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Rave reviews for Sylvia's

Enchiladas, Houston, TX

Alison Cook's Top 100 Restaurants 2016
Sylvia’s Enchilada Kitchen

Originally published by The Houston Chronicle

September, 2016

Any longtime fan of this comforting Tex-Mex classic knows Sylvia's is not just about the 19 kinds of enchiladas. Oh, they can be swell, most notably the snappy green chicken version and the "Lubbock" style with picadillo and extra-meaty chile con carne. But it's easy to fixate on other items in the chef Sylvia Casares' highly personal repertoire: the peerless Tampiquena fajita steak; the mesquite-grilled cabrito; the sparkling picamole relish that's a clever hybrid of guacamole and pico de gallo. All this and voluptuous chocolate Tres Leches, too.

What to Order: Mexico City enchiladas with chicken, salsa verde and sour cream; Lubbock enchiladas with chile cn carne; Morelia enchiladas with queso fresco and red chile; Tampiquena plate with fajita steak, enchilada and rajas.

10 great Mexican restaurants across the USA

Originally published in USA Today.com

In a city where Tex-Mex is practically a food group, Sylvia’s Enchilada Kitchen in Houston offers a fresh and memorable take on favorite dishes. Jane Butel, author and director of a cooking school in New Mexico, singles out owner Sylvia Casares for making a royal dish out of the humble enchilada. ‘She believes in doing things properly. She still uses chile pods and simmers them a long, long time.’ Photo by Nick de la Torre

1:04 p.m. EDT May 3, 2013
Mexico celebrates Cinco de Mayo Sunday to commemorate a military victory. But here, it’s an excuse to head out for tacos, margaritas and other Mexican favorites. Author Jane Butel, who runs a cooking school in New Mexico, says the cuisine is among the USA’s most popular. “It has a lot of snappy flavors you don’t get in American cooking. It’s like a fiesta in your mouth.” She shares some eateries to mark the holiday with Larry Bleiberg for USA TODAY.

Houston
While there’s incredible Tex-Mex served across the Lone Star State, Butel singles out owner Sylvia Casares for making a royal dish out of the humble enchilada. “She believes in doing things properly. She still uses chile pods and simmers them a long, long time.” Along with familiar cheese and meat enchiladas, the menu also features calabacitas (a blend of squash and vegetables) and a special spinach enchilada with a bit of cheese. 713-334-7295; sylviasenchiladakitchen.com

The Houston Chronicle's Top 100 Restaurants
46. Sylvia’s Enchilada Kitchen

Originally published in The Houston Chronicle

September 11, 2013

This is Tex-Mex done with unusual care and consistence. Yes, chef-owner Sylvia Casares’ enchiladas are swell: particularly the tomatillo-sauced chicken ones and the beefy “Lubbock” specimens with chile con carne. But don’t overlook fine mesquite-grilled items such as a whole skirt steak Tampiquena style, with a cheese enchilada and lush rajas con crema. The original location has colorful quirks; the newer Woodway restaurant is more upscale, and a bit pricier.

Don’t miss: Enchiladas verdes Mexico City; enchiladas Morelia with queso fresco; enchiladas Lubbock with beef and chile con carne; Tampiquena plate; Picamole avocado relish; tres leches cake.

Inside track: The Woodway location offers a splendid mesquite-grilled cabrito asado platter with charro beans.

On the Menu Top 5 Enchilada Platters To Try in Houston

By Joanna O’Leary Wed., Jul. 31 2013 at 8:00 AM
Originally published in The Houston Chronicle

Shrimp Enchiladas at Los Tios

As part of the holy trinity of Tex-Mex (the other members being tacos and fajitas), the enchilada appears in diverse forms in our city. And thanks to intense competition among Mexican restaurants, few enchilada platters are really bad and most are pretty good. Some, however, are just terrific. This list is not just about where to get good enchiladas, period, but what exactly to order. Here are my five recommendations:

5. Mushroom Enchiladas (Radical Eats). Although the fried avocado taco seems to be the favorite Tex-Mex offering on Radical Eats’ inventive menu, not to be overlooked is the vegan mushroom enchiladas for their terrific texture (thank you, cashew cream) and rich, dusky flavors. Where’s The Beef? Cheddar Makes Everything Better? WHO CARES?

4. Enchiladas Poblanas (Maria Selma). Their stuffing (shredded white meat chicken and rice) is fine and good, but what makes these enchiladas truly exceptional is the slightly sweet, smoky mole sauce and nutty dusty of sesame seeds. They taste even better on Tuesday, when all enchilada plates are half-price.

3. Shrimp Enchiladas (Los Tios). In my recent post about Los Tios’ delightful summer specials what I did not mention was that there was a second act to that meal: a bountiful platter of shrimp-stuffed enchiladas blanketed in a thick cilantro cream sauce and cheese and buttressed by pico de gallo and fluffy rice. This dairy-forward dish might be overwhelming if not for the slight briney edge from the crustaceans and the accompanying crisp avocado salad. At least, I’m never overwhelmed enough to lick the platter clean.

2. Cheese Enchiladas with Eggs! (Los Dos Amigos). Numerous food critics (including Robb Walsh and Katharine Shilcutt) have lauded Los Dos Amigos for its cheese enchiladas and I have no problem following suit. There may be nothing particularly transcendent about plain enchiladas in red sauce (though Los Dos Amigos does an outstanding take on this dish), but via the addition of two fried eggs, the platter soars to new savory heights as the yolk floods the tortillas, cheese, rice, and beans.

