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Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Pico's: A Houston "Mex-Mex" Institution

by Blair Loup

Since establishing Pico’s in 1984, it has become a shining beacon of “Mex-Mex” cuisine in the holy land of Tex-Mex. The Richards family treats their customers like relatives. When you enter the sprawling restaurant you can hear fresh margaritas shaking, smell the hand-pressed tortillas on the flat top and see the genuine smile across the faces of their employees. You can’t have a bad time at Pico’s; they simply won’t allow it.

It’s a large restaurant, but don’t let that fool you. Chef, and owner, Arnaldo Richard has his hand in every dish. The attention to detail that goes in to the flavor built on each plate is extremely authentic. If you’re looking for true Mexican cuisine in the Houston area, you need not look any further.

The depth of flavor isn’t just in the food though. Arnaldo’s daughter Monica Richards is at the helm of their fantastic tequila program. Even the most baseline of margaritas at Pico’s is top-notch. Whether you’re looking to demolish a couple of shakers of their house margaritas or taste from some of Monica’s select barrels, she has taken the time to curate a truly special tequila experience for their guests. The tequila selection alone is a worth the trip.




Jay, Chef Aimee and I have had the pleasure of dining with Monica and visiting with Arnaldo on a couple of occasions and each trip has only made our hearts grow fonder. Here are a few of the best bites and sips we had the last time we were there:




Ontiones Carlos Slim is one dish that I think speaks to the attention to detail and flavor building Arnaldo's cooking is centered around. With this take on Oysters Rockefeller, Arnaldo uses an intricate blend of celery leaf, tarragon, chervil, parsley, herb saint, spinach, collard greens and purslane and tops each bite with cotija and parmesan cheeses.

Ontiones Carlos Slim
Ontiones Carlos Slim



These mussels are sautéed in a white wine and crema sauce with Spanish chorizo and topped with micro cilantro. After we got a hold of their bolilla (similar to French bread) these babies didn't last long. The creaminess of the sauce combined with the flavor of the mussels and the little kick and umami from the chorizo made each one more poppable than the last.


Mejillones a la Gallega



I'm not going to lie. I think about this next dish all the time. In a section on their menu called Al Ajillo you can find some of the tastiest dishes in the whole joint. Ajillo is a condiment in Mexican cuisine that is made by infusing olive oil with dried chilis and fresh sliced garlic for a minimum of 72 hours. It's even more amazing than it sounds. They sauté different types of seafood in this delectable concoction, but my favorite version is the octopus. So tender, it feels like you're biting into a cloud that's soaked in garlic/chile olive oil; insane.

Pulpo Al Ajillo
Pulpo Al Ajillo



Mole holds a very special place in my heart. There's a lot that goes into each mole, but you can always be sure of one thing when it comes to this comforting dish: whoever took the time to make it, undoubtedly stirred in a lot of love. In this case Arnaldo moved me to feelings. The duck fell apart in the rich, decadent mole and the tostones hit the hearty, but sweet notes. I would order this dish again and again.  



Until next time, Pico's! If you're ever in the Houston area, Pico's is a must. Keep a look out for some of their phenomenal tequila dinners as well!