Restaurants / Openings

Spirit of Tex-Mex Pioneer Who Served Houston’s First Frozen Margarita Lives on in New Showcase Flagship Restaurant

Your First Taste Look at Los Tios on San Felipe

BY Laurann Claridge // 09.27.19
photography Kerry Kirk

When they were kids, every Sunday evening was Mexican-food night at Los Tios in Meyerland for Nick Adair and his sister, Katie Adair Barnhart. Then-proprietor Rosemary Garbett’s biggest fan was their dad, Gary Adair.

His go-to dish (then and now) was the No. 6 combination plate with a trio of Tex-Mex classics: beef taco, puffy queso and a cheese enchilada, all for less than $10.

When Garbett, whose family founded Los Tios in 1970, retired 30 years later, she looked no further than Gary Adair to continue the restaurant’s traditions, including the lore of how Garbett served the first frozen margarita in Houston in 1975. Her loyal patron didn’t change a thing — decor, menu, recipes — until his talented progeny recently stepped in to bring their father’s restaurant concepts (Skeeter’s Mesquite Grill, Los Tios) under the umbrella of their own company, Adair Concepts (Eloise Nichols Grill & Liquors, Betsy’s at Evelyn’s Park, Adair Kitchen).

So when the former Ciao Bello spot on San Felipe became available, Nick and Katie jumped on it, enlisting designer Aaron Rambo to reimagine the space that would soon become the new flagship location of Los Tios. While the original menu and its prices, under the direction of chef Roberto Ozaeta, haven’t changed — Katie contends their loyalists would revolt if they eliminated so much as an enchilada — they’ve added more seafood and lighter grilled options, as well as craft cocktails such as the white margarita with egg-white foam atop.

Unlike the other four Los Tios locations, whose interiors and menus have stayed the same for decades, this expansive space brims with color, in the form of hanging kilim rugs, Moravian star-shaped lights, banquettes upholstered in serape blankets and tooled leatherette, and walls and tables cloaked in old-fashioned oilcloth. Rambo made the large double-door entrance even bolder by framing the wall with concrete breeze blocks. At the other end of the restaurant, he hung a 19-foot landscape painting inspired by a paint-by-numbers set, blown up to scale.

Los Tios, 5161 San Felipe, 713.623.6103.

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