Mexican Restaurant in Northwest Houston Offers Big Sonoran Flavors

A handsome spread at Luchador Micheladas y Botanas. Photo by Mario-Sebastian Berry.

Owner-operators Renee Saenz and Francisco Rios debuted Luchador Micheladas y Botanas at 7751 Barker Cypress on January 24. The restaurant offers a fun, unique and flavorful experience with a wide selection of Sonoran specialties as well as micheladas, margaritas and mezcal cocktails

Luchador Micheladas y Botanas in Northwest Houston. Photo by Mario-Sebastian Berry.
Luchador Micheladas y Botanas in Northwest Houston. Photo by Mario-Sebastian Berry.

Saenz and Rios extended an invitation to Houston Food Finder to visit the restaurant, which is located in a busy strip center in Northwest Houston. The longtime friends and business partners met while working together in the automotive industry, most recently at a local dealership in the Cypress area where they were both employed for eight years. During this time, they bonded over a love of food, particularly authentic, regional Mexican cuisine which has been an important part of both of their lives. 

Rios is from Nogales, a city in the state of Sonora in Northwest Mexico and has lived in Houston since 2010, all the while longing for the cuisine of his hometown. Saenz, who is from El Paso, found that many of the distinct flavors and recipes they grew up with were quite similar and they would often share ideas on how to recreate and improve upon their favorite dishes.

Chilaquiles Verdes at Luchador Micheladas y Botanas. Courtesy photo.
Chilaquiles Verdes at Luchador Micheladas y Botanas. Courtesy photo.

One day, while visiting her parents in Monterrey, Mexico, Saenz had an epiphany over a plate of chilaquiles (a sentiment I can wholeheartedly understand). Saenz said that the restaurant experience inspired her, to the point that upon returning, she “bugged [Rios] so much that one day [they] finally got the courage to leave the known and venture into the unknown of opening up a Mexican restaurant.” 

At Luchador, “Rios handles the back of the house, making sure all of the food tastes amazing and I take care of the bar and the front of the house” Saenz said, adding that she “makes it a point to touch every customer that comes in by greeting them with a smile and making sure their taste buds are being catapulted out of this world.” Indeed, the service and congeniality during my visit was memorable, as if we were old friends getting together to break bread, or, in this case, tortillas.

Botana de Ribeye en Aguachile Negro. Botanas translates to snacks or shareable dishes. Photo by Mario-Sebastian Berry.
Botana de Ribeye en Aguachile Negro. Botanas translates to snacks or shareable dishes. Photo by Mario-Sebastian Berry.

Saenz recommends that first-time visitors try the Botana de Ribeye en Aguachile Negro, a visually impressive umami-bomb consisting of 8 ounces of grilled, medium-rare ribeye steak tossed in a bright and savory chili-lime marinade and finished with slices of avocado and cucumber, pickled red onions and jalapeños. A full order serves four and costs $19.99, and a half-order is available for $10.95. 

Another highlight of the meal was the Mochomos Sonorese, a delicacy originating in Rios’ hometown of Nogales. It’s served as a nest of crispy, seasoned flash-fried beef, similar to the meat floss commonly seen in Asian cuisine, accompanied by warm, homemade tortillas, diced white onion, cilantro, lime wedges and salsa de árbol. Rios and Saenz showed me their favorite ways to enjoy it, including as a taco filling with a splash of salsa and a squeeze of lime which rehydrates the meat and further opens up concentrated, beefy notes. It’s a blissful contrast of flavors and textures that I highly recommend ordering for the table.

Mochomos Sonorese, perfect on its own, or as a topping for tacos! Photo by Mario-Sebastian Berry.
Mochomos Sonorese, perfect on its own or as a topping for tacos! Photo by Mario-Sebastian Berry.

The menu also includes fresh guacamole, queso fundido topped with your choice of Black Angus skirt steak, chorizo or chicken, and Minichimis miniature chimichangas filled with shredded beef slow-stewed in a mild red sauce served with guacamole, Mexican cream, shredded cheese and chiltepin sauce. To cure what ails ya, try the Caldo Luchador, a spicy beef soup sure to awaken the senses (and clear the sinuses). 

The tacos de carne asada are a standout, and I was impressed with the quality of the steak which is on the mark, as Sonora is famous for its cattle ranches. Beef is an integral part of the economy and the focus of much of its cuisine (tacos de carne asada are even the state’s official food!). The tacos are filled with your choice of premium Black Angus ribeye steak or arrachera (marinated skirt steak) and topped with cabbage, cilantro, pickled onion and avocado cream. The steak is sliced to order, then tossed on the grill where it’s seasoned, buttered and briefly kissed with fire before it’s diced and finished on the flat top. Orders of three or more tacos — which adds up to about a half-pound of steak! — receive complimentary Mexican rice and refried beans.

