Houston is known as the “Mexican Food Capital” of the United States.
So, there are many local favorites, Top 10 lists for every dish imaginable and—most of all—much restaurant loyalty. Houstonians know their Mexican food and they are going to go where the gettin’ is good time and time again. Case in point, Arnaldo Richards’ Picos which has been a Houston staple for over 30 years. If you are a native Houstonian chances are you have celebrated at least one occasion at Picos; either at the original location on Bellaire or the new location in the Upper Kirby District.
Richards, Owner and Executive Chef is a native of Monterrey, Mexico and a third-generation restaurateur who learned the recipes he still cooks with today from his mother and grandmother. You won’t find watery margaritas or greasy yellow cheese at his restaurant. Instead you will discover gourmet Mexican food from the seven regions of Mexico. Everything from tender and flavorful meats to freshly caught seafood is on the menu—and it is cooked to perfection. Pair that with one of their award-winning margaritas and you’ve got yourself a memorable meal.
I started off with the Ostiones Carlos Slim—the restaurant’s version of Oysters Rockefeller—which were served on a large bed of sea salt and were fresh and tasty. Picos is known for its mole which is typically a savory chocolate based sauce from Oaxaca, but can be made many different ways depending on the region it is being cooked in. You can’t go wrong if you order anything with mole on it. I had the Pollo En Mole Negro Oaxaqueno which is chicken in mole sauce served with black rice and refried black beans. The combination of flavors in the dish were incredible. I also highly recommend trying any of the seafood specialties, but especially the Camarones Adobados en Brocheta which are bacon-wrapped shrimp stuffed with poblano peppers and basted with adobo sauce. The shrimp are large and the flavors work very well together – definitely a restaurant favorite.
Tacos de Chicharron with green salsa is an off-the-menu item, and a well-kept secret. These little tacos come in a serving of three, are small enough for an appetizer—and so good they should be a menu staple. Your server will not only know you are a Picos insider, but he will let the kitchen know as well, so prepare your taste buds to be amazed.
For all you Tex-Mex fans, Picos has something for you, too, and even a menu that the kids will enjoy.
Richards’ daughter, Monica, has also made a name for herself behind the bar of the restaurant. She is the Beverage Director and responsible for Picos’ award-winning drinks. Another restaurant signature are their Shaker Margaritas. Two of my favorites are The Perfect and The Ultimate which can both be served straight up or on the rocks. If you’re feeling especially festive try one of Picos Exclusive Barrel Collection Margaritas which are made with Picos’ own barrel-aged tequilas. You can’t go wrong with The Noir which is not only smooth going down, but also has great flavor. For the winter season, Richards has a hot toddy called the Southern Texas Toddy. It is the perfect drink for a cold winter day in Houston. But don’t take our word for it, you can make your own Southern Texas Toddy by clicking here for Richards’ recipe.
Picos is on every top 10 list in Houston and for good reason, so don’t be surprised if after one visit it becomes your favorite, too.
Gabi De la Rosa lives in Houston, Texas with her husband and three children. You can usually find her at a great local restaurant or out exploring HTX with her family.
Cover: Camerones En Pipian, Fresh tasty seafood is a signature at Arnaldo Richards’ Picos. Photo Nick De la Torre