Saturday, March 29, 2014

Follow Your Nose

We were in Galveston at just about this time last year, and for some reason, our travels frequently took us though the intersection of Market and 14th. “What am I smelling!” Chuck exclaimed on one of these trips. “Boy, that smells good!”

We determined that these smells were coming from a café on the corner—The Original Mexican Café—but time didn’t permit a visit at that time.
But we have never forgotten and made sure that this would be our first Galveston food stop.
“The Original Mexican Café…is as much a testament to the tenacity of Galveston as it is a legend in its own right. Holding the prestige as the oldest Mexican restaurant in Texas, the Original has been in continuous operation since 1916 and has survived and thrived despite numerous ownership changes and a few significant run-ins with Mother Nature. Quality, consistency, and loyal employees have been the keystones for the perpetual success of this unique and truly original café....

“Much of the credit for the staying power of this bold and bright establishment is given to John Bannon, who was the owner and operator from 1987 until 2007. He infused the atmosphere with what can only be described as love and passion, as he was a computer technician and had never before run a Mexican restaurant. But his employees generously offered to him their expertise and experience with the cuisine, and the creation of the menu, much of which still remains, was a collaboration of all of their input. Equal recognition must also be given to the current owner, Nicholas Servos, who has steadily maintained the legacy of consistency and quality for which the Original is so widely known” ( from an article in The Island Guide Magazine).
“The Original has had only three proprietors since Señor Guzman departed. The café's premises, once old and run-down, have been renovated and provide a great deal of Tex-Mex charm and ambiance for the first-time visitor. The predominant colors are a sort of burnt maroon and forest green throughout; small wooden tables and chairs speckle the floor and a few booths line the walls…. As the place sits in a residential area, most patrons come from the surrounding neighborhood. Their presence is marked during peak hours with temporary influxes from the nearby University of Texas Medical Branch and the adjunct hospitals, just a few blocks away—the place is full of scrubs then, wolfing down fajitas, mainly, while the more traditional dishes go untouched” (
“The Original is critically and publicly acclaimed, and it has been featured in Texas Monthly as one of the top 75 Mexican restaurants in the state. It is also a regular recipient of’s Best of Galveston award, chosen by popular vote, and it has been repeatedly recognized by OutSmart magazine. It has also received a Reader’s Choice award from The Daily News” ( from an article in The Island Guide Magazine).
We had only a short wait for a table, and as soon as we were seated received a basket of warm and ultra-thin tortilla chips accompanied by two dishes of red salsa (no need to worry about double dipping) and a dish of warm black bean dip.
Of the two, I vastly preferred the more traditional salsa that was medium in heat (I mean spice) and was made with plenty of both garlic and cilantro. As we were munching, we agreed that we are thin tortilla chip lovers—which is contradicted by our preferring the thicker kettle chips when it comes to potato chips. (Hey, who says that consistency is a virtue?)

It took some time for both of us to make a decision about our food choices. “Their menu is expansive and varied; it includes all of the traditional Mexican favorites like mole and fajitas, along with many delicate spins on the traditional fare, such as the Camarones de Cabo, an explosive take on grilled shrimp, and the Pollo Ranchero, a grilled chicken breast smothered with onions, mushrooms, and Monterrey Jack cheese. They even offer a full vegetarian menu, a unique addition and a favorite among many local patrons. Every item is made fresh, from scratch, and the flavors that emit from their wide assortment of appetizers, soups, salads, and entrees will far exceed the expectations of even the most seasoned aficionado of Latin cuisine…” ( from an article in The Island Guide Magazine).

The day’s special—an enchiladas verde plate—looked interesting.
The menu contained one of my favorite Mexican restaurant dishes—the Cocktail Camarones—in both small and large sizes. But, as I said to Chuck, it wasn’t the smell of the Mexican shrimp cocktail that I found so enticing as we passed in the truck. I knew that I would go away unsatisfied if I didn’t order a more traditional Mexican dish, so ultimately selected the Chicken Mole Enchiladas.
My two enchiladas were filled with moist shredded dark and light meat chicken and generously sauced with a dark mole that hinted of chocolate and chile. The flavors were not as intense as some moles I have eaten, but the balance of sweet to spice was just about perfect. The beans were good—a mix of puree and whole beans—but I have about reached my limit on refried beans. On the other hand, the rice was very very good. Each grain was separate and it packed a degree of mild spice. I couldn’t determine whether the small green bits were bell pepper or jalapeno but the heat came from somewhere.

“Boy, is this spicy!” was Chuck’s first reaction to his first bite of Shrimp Diablo. “This is really good!” was his second.
This was a heaping bowl of the same rice that came with my enchiladas topped with about ten shrimp that were so perfectly seasoned and grilled that you would suspect that the cook was a Cajun. And combined with the shrimp were grilled tomato wedges, green bell peppers, and onions.

We finished with an order of sopapillas, which were good, but no competition for those served in some of our favorite restaurants in New Mexico.
Had the sopapillas been just a bit better this would have been a 5.0 Addie lunch but still was delicious enough to earn 4.5 Addies.

To review the role of Adler, Kitty Humbug, and the Addie rating system, read the November 14, 2011 blog.

1 comment:

Janna said...

What a marvelous advertisement for The Original. Hope you had fun in Galveston.
~Friend of Daisy and Dottie who met you at the Galvez and invited you to FBC-Galveston.