Mexican Cafe Ojo de Agua Brings the Hearty & the Healthy to River Oaks
The River Oaks District luxury shopping complex at 4444 Westheimer continues to add global cuisine options to its dining destinations. Bari Ristorante, the casual-yet-elegant Italian eatery opened in May, joining already established hotspots MAD, Toulouse, Steak 48 and Le Colonial, among others. Opening right around the same time as Bari was Ojo de Agua, a popular all-day café and juice bar chain with 40 locations in Mexico City. Houston’s location is only the second in the U.S., with the first being in Miami, which opened in 2021.
Mexico City is having its own moment as tourists flock to the popular food and culture destination (even we are hosting a tour there), and it is often thought of as an epicenter of money, culture, power and history in the region. To that end, Ojo de Agua is certainly well-placed in one of Houston’s “vibiest” shopping and entertainment centers.
It may be easy to write it off as just another “Mexican” restaurant, but Mexico is a culinary melting pot that offers native cuisine, street food, Spanish- and American-influenced dishes, traditional carnitas and many types of mole dishes, just to name a few. The menu integrates Mexico’s culinary variety with a health-conscious approach and natural ingredients. Through a press release, partner Rafael Montero shared his thoughts on bringing Ojo de Agua to Houston, “We’re excited to give Texas a first taste of Ojo de Agua’s vibrant flavors and fresh ingredients. Our healthy menu and our extensive menu of juices and smoothies will resonate with Houston’s diverse clientele.”
The décor adds to the concept of freshness, as the beachy modern interior is bedecked with bright colors, light wooden tables and wicker swinging chairs. The centerpiece of the restaurant is local artist Daniel Anguilu’s eye-catching mural of a mockingbird. There is also a small market offering fresh fruits, vegetables, and other Mexican goods, as well as a grab-and-go refrigerator with juices and wellness shots. It is a hybrid concept, offering something just a step above fast casual, which means slightly higher prices. Guests order at the counter if dining in but receive table service for the rest of the meal. The menu is extensive, and includes breakfast options, sandwiches, salads, ceviche, a page dedicated to tacos, super juices and protein smoothies.
It has become one of my favorite options for something delicious and quick, but healthy. For breakfast, the signature açaí bowl is a must-order for a light, refreshing start to the day. Frozen açaí pulp is topped with fresh fruit, shredded coconut and organic honey. The fruit will usually include mangoes and strawberries. On one visit, there was kiwi and dragon fruit; on an another, it was lychee and blackberries. At $23 for two scoops, the price may seem high, but it is a generous bowl, and the quality of the fruit and ingredients is evident.
From the smoothie selection, the Easy Green with kale, spinach, green apple, lime, banana and chocolate protein is so delicious, that it being good for you becomes an afterthought.
For something a little heavier, an order of molletes is substantial and filling. The open-face focaccia sandwich is topped with beans and pork sausage, smothered in Oaxaca, Chihuahua and ricotta cheese and toasted until everything melds together. It is rich and creamy, with just a hint of spice from the sausage, and is served with a side of pico de gallo to add acidity and brightness. Other breakfast items include chilaquiles, enchiladas and sweet dishes such as the fruity and floral guava pancakes.
There are about a dozen sandwiches to choose from, including chutney mango chicken or portobello and hummus. The Higo-Chipotle-Deli is a unique choice, I haven’t come across something like this anywhere else. Serrano ham is piled onto wheat bread that has been slathered with a special sauce made of higo (fig), vinegar, olive oil and balsamic, and then topped with Manchego cheese and capers. The combination of salty, savory, sweet and acidic is mouthwatering. It is a sandwich to be shared, because it is so decadent that a whole sandwich is a little overwhelming.
Ojo de Agua offers a variety of tacos, including salmon, octopus and cochinita. They are served on corn tortillas colored with beet, carrot and spinach juices, and come three to an order. The octopus tacos with guajillo, garlic, sautéed kale onions, and a Parmesan cheese crust, is one of my favorites. The tender bites of octopus have just enough smokiness from the chile, sweetness from the onions and the Parmesan cheese adds a unique nuttiness. The ceviche bowls are one of the best deals to be found. The Tulum Ceviche ($23), which comes with octopus, fish, onion and cucumber marinated in a combination of oyster sauce and lime juice easily serves two people and comes topped with a whole sliced avocado. Every bite is tangy and refreshing.
The dinner menu also features a Blue Cheese Kobe Burger, stuffed plantain, smoked salmon toast and a Mexican bowl, an all-in-one bowl of ribeye beef with brown rice, beans, zucchini, baby corn, sour cream, guacamole and cotija cheese.
Ojo de Agua also features a selection of wine-based cocktails, such as a Dragon Fruit Margarita with rosé, dragon fruit and lime, and a mojito made with Cabernet Sauvignon, mint, raw sugar and sparkling water. My summer drink of choice has always been a michelada, and the one Ojo serves is exactly like those you’d find in Mexico, made with lime, hot sauce, Worcestershire and Maggi seasoning. This isn’t the bright, tomato-based michelada Texans are used to; for that you’d have to order the Clamato preparado.
Mexico City is just a two-hour plane ride away, but when you can’t make it there, it is nice to have a piece of it here. Ojo de Agua is currently open seven days a week from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Minh Truong is an avid lover of the Houston food scene and has written about it since 2011, starting as a freelance contributor for the Houston Press. She never stops exploring all that Houston has to offer.