Here's some spicy news for area Tex-Mex lovers.

Houston restaurateur Domenic Laurenzo is planning to open Laurenzo’s El Tiempo Cantina at 20237 Interstate 45 in Webster. (After renovations, the eatery will open in the former site of Big Ben Tavern).

Laurenzo is the grandson of Maria Ninfa Rodriguez Laurenzo, also known as “Mama Ninfa.”

Ninfa’s Restaurants became one of the most well-known Mexican restaurant chains in Texas and are credited with launching the fajita movement in Houston. The Webster restaurant will mark Domenic Laurenzo’s sixth El Tiempo Cantina.

El Tiempo Cantina has differentiated itself from Ninfa’s by using different meat marinades and rices and offering different dishes. And the price points are higher.

In June, El Tiempo made it on Houston Chronicle food critic Allison Cook’s Top 100 Restaurants list, landing at No. 52.

Here’s what Cook had to say:

 “Only the very steep prices keep this fajita-and-mixed-grill stalwart, owned by the Laurenzo family of once-upon-a-Ninfa’s fame, from placing higher on the list. But it’s well worth an occasional splurge for the most sumptuous parillada experience in the city, in which the wood-grilled meats and shellfish arrive on fetching tabletop charcoal cookers. The salsas and sides show the Laurenzo stamp of excellence. The frozen margaritas are lethal … .”

When I worked for the Houston Business Journal in the late 1990s, I wrote about the opening of Domenic Laurenzo’s first El Tiempo Cantina.

I ate there several times and the memory of good meals still stick with me today. 

Have you tried El Tiempo? Do you plan to? 

(6) comments

Kevin Lang

This may make my wife's day. She eats at their Montrose location fairly often.

Are they going to take over the whole building there, or just the half that Big Ben was using?

lauraelder Staff
Laura Elder

I'm not sure how much space they'll take up, but I'll find out. I'm also trying to get a better idea about an opening date.

Miss Priss

Love, love, love El Tiempo! The best Mexican food in Houston.

Gary Miller

No! NO!
Fancy serving with fancy prices don't improve the food.

Steve Fouga

I'll try it. Upscale Mex (Sex-Mex?) doesn't usually get me super excited, I guess because regular cheap Mexican food is so good, and there are so many worthy purveyors of it near my house. IHOG is mostly right, but I'd say it a little differently: BIG prices don't bring BIG improvements in the food. But sometimes they bring small improvements.

In this case the testimonials are so good I'll have to see for myself. I might decide to go the next time I'm in Houston, rather than waiting for the Webster store to open.

Paul Ruiz

Enjoyed going to Ninfa's when Mama Ninfa was alive and running the restaurants.
I will give El Tiempo a try.
Have to say I will always miss Mason Jar.
On another topic. Wish the Home Depot building would be torn down.

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