Marini’s Empanada House, or more properly, The Original Marini’s Empanada House has been around the Houston area off-and-on since 1971. The first restaurant was on lower Westheimer in Montrose, and then later further down Westheimer, west of the Galleria. Today it’s operated by the offspring of the founding couple. Though its comfortable, well-scrubbed locations might not have the funkiness of its previous settings, the empanadas haven’t changed, and are still very good, plus the small counter-service restaurant still exudes a friendly feel.
The empanadas here are made in the Argentine-style with wheat flour dough attractively rolled around any number of ingredients and baked until the sturdy, flavorful crust is golden. The fillings are more American, or more properly, Houstonian in nature, than Argentine. Of the nearly twenty savory empanadas and about the same number of dessert ones, there are ones filled with beef brisket and barbecue sauce, brisket and pickled jalaperios, avocado, broccoli and cheeses, refried beans, apples and cinnamon, and raspberry with cream cheese. Befitting the name Marini, there are a number with identifiably Italian ingredients such as mozzarella, provolone, Italian sausage, pepperoni, basil, tomato and oregano. These are typically all quite tasty. The savory empanadas are divided among those primarily filled with meat, vegetable or cheese, and are served with a side of chimi-churri sauce, which seems to complement each of these.
Three of the decent-sized empanadas should be more than sufficient for most; or, a couple of empanadas and an order of curly fries or a side salad. The dessert empanadas feature fruit, homemade fruit preserves, fruit and cream cheese and dulce de leche, the gooey caramel syrup that is a Latin favorite. A couple of double-sized versions with bananas or apples with dulce de leche, spices, cheese and whipped cream are also offered. No matter which versions are ordered, it’s wise to note that the fillings are often surprisingly hot, temperature-wise.
In addition to empanadas, Marini’s has a few sandwiches on a small baguette such as beef marinated in chimi-churri and another with milanesa. Beer and wine are served by the glass, plus sangria and several smoothie-like licuados.
Marini’s Empanada House
3522 S. Mason (north of Westheimer Parkway) Katy, Texas 77450, (281) 391-4273
10001 Westheimer # 2570 Houston, Texas 77042 (713) 266-2729
Copyright Mike Riccetti. Adapted from Houston Dining on the Cheap, and used with permission.
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