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- JP’s Grill
Awhile back, Los Cucos opened their second Woodlands area location out on I-45, just south of College Park Drive on the southbound feeder. They moved into the massive location that was previously Cafe Adobe, before they closed without any explanation (several other Houston-area locations of Cafe Adobe remain open to this day, and new locations have opened). It would seem that the reason for Cafe Adobe’s demise would be the already-crowded Mexican and Tex-Mex market here in The Woodlands, but then, that wouldn’t explain Los Cucos opening a second location here, would it? Especially their 27th (of now 28) locations statewide! Regardless, having been disappointed with the service in the past at the Panther Creek location, we thought we’d give the new location a try.
One of the litmus tests we like to give Mexican and Tex-Mex restaurants is their choice of tortillas. To us, nothing says “we care about the quality of our food” than a restaurant that is willing to make this staple of the menu in-house, as opposed to bringing them in in bulk, mechanically made, dry and full of preservatives. Thankfully, Los Cucos sees things the same way, and makes both their corn and their flour tortillas in-house, fresh when you order. Sure, it takes a few more minutes to get to the table, but the flavor, the texture – it’s worth it.
|House-made Corn Tortillas|
As mentioned previously, the restaurant is incredibly spacious; the main dining room can adequately hold well over a hundred guests, plus there is an additional private dining space upstairs as well as a beautiful patio with even more seating.
I wasn’t overly hungry the night we stopped in, so after looking over the extensive menu, I selected a smaller combo plate, the El Gringo ($8.99). The combo consisted of a cheese enchilada, a crispy beef taco, two ounces of their chicken fajitas, rice and beans. This was served with a small portion of guacamole. Ordinarily I would eat the taco first; in many restaurants, the taco shell quickly gets soggy and falls apart from the juices or grease) both on the plate and in the ground beef. But I was pleasantly surprised to find the taco shell was made with one of their hand-made corn tortillas; thick and sturdy, with a crisp texture. Also, the ground beef was seasoned, but not overly so, in fact it was maybe a little bland. The cheese enchilada was piping hot with plenty of cheese and only a hint of onions. The fajita meat was good, moist and tender; I had my fajitas on the flour tortillas which were warm and soft – not dry around the edges or bland.
El Gringo Combo Plate at Los Cucos Shenandoah
For me, the first plate I like to give sample at every Mexican restaurant is the Fajitas. There’s just something about the sizzling of the grilled chicken on a bed of onions and peppers, the aroma wafting up to meet you as you prepare the hot tortilla and roll it up for eating. I prefer corn tortillas for my fajitas, and the fact that Los Cucos makes their own is definitely a plus. The chicken fajitas for one ($11.99) was a generous portion at a good price, with enough for one person to fill up on, let alone the rice and beans. Apparently, Los Cucos doesn’t have smaller fajita hot plates for individual orders – I had to watch that I didn’t burn myself on the half-exposed cast-iron surface as I prepared my fajita tacos. The chicken had a black pepper taste to it and was moist and tender yet. The cilantro added some green color to the plate but I would opt for green peppers, given the choice. The spanish style rice was cooked well but had little flavor and the refried beans… well, they hinted at the flavor of beans but, were actually quite below par for my taste; she thought they tasted more of pork than bean while I thought they were mostly lard. On the bright side, we weren’t charged extra for the cheese, guacamole, sour cream and pico fixings so all in all the plate turned out to be average mexican style food at a good price.
The Bottom Line
As we mentioned, the serving sizes were more than adequate. Our server, Abraham, was very attentive, returning several times as we dined to check if we were enjoying our meals or top off our beverages. He was warm and friendly without being a pest; joking a bit with us toward the end of our meal as he brought the to-go boxes. Overall we enjoyed our meal enough to add this location of Los Cucos to our short-list of Woodlands Tex-Mex restaurants we’ll return to.
Think we got it wrong? Or did we hit the nail on the head? Let us know in the comments below. And remember, you don’t have to take our word for it – give them a try for yourself and decide!