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Keep Houston Press Free
4

Tex-Mex Temples: Combo Platters of Hopes and Dreams

Diana Kennedy has always trashed the “so-called Mexican restaurants” north of the border and the “overly large platters of mixed messes” they serve. Following her lead, food snobs on the East and West Coasts ridicule Tex-Mex--which they seem to think is the invention of a bunch of dumb rednecks who can’t cook Mexican food.

In fact, if you study old menus, you find that the “so-called Mexican restaurants” opened by Mexicans and Mexican-Americans in Texas combined authentic Mexican dishes, like tamales and enchiladas, with Texas creations, like chili con carne, to create an American regional cuisine.

Tex-Mex restaurants also offered Mexican-Americans rare opportunities for economic and social advancement. Take the case of Raul Molina, whose father worked on a railroad crew for the International & Great Northern line. Raul worked as a waiter for many years to save the money to own his own restaurant.

When they bought one, Raul Molina and his wife Mary lived on the second floor above the restaurant with their children. Every member of the family was employed by the business. And when they expanded, there was always a family member in charge of each new location.

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In their later years, Raul and Mary Molina became prominent members of Houston society and generous donors to charities. They were very active in the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo. None of which makes Molina’s combo platters taste any better.

Hey--some people prefer authentic Mexican food to Tex-Mex, some people like risotto better than spaghetti and meatballs--to each his own. But maybe you should think twice before you trash somebody’s culture based on your taste in tacos. – Robb Walsh

Be sure to read "Temples of Tex-Mex: A Diner's Guide to the State's Oldest Mexican Restaurants"...

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