For an authentic Hidalgo, Mexico, experience seven days a week, head to this Spring Branch strip-mall hole-in-the-wall, which has been a destination for Houstonians since 1994. Walk in on any given weekend and prepare for live music and a Mexican karaoke session, with guests swapping out the stage to earn their fifteen minutes of fame. If that spectacle weren’t enough, you can observe an open barbecue pit in the busy kitchen, where rustic specialties like whole cabrito, lamb barbacoa, and assorted cuts of beef are spit-roasted to exact tenderness. Count on large family-style portions, from crunchy chicken flautas (under an avalanche of chopped lettuce) to fajitas (with perfectly grilled onions, white corn tortillas, and spicy-smoky chipotle salsa). A good takeout option is the chicken soup with real-deal broth (insider tip: ask for extra rice and pico). The menu is vast, with most plates including soupy charro beans and Mexican rice, both a tad bland. We also pined for more lime and a little avocado here and there (again, ask). On September 20, the New York Times included El Hildalguense (along with three other Texas restaurants) on its annual list of favorite restaurants (or, as they put it, “places in the United States that we’re most excited about right now”).
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Boisterous good cheer and family-style Mexican specialties are on the menu.