Sweetbreads are done well at Gerardo's, and make perfect breakfast tacos.
This is it, some fine barbacoa.
About two years ago, a friend invited me out for breakfast, and I gladly accepted. First, because I enjoy discussing food with him, and second, because we were going to a family-run Mexican restaurant, a place that was new to me then. It’s called Gerardo’s, and it’s become one of my favorite places in Houston. The place is friendly — it’s a grocery market as well — and once you are seated at one of the tables in the small space, you’ll feel as if you are eating at your favorite uncle’s. I have been back a number of times since then, most recently about a month ago. The food was as good as it ever was, which is to say that it is great. Chorizo, sweetbreads, barbacoa … it’s all done extremely well, and I had some of each (as I do on every visit.) I wrote what follows after my inaugural breakfast at Gerardo’s, and once you read it, I daresay you’ll want to head to Patton Street. And make sure you order the barbacoa.
One of the pleasures of moving to a new city is that everything is just that, new. That means new people and new restaurants, and I have encountered many of both since I’ve arrived. (It seems that at least five times a day I add another restaurant to the “must-visit” list I maintain in the Notes app on my iPhone, recommendations from nearly everyone I meet.) This past Saturday I met a new friend at a new (for me) restaurant for breakfast, a place he had told me about a few weeks earlier. We were going to Gerardo’s, and I was hungry.
It’s been open since 1977, and it’s a family affair, father and son, and that shows in the attention paid to the food and the customers. When I arrived at 609 Patton Street, the small space’s tables were almost completely full, couples and families enjoying barbacoa and carnitas. Chris was there when I walked in the door — I was thinking a beer would go well with the food, but while one can buy cerveza at Gerardo’s to take away, its license does not allow one to drink it on the premises, so I opted for a Topo Chico.
Jose Luis Lopez and his son Gerardo are the men behind this food, and the elder Mr. Lopez has been in the kitchen processing pounds and pounds of cow heads and pork and other meats for nearly four decades. Gerardo greeted us at the table and asked what we were hungry for; a few minutes later he brought over three or four small containers of hot goodness, including chorizo and eggs, barbacoa, and fried tripe. And foil-wrapped warm tortillas, of course.
“I remember coming here after school when I was 6 or so and taking a nap right there, behind the counter,” Gerardo told us, pointing to the floor. “I started helping out in the kitchen a few years later, and have been here ever since.”
Chris and I began with the chorizo, and the rest of the meal was a whirlwind of flavors and spices and textures and sighs. The barbacoa, which is famous and loved — rightfully so — was moist and rich and deep in flavor. Mr. Lopez told me that he goes through on average 160 cow heads a week, and the long process of cooking them results in this amazing dish.
I love sweetbreads, and the ones at Gerardo’s are good, cut into small pieces and sautéed along with peppers and onions. The carnitas was a highlight, coming in, in my opinion, second only to the barbacoa, and if the carnitas had been my only dish that morning I would have been more than happy.
Family, tradition, attention to product: Gerardo’s has been around since 1977 for these reasons, and I am confident that if I return there 20 years from now, a Lopez will be manning the kitchen and I will sit and eat like a king.