Sonoran-style Tacos de Carne Asada. In Sonora, flour tortillas are more prevalent than corn. Photo by Mario-Sebastian Berry.
Sonoran-style Tacos de Carne Asada. In Sonora, flour tortillas are more prevalent than corn. Photo by Mario-Sebastian Berry.

Other taco options include camarones al guajillo, sautéed shrimp bathed in chile guajillo sauce; tacos de mochomos (the aforementioned flash-fried beef), tacos de carne deshebrada filled with slowly-stewed beef in a roasted pepper sauce made with Sonoran spices, and tacos de pollo a la parrilla (flame-grilled chicken marinated in fresh orange juice and achiote.) Cheese lovers can order their tacos agrega costra de queso which means “crusted with cheese”. 

Tacos range from $3.99 to $6.49 and come with flour or corn tortillas, which are both made from scratch.

Chilaquiles are available with your choice of toppings, including two eggs your way, ribeye, chicken and puerco en chile verde — pork in green salsa.

Green Chile Chimichange at Luchador Micheladas y Botanas. Photo by Mario-Sebastian Berry.
Green Chile Chimichanga at Luchador Micheladas y Botanas. Courtesy photo.

For plated entrées, choose from Sonoran-style favorites like chimichangas, Enchiladas de Suelo with chorizo and potatoes stuffed between two lightly fried tortillas in red guajillo sauce and the Platillo de Alambre, a sizzling platter of steak, poblano peppers, bacon and onions topped with shredded cheese. It’s served with rice, beans and tortillas, allowing you to create your own tacos.

There are also seafood and vegetarian options such as Camarones estilo Culiacán, succulent shrimp tossed in a rich, creamy and mildly spicy green sauce, and Rajas de Chile Poblano con Calabacitas — roasted poblano peppers sautéed with onions, corn and Mexican squash finished with cream sauce and Oaxacan cheese.

For large groups and families, the Platillo Familiar is available in portions for four or six people, with either two or three pounds of your choice of grilled meats and seafood with sides and toppings included. On the children’s menu you will find quesadillas, flautitas, taquitos and Chimidoggos a playful fusion of hot dogs and chimichangas that Rios’ father served to him as a child.

Brunch is served on Saturdays and Sundays from 9 a.m. until 2 p.m. The star attraction during this time is the bottomless menudo, which includes all the traditional accompaniments (including warm, griddled bolillos) for just $15.99. Additionally, there are breakfast tacos, chilaquiles, customizable three-egg omelets and molletes — open-faced bolillo sandwiches topped with refried beans, salsa and melted cheese. 

The Classic Michelada at Luchador. Photo by Mario-Sebastian Berry.
The Classic Michelada at Luchador. Photo by Mario-Sebastian Berry.

Spice things up with Luchadors’ signature 28-ounce micheladas. The Classic mixes Clamato, lime juice and petróleo — a savory blend of Worcestershire, Maggi and Tabasco, or order the La Del Santo, which uses the same recipe without the Clamato. Both are garnished with juicy shrimp, celery, dried shrimp, charales, carne seca, marinated olives and a salted rim. Piña and mango micheladas are also available with fresh fruit, chamoy and tamarindo candy-coated straws. Luchador is putting on an absolute clinic when it comes to potential hangover cures.  

Compliment your michelada with a line-up of imported Mexican beers as well as locally-produced craft beer from Missouri City’s Texas Leaguer Brewing, or make it non-alcoholic with Topo Chico instead.

Luchador also serves Margaritas and Mezcal Cocktails. Photo by Mario-Sebastian Berry.
Luchador also serves Margaritas and Mezcal Cocktails. Photo by Mario-Sebastian Berry.

Looking for something stronger? Try a tequila or mezcal margarita, available in a number of flavors, a mezcal mule or the Luchador Bloody Mary.

For dessert, Luchador serves piping-hot orders of sopapillas dusted with cinnamon and sugar and drizzled with honey. 

So far, Saenz says that the community response to their passion project has been positive and they “strive to make this a great dining experience, and we hope to reach a lot more people than just our backyard,” with aspirations to one day expand to multiple locations. 

I wish them all the best and have no doubt they would be successful anywhere in Houston. I left fat and happy, eagerly making plans in my head to return for a big bowl of menudo. 

Luchador Micheladas y Botanas owners Francisco Rios and Renee Saenz. Photo by Mario-Sebastian Berry.
Luchador Micheladas y Botanas owners Francisco Rios and Renee Saenz. Photo by Mario-Sebastian Berry.

Luchador Micheladas y Botanas is open Tuesday through Friday from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., Saturday from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. and Sunday from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Plentiful parking is available.

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