Iconic Tex-Mex Restaurant, Los Tios, Turns 44!
In mid-September, 2014, a group of Tex-Mex lovers gathered (Official Notice of a Comped Meal) at the Los Tios on Beechnut (across from Meyerland Mall) at the invitation of Gary Adair… owner of Los Tios. We were helping the Adairs celebrate the 44th anniversary of the multi-location restaurant. But moreover, Adair was using the 44th anniversary to honor and thank his extended family… his employees.
Gary Adair spent his Summers in Beeville,Texas. His family had been there since the War-Between-The-States, but due to a quirk of fate (like mine), his father was stationed in Louisiana, and Gary was born there. You know Beeville, don’t you? Well, it’s a small town down sorta close to Corpus Christi. Its particular location puts it far enough from Mexico to not be a hotbed of JUST Mexican food and far enough from Houston to not be a hotbed of “designer” Tex-Mex food. YET, it was close enough to Mexico that Gary and his family enjoyed the foods of the region as he grew up.
People around Beeville always knew what “puffy tacos” and “puffy quesos” were. They always knew about chili gravy and (very importantly), yellow cheese grated generously on a combination plate. The contrast of the bright yellow cheese and the rich dark chili gravy grated on a cheese tortilla and topped with finely chopped white Rio Grande Valley onions was a taste of heaven to Gary, growing up. So, when Gary moved to Houston, it didn’t take him long to fall in love with Rosemary Garbett’s Los Tios Mexican Restaurants at age 16. It was a taste of his Summer home and the “Valley.” Little did he imagine that it would become such an obsession that it would surprise no one that he bought Los Tios in 2000.
Slowly, he made a few operational changes, He improved the quality of ingredients, adding freshly made tortillas, and premium, fresh squeezed lime juice to 100% blue agave tequila margaritas. Previous owner, Rosemary Garbett claimed that Los Tios served the first frozen margaritas in Houston. The menu still features its signature mesquite-grilled fajitas, enchiladas, tacos, nachos, tamales, burritos, quesadillas and the world famous puffy queso (a hallmark identifier of a true Tex-Mex restaurant).
Presentation of the Tortilla Soup has changed over the years… but not the ingredients, nor the taste.
And LARD! Lardy, lardy… a genuine Tex-Mex restaurant, like Los Tios, can also be identified by the unique flavor imparted by lard in many of its offerings.
We all expected to be in at 7:00 and out at 8:30… but the focus of our group became a discussion of the Tex-Mex dining genre, with constant illustrations provided by plates (“hot plate… don’t touch!”) of familiar old Tex-Mex standards and we didn’t break out until around 10:00 p.m.!
We were introduced to those who Adair feels are responsible for the success of Los Tios… such as long-time loyal employee-family members like Juanita (35 years), Jose (26 years), Johnny (24 years), Martha (23 years), Tino (21 years) and Veronica (16 years) and the consistency they bring to the kitchen and the “front of the house”.
Desserts are colorful and authentic. Sopapillas and Flan and Tres Leches are offered as the finale!
As one who has eaten at Tex-Mex restaurants since his childhood, I always looked forward to the bill being handed to my father when we were in Raymondville, Harlingen or Brownsville. That was where the main course was handed to us… the Tex-Mex pralines! By the way, here in Texas, they are pronounced “pray-leens”… NOT “prah-leens”. Los Tios makes them in-house and they don’t disappoint at meal’s-end.