1. South of the Border Enchiladas (Sylvia’s Enchilada Kitchen) Sylvia’s “South of the Border” enchiladas plate is a four-stop culinary journey that begins with one “Mexico City” enchilada stuffed with chicken and topped with green salsa. From there, your fork proceeds on to the more piquant “Morelia” enchilada (queso fresco and onions in a spicy red chili gravy), then the “Hidalgo” enchilada (tender carnitas in red or green sauce garnished with avocado). Last point on the itinerary is the “Puebla” enchilada (chicken dressed in an earthy mole poblano sauce)–assuming, of course, you’re consuming each enchilada in its entirety before moving on to the next. Switching back and forth is perfectly acceptable, too, but beforewarned the delicate, subtle flavors of the four different sauces and fillings are best appreciated one by one.

Ultimate Memorial: A Restaurateur’s class tells how to make tamales -
A class breaks down how to make traditional Christmas fare

By Don Maines | November 5, 2013
Originally published in The Houston Chronicle

Sylvia Casares teaches how to make tamales for the holidays at the Sylvia’s Enchilada Kitchen at 6401 Woodway.

Don’t say you can’t make a tamale.

Sylvia Casares says she can teach you how through one-day classes called “Tamales 101.”

“The class takes the mystery and fear out of making tamales,” said Casares, who teaches from a room built for cooking classes at her Sylvia’s Enchilada Kitchen location at 6401 Woodway Drive. “I simplify it. By the end of the afternoon, you’re going to be able to do it. All you will need is a bunch of people to help you.”

The classes are timed to get you in shape to make tamales for Christmas Eve.

“A lot of non-Hispanics as well as Hispanics eat tamales on Dec. 24,” Casares said. “It’s a tradition in Texas.”

The dough is the main ingredient. Unfortunately for the health-conscious, it contains much fat.

Making a low-cal tamale, she said, “is like trying to make a low-fat doughnut.

“You might could use a leaner meat and do chicken instead of pork and serve them with black beans,” she said.

But, said Casares, the flavor and texture of her recipe make the tamales a great occasional treat or something special for the holidays.

“A little poison won’t kill you,” she said.

Casares is the owner and executive chef of Sylvia’s Enchilada Kitchen.

At the Woodway location in October, she taught how to make soups and stews, South Texas breakfast favorites, appetizers and chiles rellenos.

“This is my 10th year to be teaching how to make the food I grew up eating – the very foods I serve in my restaurant,” said Casares, 60, who lives near Fulshear. “I’ve never had anybody not have a blast. We always have a fun afternoon, and every class includes a full meal of what we learned to make, including my cheese enchilada and a margarita.”

The cost for the class, which teaches how to make pork and chicken tamales, is $65 per person.

The tamale classes are taught 2-5 p.m. To reserve a seat, visit http://sylviasenchiladakitchen.com/classes.asp or call 713-334-7295.

Growing up in Brownsville, said Casares, “I liked to cook and I liked to eat. I don’t know which came first.”

Because her mother worked outside of the home, Casares liked to have dinner ready as a surprise for her mother.

At the University of Texas, Casares studied home economics, with the goal of being a teacher.

However, following graduation, she moved to Houston to work in the test kitchen at Uncle Ben’s, a component of Mars Inc.

After 10 years, Casares took a sales/marketing job with Sara Lee, selling soups to restaurants.

Over the next decade, she said, she immersed herself in her own “Ph.D” of learning everything she could about restaurants, with the hope of one day owning her own restaurant.

That day came in 1995 when Casares opened Camino Real, a Mexican food restaurant, in Rosenberg.

In 1998, she moved the location to Houston, where it retained its name until Casares “reinvented” it in order to capitalize on her specialty as the “enchilada queen.”

She recently signed a 10-year lease on her Woodway location.

“It was said to be jinxed, after other restaurants had failed there,” said Casares.

“Also, it opened during a recession. It was a hard fight with a short stick, but we overcame the negatives.”

Casares is preparing a cookbook to be published next year.

Meanwhile, a DVD and cookbook set on making tamales is available online at www.SylviasEnchiladaKitchen.com

SYLVIA’S PANCAKE KITCHEN? THE ENCHILADA QUEEN FLIPS KILLER HOTCAKES

GREG MORAGO AT 1:57 PM ON FEBRUARY 17, 2012

How does she get her pancakes so light, fluffy and flavorful? There's nothing magical about the recipe, said Sylvia Casares, chef/owner of Sylvia's Enchilada Kitchen. It's just the proper proportions of ingredients that contribute to making them so wonderful.

Still, it took her about two years, Casares said, to get it right.

If you want to taste the product of her perfect pancake labors, you'll have to go to Sylvia's new Latin Jazz Brunch, every Sunday through the rest of February at her Woodway restaurant. Casares, who does not normally offer a weekend brunch, decided to test the waters with a buffet brunch that also features entertainment by singer/songwriter/guitarist Lois Albez who performs samba, bossa nova and salsa music during the brunch.
But back to those pancakes. The hotcakes are on the brunch buffet along with made-to-order eggs and omelets, huevos rancheros, migas with chorizo, chilaquiles, breakfast potatoes, refried beans, bacon and fresh fruit. The cost is $14.95, not including tax and gratuity. The regular lunch menu also is available.

Casares said if the brunch proves successful she may extend it beyond February. Sylvia's was packed Sunday and the brunch items flying off the buffet. Perhaps, like the pancakes, Casares has a brunch winner on her hands.
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