Ten great meals from recent trips to Texas

Cow talk sign

Over the past few months, I’ve been spending time in Texas trying to figure out if I want to move back there, either on a permanent basis or at least part of the year. Most of my travels (and housing research) were spent between the Dallas-Fort Worth area and Houston, though I will say that those small Central Texas towns in between Houston and Austin hold much appeal, as well.

In any case, driving around Texas trying to figure out what to do with your life can make you hungry, so I often found myself eating multiple meals a day. Here are some of the highlights from my recent trips, which hit the Texas trifecta of Tex-Mex, barbecue, and chicken-fried steak.

It’s no secret that I love Tex-Mex and that Herrera’s Cafe on Sylvan in Dallas is one of my favorite spots. I’ve recently been flying into Dallas Love Field, which puts me all the closer to get my fix of crisp chips, satisfying salsa, and the fluffiest, creamiest sour cream chicken enchiladas around.

Herrera's Cafe | Homesick Texan

Another Dallas favorite is Mia’s, home of legendary brisket tacos. The tender brisket nestled into tortillas with melted Monterey Jack and roasted strips of poblano chiles and onions are a classic. The restaurant’s Loteria-inspired table cloths are also fun.

Mia's brisket tacos | Homesick Texan

One day after visiting the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, I had a craving for barbecue. When I looked up nearby spots, Jesus Barbecue came up on the list. I loved the name and headed over there, only to learn that it’s a Tex-Mex spot, too. So instead of smoked meats I ordered a cheese enchilada plate, which was oozing with long strings of molten cheese smothered in a soulful, earthy chili.

A trip to my mom’s place in Cypress had me close to Tomball, home of one of my favorite barbecue spots Tejas Chocolate and Barbecue. A visit there means I’ll load up on its regular items such as tender moist brisket and its sweet and savory carrot soufflé. But what makes the trip always fun is the rotating specials. One time I had a brisket poblano tortilla soup, which was outstanding. This visit I had a smoked barbacoa boudin sausage laced with cilantro, green onion, and lime. This Cajun-Tex-Mex-Barbecue mash-up felt so Houston to me.

Texas Chocolate | Homesick Texan

For many years, I’ve been following Houston-native Ford Fry as he opened his Superica Tex-Mex restaurants in Atlanta. Homesick Texans from Georgia swear by his food and were always telling me I should visit. I still haven’t made it to Atlanta yet, but was excited to hear he had recently opened a branch in the Houston Heights. On my visit, the sturdy yet thin salty tortilla chips, along with his take on the classic Houston-style green and red salsas may have been my favorite items, but the pork-rich refried beans, tender steak, queso, and rich enchiladas were excellent, too.

Superica | Homesick Texan

One afternoon, two Houston friends and I decided to indulge in Mexican seafood at Caracol. We ordered almost half the menu, and I was so excited to try everything that I didn’t take many pictures. For instance, the chicharrón de calamar, crispy fried squid in a Serrano and garlic coating was so addictive that it was gone in seconds. But also recommended were these smoky and juicy wood-roasted oysters covered in Parmesan cheese, chipotle butter, and toasted bread crumbs.

Caracol | Homesick Texan

Driving around the beautiful countryside in Grimes County one day, I passed a sign for a spot called Cow Talk Steak House. Delighted by both the name and the graphic, I stopped in to see what was on offer. There was a large selection of steaks on the menu, of course. But I opted for that day’s steam-table lunch special, which included chicken-fried steak, chicken spaghetti, a combination of vegetables such as mashed potatoes and green beans, hot rolls, cold salad, and slices of homemade German chocolate cake and banana cake. All of it tasted like it was homemade and had been made with love. I can’t wait to return.

Cow Talk CFS and chicken spaghetti | Homesick Texan

Along with red and green salsas and fajitas, Houston’s Tex-Mex is marked by the prevalence of puffed queso tostadas. One day I had lunch at El Tiempo, where I ordered my favorite combo, the fajita and cheese stuffed avocado served with a taco al carbon. While this plate didn’t arrive with a queso tostada, when I asked for one they were happy to oblige.

On another trip out of Love Field, I stopped at Mockingbird Diner across the street. The chicken-fried steak sandwich on a homemade roll was tender and juicy, and the green beans larded with thick pieces of bacon were equally good.

CFS sandwich | Mockingbird Diner

Of course, I didn’t always eat in restaurants and on my final night in Texas, I stayed at my grandma’s farm. My uncle made the family a chili enchilada casserole layered with homemade chili, cheese, tortillas, and onions, which went well with salad, carrots, and a big bowl of guacamole.

This was Texas home cooking at its finest and a perfect finish to my inspiring and revitalizing trips. I can’t wait to return soon!

