We can never get enough El Tiempo Cantina. The reason for our loyalty, well let’s see: the beef fajitas that are juicy and well seasoned, the “green” sauce which has the perfect hint of creaminess and tang, and let’s not forget about those margaritas! That’s why we were excited to hear they were opening a fifth location on Navigation, right next door to the original Ninfa’s. Owners Roland Laurenzo and Domenic Laurenzo are all set and ready to open to the public tomorrow (Monday, February 11th). We got a sneak peak this weekend of the new spot and of course we got the chance to indulge in a few of our favorites. El Tiempo Cantina has already taken its place as an Urban Swank Tried & True (see our previous article here) and this new venture just follows suit. Built from the ground up, this location will be the largest of the five (seats over 200 people) and will carry on the Laurenzo family’s 64 year tradition in the food business.
Some of us are well aware of this deep rooted history that began in 1945 when Ninfa Rodriguez and Domenic Tommy (DT) Laurenzo met in Providence, Rhode Island. Fast forward four years to 1949, when Ninfa and Domenic decided that Houston was going to be their home. The story told is that this decision was based solely on a flip of a coin. As luck would have it, Houston was the winner of the toss and the Laurenzo’s made their way to our great city. Lucky us. Within the same year of their arrival, they opened a tortilla factory. The Rio Grande Factory stayed up and running for many years sourcing flour tortillas, masa, tamales, taco shells, and even pizza and BBQ sauce to local grocers. In 1969, Domenic Laurenzo passed unexpectedly (at the young age 49) of a cerebral hemorrhage.
In 1973, Mama Nina (as she is famously known) entered into the restaurant business by opening Ninfa’s Tacos al Carbon. The Rio Grande Factory was losing money so ten tables were added to the front of the house and the restaurant was so born. As word of mouth spread, in 1975, this East End restaurant took over the remaining portion of the tortilla factory; marking the end of its reign. This would be the first of many restaurants the Laurenzo family would own and operate through the years. In 1998, the Ninfa’s restaurants were sold, but Mama Ninfa stayed with the new company as its spokesperson. Ninfa passed away in 2001 from cancer at the age of 77. She is considered an icon in Houston culture and is credited with popularizing the fajita among Houstonians. The original Ninfa’s is still as popular as ever and remains an iconic restaurant today. Following in his mother’s footsteps, Rolando Laurenzo opened his first El Tiempo on Richmond Avenue in 1998.
“It’s fitting that this restaurant is located between the two original tortilla factories that Domenic Tommy (DT) and Ninfa built when they moved to Houston,” stated Roland Laurenzo. “Because those years, when daddy and mama were toiling in the tortilla factory making tortillas, taco shells and pizzas, day in and day out, side by side, were the best days of our lives due to their amazing work ethic and love they had for all us kids, and for each other. That’s why the East End is truly where our heart resides.”
When it comes to Tex Mex, there are many options available in Houston. Some you love for their great margaritas, some you visit solely to get your fill of their fresh chips and salas, others need to completely revamp their margarita program altogether but make some of the best enchiladas in the city. At El Tiempo Cantina, you can have your cake and eat it too! We thought you would love that :). If you haven’t had the chance to check out El Tiempo Cantina, we think this new location should give you a reason. The newest El Tiempo Cantina is located at 2814 Navigation at N. Paige Street, Houston, Texas 77003. The restaurant is open Monday-Tuesday 11:00 a.m. – 9:00 p.m.; Wednesday-Thursday 11:00 a.m. – 10:00 p.m.; Friday 11:00 a.m. – 11:00 p.m.; Saturday 9:30 a.m. – 11:00 p.m. and Sunday 9:30 a.m. – 9:00 p.m.
Urban Swank did receive a complimentary tasting, but the opinions expressed are our own.