What started out in 1941 as a small restaurant in what is now the River Oaks area has become the oldest family-owned and operated Tex-Mex restaurant in Houston. At the time, there were only a handful of Mexican restaurants in the city, and while Raul Molina and his wife Mary opened their restaurant to create a better life for themselves and their children, they would unknowingly become one of the founding families of Tex-Mex cuisine in the fourth largest city in the United States.
Molina’s Cantina is responsible for introducing Houstonians to Tex-Mex classics like chili con carne, enchiladas, and guacamole. Many of the same dishes that were on the menu in 1941 are still made from scratch daily and prepared in small batches using fresh ingredients. The restaurant has received many accolades over the years for signature dishes like the “Original Jose’s Dip”, named for a former waiter who began adding spicy taco meat to his customer’s queso. Guests loved it so much that it not only became a menu staple, but remains a best-selling favorite to this day.
The lifespan of a typical restaurant is five years - Molina’s Cantina has exceeded that by several decades and is now bringing the fourth generation of family restaurateurs into the fold. “It’s hard to believe that, after eighty wonderful years, our grandparents’ dream is still alive and well,” says Ricardo Molina, third-generation Molina’s Cantina co-owner with brothers Raul, III, and Roberto. “A lot has changed since 1941, but we are so blessed to continue serving many of the same families three and even four generations later. It’s an honor to be a Houston tradition for our friends and neighbors, many whom we consider family.”