The experience

This weekend, the Phipps family has taken a road trip to Houston to check out the Texas Renaissance Festival.  Not knowing Houston too well, I asked my good friend Ashish for some suggestions.  He immediately thought of El Tiempo.  He told me that he doesn’t even really like chicken (which I know is true) EXCEPT here.  (I have these thoughts about certain foods and certain places so it definitely piqued my interest).  Ogre loves Mexican food and since we had no other means of knowing where to go, we decided that we would make the drive in to Houston (we’re staying in the Woodlands) to try the best chicken fajitas EVER.

El Tiempo

It took us a good 40 minutes to get to the restaurant since Google Maps led us astray by telling us to exit someplace that didn’t exist.  As we drove up, I groaned a little anticipating that Ashish might have sent us to a pricey Mexican joint.  Ogre assured me that the website didn’t make it seem like that.  We drove up and found valet only, normally another issue that makes me groan, but our valet guy was so charming and kind to Mina that I didn’t mind.

MIna and the statue

Mina requested some pictures by some of the wooden sculptures outside before we headed in.  The decor inside was impressive.  Definitely had a nice vibe and rustic Mexican decor.  It was pretty dark with table candles providing most of the lighting and Mina thought is was cool that there were ghosts hanging from the ceiling.  We were seated very quickly and our waiter waited for us to settle in before getting our drink order.   I initially forgot that I wanted to try their margaritas so after the waiter brought our drinks, Ogre ordered me a Guava margarita and we also ordered a guacamole for the kids.

Guacamole

Mina thought to bring her markers and a picture to color and Benjamin was pretty content with his Are You My Mother book, which we’ve found must accompany us whereever we go.  The guacamole came out and the kids and Ogre busied themselves with that.  I took a few bites, but I don’t really like guacamole.  They all seemed to like it though.  When the guac came out, Ogre put in our dinner order and Ogre and I were able to have some normal conversation while the kids ate and Mina colored.

Mina is prepared

Without too much of a wait, the entrees came out.  Our fajitas came out on a sizzling platter atop a metal canister.  The waiter put it in the middle of the table.  It also came with beans in  a small tin platter and cilantro rice in a little chafing dish.  As we were getting settled and helping Mina with her quesadillas, Benji apparently was able to reach the fajita platter and touched it.  Of course, he cried out and we semi-freaked out.  Well, Ogre thought he heard Benji’s hand sizzle.  I looked at his hand and it looked fine to me.  We stuck in water anyway to try to cool it off and by that time he stopped crying and wanted to eat tortillas and beans.  The light was awful so I ended up using the camera flash to try and get a good luck.  No burns that I could see.

Fajitas

Mina told Ogre that she had a surprise for him and asked him to close his eyes.  When he opened them she was pointing at her plate, where we found she had eaten all of her alotted guacamole -this is quite an accomplishment from our daughter who despises all things green and edible!

Mina ate all the guac

Ogre and I enjoyed our fajitas very much and discussed the virtues of various Tex-Mex joints that we frequent.  They all have their good qualities that differ.  These fajitas were definitely moist and tender and flavorful, couldn’t say anything bad about these!  Benji’s book fell at some point and this made him cry.  It also made him cry when Ogre tried to take the book away because it was becoming covered in beans and guac.  So we ended up propping the book open to his favorite “sno” (snort) page in certain Benji view and that made him happy.

Benji's favorite book

Mina finished up her dinner and started playing with some of the items she got at her school’s fall festival from the morning.  She looked very silly in her fake dracula teeth and she showed them off to the waiter who acted very surprised and scared -what a trooper!  She also tried to scare Benji who just made a face like it was the funniest thing he ever saw!!  He thinks Mina is so funny!!

Mina scaring Benji with her pink monster teeth

Ogre was finishing up his margarita while the rest of us waited and Benji entertained himself by making faces with his tortilla, an act he learned from Dusty.  It’s pretty cute to see though!

More tortilla face

Finally, it was time to order dessert, we asked the waiter about his favorites and he stated tres leches or flan, Mina immediately piped up “FLAN!”  I was a little hesitant after our 5 star flan experience at Mario’s Chiquita, but I couldn’t deny Mina so we got the flan.

Benji LOVED the flan!  And after all that hullaballoo about wanting flan, Mina ate maybe two bites!  It was good flan, but not better than Mario’s.  Once we finished off the flan, we headed back to our hotel far, far, away.

 Benji loves the flan

The food

I thought the food was above average to excellent.  Ogre thought it was excellent.

Starting with the table condiments and the appetizer.  I thought the table salsa was a little strange.  It wasn’t spicy (which is a plus for me), but it had some weird flavor that Ogre said was roasted tomatoes, I’m not sure I agree with him, but he liked it.  I don’t like guacamole to begin with, but Ogre thought the guacamole was very good.  This was Mina’s “vegetable” for the evening and she did say that she liked it. 

Ogre and I shared the beef and chicken fajitas and we both thought that they were above average.  Ogre thought they were excellent, but we both thought Papasito’s has better beef fajitas.  Now, I don’t know that I agree with Ashish’s comments that they are the best fajitas ever, but the chicken fajitas were definitely tender and juicy.  We liked the flavor of the beef fajitas as they seemd to have been marinated in something that had a mild sweetness to it.  The chicken was simply flavored with salt and mild spices (pepper).  The beans were excellent -Benji ate almost all of mine.  The cilantro rice was also a superstar, it was a perfect addition to our meal.

Mina got the chicken quesadillas and she thought they were excellent.  Ogre did, too.  They were nice and hefty. 

The flan is average to above average.  I like my flan to be more airy,  this one is more dense and custardy.  It is served with a strawberry sauce and some kind of cream sauce, which I did not try, I’m a flan purist.  Ogre tried the sauces and said they were really good and that I didn’t know what I was missing. 

Kids menu has all the usual suspects for a decent price of $4.99-5.99.

The service

Excellent.  Our waiter was very attentive and checked on his frequently, they use the team waitstaff concept here where different servers brought out drinks, cleared items and brought various courses, but our waiter always checked to make sure everything was okay.  He also feigned fear when Mina showed him her fake teeth, which was very cute and got him some brownie points!

I normally don’t discuss the valet, but it was so great here, that it deserves mention.  When we drove up, they made sure to open the door for me and for Mina.  And the valet guy said to Mina that she was a pretty princess and asked her if she’d like him or her Papa (and even used the word Papa, which is what our kids call their dad) to help her out.  Mina said it’d be okay for him, too.   Then, when we were leaving, they were very patient with me helping Benji in and when I headed to my side of the car, they rushed over to get the door for me.  Now that’s good valet service, folks!!

 

The kids

I would call this place kid friendly despite not having any kids activities.  They have a kids menu that has chicken of beef enchiladas or tacos, cheese quesadillas, bean and cheese tostados, burritos, fajitas or even a pizza for $4.99-5.99.  This place doesn’t give out crayons or anything so bring your own if you think you’ll need them.  The food comes out at a very quick tempo, so I think most kids wouldn’t have a problem.

They have excellent Tex-Mex here, so if you’re in Houston and you’ve got the kids, I’d highly recommend this place.  It’s well worth it!!

 

The total: $91.58 ($30 in margaritas)

DON’T FORGET!!  THIS RESTAURANT IS IN HOUSTON!!

Related Fiascos