Why am I writing this month’s Foodie Diary so far ahead of deadline? I’m having a moment over this evening’s restaurant and don’t want to forget the details or the food, gruesome as they were.
Disclosure: I did write my first draft that night. But my sharp fingertips kept calling me back.
I walked into a near-empty dining room at Antonio’s Mexican Grille, a strip center Tex-Mex crypt at Holcombe and Buffalo Speedway, at 6 p.m. I was expecting a neighborhood gem, but my experience was akin to fool’s gold. They get my hard earned gold while I’m the fool.
Now, meat intolerance has come into my Tex-Mex life. It cuts good stuff like beef and pork out of my diet. No biggie — chicken, fruit and veggies, seafood and dairy are still fine. And carbs! Flour tortillas and butter, come to me now!
But tonight, chicken enchiladas beckoned me. The picture on the menu looked good as did the photo you see here; one I took of my plate. Chile con queso to start, with a margarita.
Restaurants with a water theme have a drowning effect on me. But since the queso and cocktail both had ample amounts, I surfed the wave and braced myself for the tsunami to come.
While not as egregiously bad as, say, La Hacienda on 26th Street (a place to which people drag themselves because it’s not Tony’s), Antonio’s food is dreary. Oversalted salsa and charro beans, cold chips and barely pliable enchiladas erased any dining pleasure I could muster.
And that two-enchilada plate set me back $20! For comparison, the same dish at Pappasito’s is $18.95. Other well-known places cost even less.
My four-sip “iceberg margarita” (bland, weak and rocky) was $12, and the cheese-water cost $8. Antonio’s must be too economy minded for milk, if a queso thinner is even needed. That or it’s the rent in that tony location.
The owner, or manager, or who knows whom, sat near me, watching everything like a surly hawk. His eyes were focused on his laptop. Camera views. Three of them!
I can’t say I’m surprised by any of this. Tex-Mex is a tired, stagnant cuisine that is, if the trend watchers are to be believed, fading quickly. I’ve noticed that even the better Tex-Mex places are a smidge less jam-packed, not quite as raucous, as they used to be.
That’s OK. I can’t have beef fajitas anymore. Cue the teardrops. Exit stage left. However, if you can, or you salivate over a #2 combo, it’s best to avoid Antonio’s like you’d avoid North Korea, Syria and many parts of Florida.
And to those in the appealing neighborhood where Antonio’s may be the only nearby “I don’t want to cook tonight” Tex-Mex option, I feel your pain. Maybe soon, order in some Thai or maybe Indian, enjoy a truly creative cuisine, and thank your stars you dodged Antonio’s bullet.
Antonio’s Mexican Grille
3147 W. Holcombe Blvd.
Houston, TX 77025