  1. Move back to Texas! Mia’s and El Tiempo are definitely two of my faves 🙂

  2. Amber | Loves Food, Loves to Eat

    Uuuuuuuugggggh this all looks so good! Would love a recipe for your uncle’s chili enchilada casserole!

  3. Great post about your most recent Texas trip, with fabulous photos as always.

    I was in your situation about 20 years ago. Texas native who enjoyed living on the East Coast for 15+ years but was homesick for family and the Hill Country. I did one of those “tours” and moved to Austin, and I’ve never regretted it. What has been the only downside, other than being away from friends that I made there, has been the changes here since my move, which I never would have anticipated.

    I’m looking forward to trying Superica and La Lucha, the other Ford Fry restaurant in Houston that was inspired by the San Jacinto Inn. Good luck on your decision.

    • Lisa Fain

      Patti–Yes, I plan to visit La Lucha in November. I loved the San Jacinto Inn when I was a kid. Thanks for the feedback about moving. Texas has certainly changed a lot since I’ve lived there, but I visit often enough that I think the biggest shock for me would be having a car and not being around people all the time.

  4. next time you go to tomball you HAVE to go to goodson’s cafe….the chicken fried mushrooms are GIGANTIC as is the chicken fried steak….and both are AMAZING!!!
    if you’re ever in austin please try the enchiladas and toast at dartbowl…yes a bowling alley & yes toast….you will NOT be disappointed!!!
    i live in austin & travel to dallas & houston throughout the year….thanks for some new spots to try out!
    looking forward to that enchilada casserole recipe!!! (:

    • Lisa Fain

      Lisa–It’s on the list! I’m always a fan of chicken-fried steak and of fried mushrooms, too! And a big yes to Dart Bowl! I love their cheese enchiladas and that homemade bread for the toast. That’s definitely one of my all-time favorite Texas plates.

  5. Kim Van Houten

    I’m about to board a plane to leave DFW to fly back to California after 16 days with family in small town Texas. Food was high on my list! Mom made sure I got everything I wanted except I missed out on sopapillas — something no one in Cali seems to have heard of! I’ll highly recommend chicken fried steak at The Bullpen in Mesquite and a little diner called Happy Days hidden in Crandall,, bbq at Soulman’s in Terrell and Dickey’s in both Kaufman and Seven Points. Too many good Tex-Mex to list them all, but the fajitas at La Paderos in Kaufman we’re worth eating twice. And the sandwiches made with fresh bread at the Mennonite bakery in Kemp was very good. But the best was the homemade food brought over by neighbors: taco soup, jalapeño cornbread, fried chicken, chicken spaghetti, yeast rolls, chicken fried steak, mashed potatoes, pot roast, and more cakes than I can remember. And yes, my luggage contains a large package of mom’s homemade peanut patties and pecan brittle.

    • Lisa Fain

      Kim–Thank you for the tips! I’m not familiar with any of these places so I’m excited to try them. And I’m with you, the homemade food is always the best. Sounds like y’all had some fine feasts and I’m glad your returning with some provisions, as well.

  6. Brigid Kaye

    I’m a Texan living in Philadelphia. I’ve been a fan for decades. Your books are my go-to. Your uncles chili enchilada casserole looks so delicious! Please share the recipe.

    • Lisa Fain

      Brigid–Thank you for the kind words! And I’ll ask him for the recipe.

  7. Arlene F Baril

    I am the opposite of you. Been in the Dallas metroplex since 1995 and dream of moving back to my beloved NY state.

    • Lisa Fain

      Arlene–The Homesick New Yorker! New York is indeed a marvelous state and I’ve very much enjoyed my time here. I hope you can get back some day.

  8. P.M. Summer

    All is forgiven. Come home.

  9. You always take the most beautiful pictures. It’s only 10 am and I’m already hungry for EVERYTHING. 🙂

    • Lisa Fain

      Matthew–Thank you! If you’re hungry then I’ve done my job well.

  10. Leah King

    Come home.

  11. Jennifer

    This homesick Texan’s mouth is watering!! Oh my! I live in Georgia so I’ll have to try the Tex-Mex place in ATL…I am not a fan of the “mexican food” in Georgia. I can’t do the white cheese they eat here and I want real, homemade tortillas, chunky guacamole, and sour cream sauce.

  12. Roslyn Jo

    I’m visiting Denton and Paris in December so saving this for some Dallas eating ideas as we’ll fly into DFW. Thanks! Any chance your uncle will share that amazing looking chili enchilada casserole recipe with us? Happy Travels!

    • Lisa Fain

      Roslyn Jo–I’m going to ask him for the recipe. And happy travels to you on your upcoming visit!

  13. Chef Paul

    Every day that I stay in Arizona makes me exponentially more lonesome for Texas. NYC is a great thing, Lisa. But, there is NO place like Texas. I haven’t lived there for almost 40 years and I still get teary when I hear the state anthem. Go home!

