This is the third in a series of visits to the six-cluster of Mexican restaurants on Navigation, a group of eateries that exemplifies Houston’s indigenous culinary history.
Taquería Chabelita is one of the six Mexican restaurants clustered on Navigation, and because of its Veracruz influence, it points to the cosmopolitan character of the indigenous people who lived in the Houston region as far back as 2,000 years. Cosmopolitan, in the sense of having wide international sophistication, describes the Native Americans in the Houston region who traded with and knew the rich cultures of central and southern Mexico long before the arrival of Europeans in the 1500s.
Taquería Chabelita offers both Texas and Veracruz Mexican food. Take-away tacos, tortas and tostadas are familiar Mexican dishes of Texas. But customers are also tempted by international favorites from Veracruz like fish filet dishes or the picadas, thick corn patties that are crimped at the edges, topped with beans, chopped beef, and laden with Crema Mexicana.
Both Texas and Veracruz Mexican dishes are popular. They’re listed all together on the menu, handwritten on spiral-bound notebook sheets that are torn off and taped to the wall. Brea kfast plates include machacado (dried beef threads) with egg, chorizo and egg, ham and egg, and also chilaquiles, crisp corn chips that are bathed in green or red chile and served with an egg.
The lunch tacos include barbacoa (yum!), fajita and “lengua,” tongue. The full lunch plates are squarely in the Texas Mexican traditions like chile relleno and steak ranchero, but there are also Veracruz Mexican traditions that, to my taste, are an interesting contrasted option. An example of the Veracruz coastal food is the lightly sautéed fish filet, “a la plancha,” overlaid with onions that have been cooked just enough to develop a little bit of caramelization for a touch of color and sweetness. Served with a salad, avocado, diced potatoes and lightly seasoned rice, it’s a perfect Veracruz lunch. It’s cooked “al momento,” à la minute and the price is $9.99.
I go back and forth between her Veracruz and Texas styles of Mexican food, the red and green salsas are perfect for both. Ever since our indigenous Texas ancestors built a network of roads to travel to central and southern Mexico, later called El Camino Real by the Spanish, the entire Houston region has been cosmopolitan. This tiny taquería celebrates that fact deliciously.