Mi Pueblo

Upon entering the restaurant, we immediately notice a message on the floor that
Burrito Rio Grande

When Victor Gonzalez came to the United States from Mexico, he had little money but a pocketful of ambition.

“He started his career in the restaurant business as a dishwasher making 50 cents an hour in 1965,” said Ashley Stone, general manager of Mi Pueblo Mexican Restaurant in Lumberton.

In time, that ambition and lots of hard work led Gonzalez to bigger and better things. He spent many years as operating partner of area Casa Olé restaurants until 2004, when Mexican Restaurants Inc. purchased the restaurants from Gonzalez and fellow franchisee Thomas Harken.

In 2009, Gonzalez opened Mi Pueblo Mexican Restaurant on Highway 327 in Silsbee. The restaurant saw so much success that he decided to opened a second restaurant in Lumberton at 120 W. Candlestick Drive in September.

With a plethora of Mexican restaurants in Southeast Texas, what makes Mi Pueblo any different from the rest?

“We’re built on speed,” Stone said, but qualified his statement. “We don’t serve fast food. We serve fresh food as fast as we can. That’s what people like. They come in and sit down, and within 7-8 minutes, they should have their hot food on the table.”

The quality of the food isn’t compromised by the restaurant’s strategy, Stone said.

“I’ve been to all the Tex-Mex restaurants in the area, and our food — I’ll put it up against anyone,” he said. “It’s delicious.”

That’s a bold statement in an area known for its Mexican food.

First impressions

We arrived at the restaurant to find a parking lot full of cars, a good sign. And there’s extra parking in a lot next door in addition to the ample parking directly in front. Upon entering the restaurant, as we’re greeted by friendly staff, we immediately notice a message on the floor that reads, “Bienvenidos a Mi Pueblo,” which literally translates to “Welcome to My Town,” and that’s exactly what it feels like — a small town in Old Mexico. Molcajetes (a stone mortar and pestle primarily used to grind up vegetables for hot sauce), pottery, handmade straw tortilla baskets and colorful artwork including paintings of Mexican revolutionists Emiliano Zapata and Pancho Villa, as well as Marshal Jed Cooper — you know him as Clint Eastwood — can be seen throughout the restaurant. A bullfighting mural also caught our eye.

With the mood set, on to the food.

What we ate

We started things off with queso, which was magnificently flavorful, as was the hot sauce — and not too spicy like you might find at some Mexican restaurants in the area.

For an appetizer, we opted for the Super Nachos, crispy tortilla chips stacked with seasoned beef, beans, gravy, cheddar cheese, lettuce, tomatoes, pico de gallo and jalapeños. The vegetables tasted fresh, the chips were crunchy, and the meat was seasoned just right.

For the main course, we ordered the Burrito Rio Grande, a 10-inch flour tortilla filled with seasoned beef, gravy, rice, beans, and chile con carne. It is topped with chile con queso and frijoles a la charra, which adds a nice touch. Grande indeed. Make sure you are hungry if you order this one.

We had to try the fajitas because they are the restaurant’s specialty. These bad boys come with a choice of tender, charbroiled fajita beef or chicken. Or you can choose both, like we did. The fajitas are served on a sizzling hot skillet with sautéed onions and bell peppers and come with flour tortillas, pico de gallo, beans, rice and guacamole salad.

If possible, make sure you save room for dessert, because the sopapillas are a must try. They are served with honey and cinnamon, and you can add ice cream if you like.

Mi Pueblo is open Monday-Thursday from 11 a.m. – 9 p.m., on Fridays and Saturdays from 11 a.m. – 10 p.m., and from 11 a.m. – 3 p.m. on Sundays. For more information, call (409) 755-9005.

 

Kevin King can be reached at (409) 832-1400, ext. 227, or by e-mail at kevin [at] theexaminer [dot] com.

shadow