I always say, I didn't invent the margarita, I just perfected it," laughs Richards. His daughter Monica is the beverage director at the restaurant and makes a mean margarita herself. Picos house version is generous and served in the shaker so you can refill your own glass after you've downed the first one.
The other major change is that the name is now "Arnaldo Richard's Picos." That's right--no more "Mex-Mex." The company is not calling it "rebranding"--they're calling it "brand transformation." "We've done a lot of 'firsts' here. We started using 'Mex-Mex' and now everyone is using it," explained Richards. 'We started using 'Regional Mexican Cuisine' and now everyone is using it. What we've been educating people on are the seven regions of Mexico."
Picos wants its menu to represent each of what Richards has defined as seven culinary regions of Mexico. The North, where the prominent ranching industry produces beef and cabrito (baby goat); the North Pacific Coast where the fertile shore produces grains, fruits, vegetables and agave; the Bajio, a plateau that contributed rice, pork and spices; the Gulf, the eastern coastal region that's a melting pot of African, Cuban and Spanish influences; Central Mexico, that features street food and the haute cuisine of Mexico City; the South Pacific Coast, famous for its moles; and the South or Yucatán peninsula with Caribbean and even Middle Eastern influences produce dishes like banana leaf-wrapped cochinita pibil that distinguish it from the rest of the country.
It is indeed an ambitious goal, but it is one Richards is passionate about. His own favorite region is the Bajio. "It's the breadbasket of Mexico. It's very fertile and there's a lot of agriculture going on. I think the best food comes from there because of the variety."
Visitors to Picos will be able to see--and taste--dishes representative of the different Mexican culinary regions for themselves. New menu items include Conejo en Pibil (slow-roasted, achiote rubbed rabbit wrapped in banana leaves), Cabrito en Salsa Monterrey (goat roasted in chile de arbol sauce), and Tamal de Cachete de Res (spiced beef cheeks and nopales wrapped in banana leaves).
Just look for the big red sign with the agave plant on it.