  14. Nora Dye

    I live in Playa del Carmen MX, we thought that it would be great to retire here. WRONG!!
    There is not Tex Mex restaurant anywhere in the interior of Mexico. The food in the interior has NOTHING on Tex Mex. How we miss it, and chicken fried steak, Texas barbecue Brisket and iced tea and sweet desserts. The Mexicans make such eye appealing desserts, but hardly any sugar at all. We are on a countdown. 14 months till we move back to TEXAS

  15. My goodness, this was a gorgeous blog post! I can’t wait to hear more about that chili recipe. I hope that your moving decision won’t be a difficult one; if you’re ready for a change, this would be a good one. Maybe it would let you get more involved with projects near and dear to your heart, like the Southern Foodways Alliance. As always, I’m excited to hear what’s next for you!

    • Lisa Fain

      Celeste–Thank you! Yes, there’s a lot I want to do in Texas and it’s a challenge being so far and not having a home base, though my family and friends are super generous with me when it comes to places to stay when I visit.

  16. Lisa,
    Wait! If you move back to Texas, will you still be the Homesick Texan?? I moved to southern California from Southlake Texas 11 years ago and never looked back. Your books and recipes have continued to bring a little bit of Texas to me and my friends and family.

    • Lisa Fain

      Jim–Ha! I reckon I wouldn’t be homesick any longer if I returned back to Texas. One friend said that I stay in NYC part time for that reason alone!

  17. I miss good Mexican food so much! I always try to get my fill when I go back to TX to visit family. I hope you post your uncle’s chili enchilada casserole.

    • Lisa Fain

      Stacy–Yes! Mexican food is always my what I try to eat the most when I’m home. And I’ll ask him for the recipe.

  18. Y’all come back here.

  19. Lisa – thanks for the tips. I drove past Jesus bbq the other day as said I gotta check that out! Probably going tomorrow! And I haven’t been to Herrera’s in years but will now definitely get back.

    Next time you are in DFW check out Mojo’s TexMex Smokehouse. They do righteous barbecue and when you place your order at thee counter they throw down your dough on a griddle in front of you for your tacos.

  20. Also, I’d like to see the recipe for that enchilada casserole of your uncle’s.

  21. Julie Touchstone

    Those look so good! I need to make a drive over to Dallas.
    When in Houston, we always have to take my MIL to Los Tios. We love the queso there.
    For inspiration on places to visit, motorcycle blogs are a good source.

  22. Texas is just the best holiday anywhere in the world. This has brought up moving memories

  23. Jennifer

    Next time you’re in DFW….

    Dallas: E-bar. Jorge’s tacos.
    Ft.W: Enchiladas Ole. Any enchilada with brisket (the husband and I are both partial to the hatch ones but the texican are good too.) I have dreams about their mexican rice.

    Come back to Texas!!!

  24. I came to Houston over forty years ago as a newlywed and a whole new world of eating opened up for me! I could live anywhere and the great food is one of the reasons I choose to stay, despite floods, and bugs and humidity and never ending road work.

    Next time you are home, try Soto’s Cantina on Grant Rd near Cy-Creek High. The summer steak is special and the salads quite creative. Love the old house location, too. And Alicia’s on 290 and Cypress Rose Hill in Cypress has my favorite fajitas among all the Tex Mex locally.

    • Lisa Fain

      Leigh–I LOVE Soto’s Cantina! It’s near my mom’s place and we go there often. And thank you for the tip about Alicia’s!

  25. James Clement

    I frequent the Herrera’s in Oak Cliff (close to work) and love Mia’s, especially the sunset sauce.

  26. Julyne Derrick

    Lisa! I’ve been a fan of your site for at least a decade (is that possible?) I’m a native Texan living in New York City since 2003, so I’m a huge fan of your recipes. I’m curious what small towns in between Houston and Austin you feel for. My family is from Burton and I think the area — particularly the bits around Round Top — is just incredibly charming. Cheers from upstate NY where there’s currently a foot of fresh snow on the ground….

    • Lisa Fain

      Julyne–Burton is cute and I also love that area around Round Top and Brenham. One of my favorite drives is between Houston to Austin and exploring all points in between.

  27. ashley skifton

    What location of El Tiempo is the best to you? I am planning a trip home soon. I also am a homesick Texan transplanted to Idaho. Your website has been so fulfilling for me! I love so many of your recipes and suggestions… Carnitas, Sour Cream Enchiladas, chipotle chicken tacos, GRAPEFRUIT CAKE!!! I have so many favorites that I make regularly. And the Grapefruit Cake is my birthday present to myself every year. 🙂 Thank you for what you are doing.

    • Lisa Fain

      Ashley–When my mom was in Cypress, I went to the one in Vintage Park. And I’m delighted that the site has been so fulfilling for you! I love that you make the grapefruit cake for your birthday every year! Happy cooking!

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