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The Short Version: Couples can make date night an exploration of authentic and diverse dishes in one of America’s first Tex-Mex restaurants. Ninfa’s serves Tex-Mex and Mexican dishes at its two locations in Houston, Texas. Ninfa Laurenzo founded the restaurant in 1973, and now Executive Chef Alex Padilla is at the helm. With breakfast, brunch, lunch, dinner, and dessert menus, Ninfa’s can host a memorable date anytime. The restaurant is celebrating its 50th anniversary in 2023.
Take a look at the iconic Lone Star flag of Texas. The simple red, white, and blue stripes and the singular white star make up the only American state flag that previously served as the flag of a recognized independent nation. This flag first appeared in 1839 when the Republic of Texas was independent.
The journey to annexation was complicated due to border disputes, the relationship between the U.S. and Mexico, and, most significantly, whether Texas would allow slavery. It was late December 1845 before annexation was ratified, and Texas became the 28th state of the United States. But before Texas was ever in the United States or even an independent country, Texas was part of Mexico.
Today, Ninfa’s in Houston offers the best Mexican food in Texas – which makes sense in light of its historic roots. The restaurant opened in 1973 with a dish that went on to define Tex-Mex cuisine: The fajita. The restaurant has now become something of a Houston landmark and offers a fun, historic, and delicious date night.
Justin Solomon is the Director of Operations for Ninfa’s. He told us about the historic restaurant and how couples can get the most out of date night by exploring delicious Tex-Mex cuisine. “Our founder started a restaurant in the ‘70s as a result of a failing tortilla shop, selling this grilled skirt steak inside a tortilla,” Justin said. “And here we are, 50 years later, still selling that same wonderful dish.”
The story of the fajita and Ninfa’s begins in 1973. Ninfa Laurenzo was a widow who juggled her time between caring for her children and managing her business, which was a tortilla factory in Houston’s East End. The tortilla factory was struggling at that time and not making enough money for Ninfa to support her family.
Around this time, Ninfa began grilling skirt steak and serving the sizzling meat in a handmade flour tortilla. The results were magical, and the dish was first called tacos al carbon. Later, the dish would be known to the world as fajitas, a Tex-Mex staple.
“Our Navigation location is where the Laurenzo family’s tortilla factory and then the restaurant were,” Justin told us. “The original Ninfa’s location used to be a tortilla factory attached to the Laurenzo’s home.”
Fajitas rapidly gained popularity in the food scene in Texas. Soon the dish spread across the nation, and a Tex-Mex classic was born. Ninfa passed away in 2001, but her name and culinary expertise live on through the restaurant and her iconic fajita creation. Current Executive Chef Alex Padilla has been leading Ninfa’s for the last 17 years.
Chef Alex moved to Houston from his native Honduras as a teenager in 1985. He attended Westfield High School, and his mother found work as a line cook at Ninfa’s restaurant. Chef Alex would spend a lot of time at his mother’s workplace where he was introduced to the one-of-a-kind atmosphere of a commercial kitchen.
After graduating high school, Chef Alex worked around the world alongside renowned chefs at internationally acclaimed restaurants. Chef Alex mastered his technical skills during this culinary education and broadened his culinary horizons. He returned home to Houston, where he assumed the role of Executive Chef at the restaurant his mother once worked as a line cook.
Ninfa’s menu has authentic dishes that can satisfy couples with a taste for Tex-Mex. Ninfa’s locations are cozy and colorful, making them perfect for date night. The location on Navigation Boulevard features a stone facade, a red door, a bright blue fence, and red window trim. “Ninfa’s” is illuminated in neon, and the ambiance is friendly and energetic.
Ninfa’s in Uptown has a more sleek look with a spacious patio, string lights, and large umbrellas. The interior is inviting yet modern, and large windows reveal views of Houston’s Uptown architecture. Both locations offer brunch, lunch, and dinner, so couples can plan a special date at the most convenient location for them.
Breakfast tacos are part of Ninfa’s brunch menu and include potato, bean, chorizo, and fajita as protein options. All breakfast tacos include egg and cheese. The restaurant also offers classic mimosas by the pitcher. It’s the perfect place for couples to take their time with a tasty brunch.
The brunch menu includes huevos rancheros, brisket hash and eggs, and red chile-pork posole. For a sweeter breakfast, couples can have the short stack pancakes or the Blue Maseca pecan waffle. Both are served with agave, maple, or Jamaica syrup.
Ninfa’s lunch and dinner menu has plenty of options, making it great for date night for couples who don’t share culinary interests. Shareable appetizers include guacamole, chile con queso, and mushroom quesadillas.
Justin said the stars of the show, of course, are the tacos al carbon and fajitas. The tacos al carbon are Ninfa’s original recipe and come in skirt steak and chicken varieties. Fajitas are highly customizable, and Ninfa’s offers skirt steak, chicken, and veggie fillings to make it your own.
Ninfa’s has a varied menu and customizable dishes that are the perfect accompaniment for date night. Both restaurant locations offer an energy that fosters good conversation and better connections. Whether it’s brunch, lunch, or dinner, couples will find something lovely for date night at Ninfa’s.
Ninfa’s continues celebrating its legacy in Houston, the restaurant scene, and the Tex-Mex culinary world. “Our 50th anniversary is coming up this year,” Justin said. “That’s huge for a restaurant, especially in this market. So we’re excited to throw a big party that day.”
Justin said that more details are to come for the 50th anniversary celebration, but in the meantime, couples can celebrate Ninfa’s legacy any time at either location. Couples who think a beer, cocktail, or glass of wine is an apt way to celebrate should check out Ninfa’s beverage program.
The shining star of Ninfa’s drink list is the margaritas. Selections include the original Ninfarita, made with 100% agave tequila blanco. The mango habanero margarita includes tequila blanco, mango, habanero peppers, fresh lime juice, and a salter mole rim. Couples in the mood for something sweeter can try the strawberry basil margarita, complete with orange liqueur and strawberry syrup.
Houston couples will find that Ninfa’s brings more than just Tex-Mex eats and tasty drinks. The historic yet fun atmosphere combines with stellar service to make an unforgettable date.
“For me, ambiance is such an important part of date night. I feel like it has a lot to do with the overall outcome of the date,” Justin said. “Our ambiance is the perfect mix. It’s elevated but colorful. Thinking funky Tex-Mex in an upscale environment.”