We have started a tradition of lunches at popular restaurants in central Houston. This week we made a reservation at Hugo’s in the Montrose area. It on every list of must eats for the city and is said to have exciting authentic (albeit a bit pricey) Mexican food. I have been wanting to go to Hugo’s since I first came to Houston for another reason however, their hot chocolate.
Years ago I read an article about the hot chocolate at Hugo’s. The hot chocolate, made in house, is a traditional Mexican hot chocolate with a hint of different spices. It comes with freshly made warm churros, perfect for dipping. It is roasted in house which is something I haven’t heard of often. So finally after putting it off for two years, today was the day that not only would I get to taste their authentic Mexican food, but have my hot chocolate and churros.
Hugo’s which opened in 2002 is housed in a 1925 structure that was designed and built by well-known Houston architect, Joseph Finger. The interior was redesigned to house the restaurant. It is a fascinating mix of traditional and modern. The yellow high chairs feel like thrones. Bright blue water glasses sit on all the tables. We went there one week before Halloween, so there were decorations all around the restaurant. Colourful skeletons are hanging from the chandeliers.
Hugo’s is named after Hugo Ortega, who’s a bit of a superstar in Houston.. He is executive chef and co owner of both Hugo’s and Backstreet Café (another place I need to visit soon), and was a finalist for the 2012 and 2013 James Beard Foundation Awards. He was born one of 8 children in Mexico City and immigrated to the US where he started working in Houston as a dishwasher. He was rapidly promoted from dishwasher to line cook and after graduating from a Culinary Arts programme he became a chef. Just recently I saw a copy of his first cookbook, Street Food of Mexico, which he wrote with his brother who is executive pastry chef for both restaurants. He also works with his wife who is co-owner of both restaurants so this is a family affair.
Our meal was beautiful, not much different than food I have had in Mexico (which was fantastic). We had snapper ceviche to start. We just had to follow that with a plate of pan-fried grasshoppers (yes, grasshopper, little crunchy ones served with avocado, salsa and tortillas). It isn’t often you see something like that on a menu so when you do it has to be tried. Those little bugs didn’t taste like much on their own, but rolled up in the tortilla with the toppings it was nicely crunchy and quite tasty. We followed with mains of roasted goat with plantains and mole and all sorts of other delicious things.
All this though was just to prepare my stomach for my hot chocolate. The dessert menu presented me with a few options. The first one I saw was a hot chocolate with alcohol. I have done that before (in Brazil) and enjoyed it a little too much. Maybe not for lunch. There was a plate of churros and hot chocolate with ice cream and then there was just a simple hot chocolate.
I’m not sure what happened at that moment. All the excitement, the anticipation must have got to me because for some odd reason I didn’t order the churros. I think I got distracted by the ice cream. I was confused as to why they would have churros with hot chocolate…and then ice cream. I didn’t want ice cream. So I found myself asking for the hot chocolate only and a plate of their chilli chocolate cake to share (which was incredible).
I can’t say I wasn’t a little disappointed when my hot chocolate arrived. I think I was expecting something thick and gooey. Instead what arrived in a white mug was the milk and shaved chocolate kind of hot chocolate. Maybe you only get the thick hot chocolate if you are smart enough to order the churros as well (which, I was not), or maybe they don’t have that at all and I am just imagining thick gooey hot chocolate with Churros. I pouted for a minute, long enough for the hot chocolate in front of me to cool down to lukewarm. But when I finally did take a sip it was a very good hot chocolate which I enjoyed. It had those interesting and complex notes that Mexican hot chocolates seem to always have which are so addictive; a hint of cinnamon and a bit of a kick at the end.
Verdict: Very nice hot chocolate, and I will be back to Hugo’s to try the churros. Stay tuned for more… Hugo’s, 1600 Westheimer Houston, 77006, Houston, USA