BY MIKE PUCKETT
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Caliente is located right off the Sam Houston Parkway and I-10 in the Town and Country Shopping Center. It’s the perfect place in West Houston to get a bite to eat, do a little shopping or catch a movie.
Well, after hearing all of the Memorial Area Eats Foodies raving about this fine little Tex-Mex restaurant, I finally got a chance to experience it for myself. And, what an experience it was!
Everyone is aware that I have a deep-rooted passion for Tex-Mex, just like most everyone born in this city. So, when I hear about a good one I haven’t tried yet, I make it a point to get there as soon as possible.
The first thing you notice as you walk into Caliente is the bright and vivacious color scheme. This fast-casual restaurant has me in a better mood the second I walk in! It has plenty of space to enjoy dining with a group, but it’s also the kind of place I wouldn’t feel uncomfortable stopping by for a bite on my own. Caliente is a very welcoming restaurant.
A friend of mine who lives in the area told me I had to experience the Salsa Flight. Knowing my passion for sauces and having seen pictures in different foodie groups … I knew this was going to be something special!
We wasted absolutely no time and ordered a couple of Mexican beers and the famous Salsa Flight along with some queso – always a must!
The Salsa Flight was a quick trip to paradise. They served up 5 delicious house-made signature sauces: Habañero, Sweet Habañero, New Mexico Green Sauce, Avocado Crema, and Piña de Pico. They were all very tasty, but my two favorites were the Avocado Crema and the Habañero. It is always a treat to go habañero and then do a quick switch to the Avocado Crema to soothe the palate. Ridiculous! This is such a great idea, and I am sure more restaurants will soon follow.
The queso was also big favorite at our table – which really comes as no surprise. This creamy white queso was served with Pico de Gallo. White queso is a nice change of pace and a cheesy delight. It put a very large smile on my face. You can believe that.
Now, we might be going a little dip crazy, but the 7 layers of goodness were not gonna miss this table for anything! Each layer of the 7-Layer Dip seemed just a little bit better than the last. My favorite layer was the one that completely covered the chip with all the layers. I could eat this with a spoon. Seriously!
At the last minute, I noticed an extremely beautiful dish crossing my path. Without any hesitation, I added the Smoked Ribs to my order. Ha! Just take a look at the photography! This fiesta of slow-smoked ribs was incredible. The Chipotle Ancho Honey Glaze made for just the right touch of sweetness. Let’s just say they disappeared quickly and all that was left was a pretty stack of bones.
Another favorite of mine showed up just in time served with cilantro, red onion and lime! The Pork Tacos are a house specialty and it is easy to taste why. The slow-cooked pork was served with queso fresca and was oh–so-perfectly matched up with a Dos Equis Cerveza. I take a second… and take it all in. I am so happy to be here at Caliente on a Friday evening.
Next, we enjoyed a little seafood. The Crawfish Enchiladas came by the twos and the spicy crawfish mix served with a Chipotle Cream Sauce was just what I was looking for. When in California, I yearn for these crawfish dishes… so I love it here in Houston where they are so plentiful. This is a dish to try when it’s crawfish season.
The Caribbean Shrimp was the all-around favorite of the table. The shrimp was sweet and spicy, served with Pineapple Pico de Gallo, Pineapple Habañero Glaze and Caribbean Butter. I could have eaten these things for days! We made tacos, ordered some wine and laughed… does it get any better at a fast-casual restaurant?
Speaking of wine, the selection here is really nice. This will be a real surprise to most, but the owner has a great passion for wine and it shows! We enjoyed a couple of glasses of Halter Ranch Ancestor Paso Robles Estate Reserve. This smooth, full-bodied Cabernet was the perfect prelude to dessert.
And now for the Tres Leches Cake I had been hearing so much about in the local foodie groups. It was music to my mouth. This creamy, sweet, soaked cake took my breath away with every bite. This is one of my favorite desserts and the Tres Leches here at Caliente definitely did not disappoint. I highly recommend you save some room for this one.
Caliente is one of my new go-to fast-casual restaurants. The ingredients were extremely fresh, from the avocados to the crawfish. The Tex-Mex flavors were there, but with a pleasantly unique twist…not your everyday Mexican food. This is the type of place where you want to experience something new every visit. But, here is a tip – always get the Salsa Flight!
PHOTOGRAPHY: MIKE PUCKETT
FOOD STYLIST: KERI HENRY
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