If you’ve ever ordered fajitas at a Mexican restaurant in the US, then you have Maria Ninfa Rodriguez Laurenzo to thank. In other words, the fajita craze is credited with starting in a Houston restaurant (Ninfa’s) that’s still up and running on Navigation. Although the original family no longer runs it, the restaurant is proudly proclaimed in a sign as “The Original Ninfa’s on Navigation since 1973.”
A Mexican food icon in Houston, Ninfa’s is very popular, and it’s especially busy during peak hours. If you go during lunch be prepared to wait. They do take reservations and I suggest you make one if possible, though they won’t seat you without your full party. But they’re very good about holding your reservation for a little bit, if needed; at least, they’ve been very good about it with me.
From the very first you know that the Ninfa’s experience is going to be different than most Mexican restaurants. You walk in the front door to see tortillas being made, by hand, in large quantities. The smell is wonderful and you can’t beat that as a “floorshow” to watch while waiting to be seated.
You can order the original marinated and grilled beef skirt steak (A.K.A. Fajitas) from 1/4 lb ($12.99), 1/2 lb ($18.99) and 1 lb ($34.99). You can order chicken too, or a combo, though I don’t consider chicken to actually be Fajitas. The menu even offers vegetarian fajitas, though I have no idea what that would be. The rest of the menu is a combination of traditional Tex-Mex and unique-to-Ninfa’s dishes (example, the Fajita Burger pictured below).
Be warned, the parking lot is a work in progress. What that means it that it’s dirt and gravel or small rocks. They do have valet parking, but I didn’t bother with it. And I’m hoping that it’s in progress to something better and not just stuck that way, but there wasn’t a sign and I didn’t ask about it.
The other warning is that this is not a restaurant you go to for conversation. The tables are stacked very close to each other; it’s a challenge to walk between them and you don’t have much room to maneuver your chair if you need it. And it gets noisy when full, “yelling to be heard” noisy, “only hearing every other word” noisy.
I’m going to be honest, the fajitas there are good… really really good. Almost worth the trip to Navigation, dealing with the cramped quarters and the loud room. Almost.
The Original Ninfa’s is located at 2704 Navigation Blvd., 77003.
— Written by Sandra Fernandez