Walking into Marini’s Empanada House feels almost as if you’re walking into a little sandwich shop in Argentina. The health benefits of mate, a South American drink filled with antioxidants, are advertised everywhere and little servings of chimichurri to take on-the-go are on display by the condiments as well as bags of yummy alfajoresto buy.
There are tables outside on the patio for those ready to enjoy a late Houston breeze with their meal or booths inside surrounded by walls covered with homemade relics: newspaper clippings, colorful art-work, random stickers, old family photos, and the light blue and white Argentinian flag.
The original Marini’s Empanada House is a family owned restaurant famous for their variety of homemade empanadas including meat, vegetable, and dessert. More than often, the owners are sitting down at one of the small tables speaking Spanish the Argentinian way, fast and loud with Ches and Pives and lots of hearty laughter.
The atmosphere of the restaurant is great. Everything’s casual from the get-it-yourself condiments to the servers who bring your food out to you without any technological annoyances like beepers or numbers called out. The waiters seem to possess that unique Argentine quality of being laidback.
You can take your time ordering and eating. The sandwiches are delicious, particularly the milanesa sandwich which you can get in beef or chicken. Milanesa is a thin piece of beef or chicken lightly pan-fried with breadcrumbs and immensely delicious, especially in a sandwich. They use warm, fresh French bread and top the sandwich with crispy lettuce, juicy tomato slices, andlemon on the side for those who know that milanesa is even better with freshly squeezed lemon juice. All of their sandwiches come with lettuce and tomato with the option of French fries or a house salad.
Their French fries are way too delicious to be French fries. They’re unique, homemade quasi-curly-fries that definitely don’t have that greasy-crispy taste that many fast-food fries tend to have. Instead,the golden-brown masterpieces are soft and delicate and it’s almost impossible not to gobble them up immediately with some Heinz ketchup.
The churrasco and grilled chicken sandwich both come with chimichurri sauce on them but if you fall in love with their homemade chimichurri sauce, you can always add it to any plate, ask for extra, or take some home. Chimichurri is a green sauce native to Argentina made of herbs (parsley, paprika, and laurel), oil, minced garlic, and a little bit of vinegar. It adds a nice zest to the sandwiches and the herbs add a heart-healthy quality to your meal.
Although Marini’s is famous for their empanadas, stick to their sandwiches. They’re simple and tasty and inexpensive. The dough of the meat and vegetable empanadas are lacking in flavor which basically defeats the purpose of an empanada, while the dough of the dessert empanadas is too thick. The dessert empanadas are fine if you want to satisfy a sweet tooth. Unfortunately, it’s very difficult to find empanadas in Houston, so if you’ve never had authentic South American cuisine, you may like these. But if you’ve had the luxury to eat in South America, skip the empanadas and eat their sandwiches (and get curly fries instead of a salad!), you will not be disappointed.
The Original Marini’s Empanada House is located on 10001 Westheimer # 2570 Houston, Texas 77042 and 3522 S. Mason Rd #100 Katy, Texas 77450