Mexican restaurants in Texas typically come in two varieties: polished chain restaurants and scruffy, individually owned restaurants (my preference). Mama Cuca’s is the exception — a polished, individually owned Mexican restaurant. And while fajitas are the top seller, the menu tips a bit toward “Mex,” rather than the predictable “Tex-Mex.”
Mama Cuca’s is attractive, with stone arches separating rooms, an appealing patio to one side and a small but comfortable bar to the other. Service is warm and accommodating; each time we entered the restaurant someone held the door open and said welcome. When my dining partner asked what the spiced beer drink called Michelada was all about, our server offered to bring a shot-glass sample.
Michelada, a popular cocktail in Mexico, turns out to be beer with lime juice and a chile/salt spice mix called Tajin. It’s going to take us some time to get used to the idea of embellished beer, but it was instant love with the grilled poblana dinner ($13.99). The beef-filled pepper was completely blackened and the pepper flavor infused the meat with a delightful but not overwhelming warmth. It was one of the best Mexican dishes we’ve had recently.
Mama Cuca’s makes its own corn tortillas, and tacos come double-wrapped in a pair of them. Brisket tacos ($12.99) were simple and pleasing — a moist, flavorful shredded brisket with just a bit of cheese to top things off. Shrimp tacos ($13.99) were more complex, combining the shrimp with bell pepper, onion and avocado slices, but the shrimp were disappointingly tiny.
A cup of tortilla soup ($5.99) had grease puddled on the top, though we were impressed with the good-sized and plentiful chunks of fresh avocado.
Cuca’s Pollo ($12.99) was a hit. The grilled chicken breast was seasoned with Cajun-style seasoning and accompanied by sour cream, tomatillo, a cheese enchilada with a nice red sauce, rice, beans and more chunks of fresh avocado. A hearty meal.
The Mangomoy margarita, featuring mango, savory Chamoy sauce and, again, Tajin, had been recommended to us, so we made a separate trip to check it out. The drink is a pretty swirl of frozen orange and red, mostly very sweet, but with pockets of spiciness. We settled into a seat at the bar to try the Mangomoy and were glad we did, because we were treated to not only chips, salsa and queso dips, but also a plate of quesadilla and nacho bites. It was enough for a meal.
You should know: Happy hour is 11 a.m.-7 p.m. Monday-Friday. Margaritas are $5.99 regularly, $3.99 during happy hour. The Mangomoy margarita is $7.25 regularly, $5.25 during happy hour.