I live in New Orleans, the food capital of everywhere and I'm a transplanted South Floridian, but among my food fixations are Mex-Mex (including Cabrito) and Texas BBQ, especially beef ribs. Let's not bother with explaining why.
I've made two trips, one business and one leisure, to Houston since the hurricane evacuation in mid-September and have tried both Williamsn and El Hildeguense on both trips. I have to compliment John Scar for some right-on recommendations.
Williams Smokehouse has excellent BBQ in what seems to me to be sort of a semi-rural part of Houston, north of north I-610. I believe there are some ramshackle stables just a long baseball relay (left over World Series similie) throw from the pit. You SMELL Williams before you see it. The building is on the corner but what it is seems obscure at first glance. You have to turn off Wheatley into a side road and pull in around back to actually park.
Bad news about Williams: they do not smoke beef ribs. They only do pork ribs. SO, I still have not had Texas BBQ beef ribs in several years.
The good news about Williams is that the food is first rate! The chicken my colleague had on one trip was HUGE and very well smoked, with a crusty, tasty skin. The beef links are AWESOME. I bought an extra pound on my first trip to take home to my husband in New Orleans because I knew that otherwise he wouldn't believe me when I told him how good they were.
The sliced beef is brisket but they don't advertise it as such, they just call it 'sliced beef'. It's crumbly and seemed more spicy than the chicken and the links.
The side dishes are good: I had the mustardy potato salad and the beans on both trips.
El Hildeguense was fun. It's in the barrio somewhere (on Longpoint, but not really close to Otilia's, maybe more east). Seems like a neighborhood, family kind of place. I was there twice on Friday nights around 7 p.m. and both times they had a electric guitar-keybords combo playing extremely LOUD mexican pop (or so I surmised). I'd say each time the crowd averaged out at one family of around 12, three couples, a couple of men waiting for very large take out orders,
and us, the only non-Mexicans.
The prices on the menu are cheap by any standard.
The food is only fair but very interesting. The Guacamole comes with the ingredients mashed together on a plate, not as the smooth puree we're used to from American chains, Tex-Mex or California Mexican restaurants. Same with the Pico de Gallo. No chips! My co-worker and I were perplexed with what to do at first but recovered and ordered an order of flour tortillas to handle the plates of goodies.
They serve little condiment plates just before the main course is ready - slices of lime, cilantro and chopped onion.
I was surprised at how much lamb is on the menu and that the beans come as a soup course with your dinner.
The bean soup was very good!
I had the Cabrito the first time and thought it was pretty good. My husband had the Cabrito this time while I had Pollo with Mole. Again, the chicken was pretty good. Mole was different from what I've had before. This time my husband liked the Cabrito but didn't think it was really barbecued. It was served chopped up and still on the bone, much as the Greeks serve spit-roasted lamb.
A New Orleans friend who also went to EL Hildeguense this weekend with a Houston-based relative had the Cabrito but felt that it was not very good. However, he also generally liked the restaurant's feel.
They're open for breakfast as well as lunch and dinner.
Next time there, I try the Menudo.
Still on the agenda for my next trip will be the beef ribs. After beef ribs will be barbecued crab. I need the Houston Chowhounds help in lining up prospects for the next series of expeditions.
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