Last week my friend Stacey Abbott and I had lunch together at La Tapatia, the Montrose location of course, just the two of us. Stacey fashions a weight conscience salad out of fajitas and lettuce; I shamelessly order the cheese enchiladas. But we both love the margaritas—La Tapatia has one of the best house margaritas in Houston. After we finished our meal we were savoring our last drinks when I excused myself for the men’s room. As I stood at the urinal I looked up, knowing that La Tapatia had recently reopened after a kitchen fire, and I admired the fresh finishes. But I was interrupted when I thought I heard Stacey yelling my name. I listened carefully and heard the voices of the waitresses and then shrugged the sounds off as normal loud server banter. Then I heard Stacey again, clearly this time, “Troy! Troy!” I thought she was being abducted or something. When I ran out of the men’s room everyone was running around and shouting, “Fire!” I thought, My God, La Tapatia did not just catch fire again—with us it!
Amidst the panicking waitresses Stacey was waiting with my jacket, cell phone, and car keys. “We’ve got to get out of the building,” she said. “There’s a fire!”
As we ran for my car the fire trucks were screaming up Richmond Avenue. We jumped in as quickly as we could—I wanted to get my car out of the parking lot before we became trapped by the fire trucks. And I was also parked in the spot closest to the hydrant.
We narrowly escaped the pandemonium—our hearts were racing, our adrenaline was coursing! As we looped around and passed the restaurant we snapped a photo then we erupted into laughter.
We’ve been glad to reconvene at this favorite lunch haunt. After the fire earlier in the year, some Houstonians wondered if this traditional Mexican eatery would ever get it together again. Now reopened, gone are the old booths in the bar area which is now updated with stone accent walls.
I always say that the caliber of a Mexican restaurant can be gauged by the margarita, queso, and enchiladas—which are all excellent. About the queso though, I was recently having dinner at La Tapatila with my sister Julie Boggio. When the waitress delivered the tortilla chips and Salsa Roja I asked if we could get a small queso.
“We don’t have small queso,” she replied. “We only have medium and large.”
I quizzed, “How can you have a medium without a small?”
“Troy,” Julie cautioned, “are you really going to do this now?”
“Seriously,” I continued, “how can there be a medium without a small?” The very definition of medium means it’s in the middle position.
Cooler heads prevailed as sister told the waitress that the medium would be fine.
I also happen to be a fan of the Stuffed Jalapenos which are bacon wrapped and filled with beef and Jack. And the Tampiquena Combo has both beef skirt steak and a cheese enchilada. But one more thing La Tapatia lacks besides the small queso—they no longer provide pickled jalapenos, which blows my mind. I have never heard of a traditional Mexican restaurant without pickled jalapenos. But once again, cooler heads prevail and we remember to bring our own.
Not only is the food good but we love the servers there; some of the waitresses have been employed at La Tapatia for a decade or more! And it is nice to know them by name—Norma, Julie, Maria, and so many others.
And no, La Tapatila did not catch fire again. The other day Stacey and I visited for lunch and learned that the bedlam last week was a false alarm–one theory is that fajitas set off the smoke alarm. What a relief. But false alarm or not, it made for a good story.