Local Rio Grande restaurant has ties to original Tex-Mex in Houston

The roots for Tex Mex food may be in Houston, but its branch is in Washington Mills.

Posted: Oct. 9, 2018 5:28 PM

During his trips across America, Lester Holt always gets food suggestions on social media. While in Houston, Texas, the advice was universal – Tex Mex.

The roots for Tex Mex food may be in Houston, but its branch is in Washington Mills.

Lester Holt stopped by Ninfa’s on Navigation, located in Houston, to learn how to make fajitas. While fajitas are known around the world, they were made famous at the original Ninfa’s on Navigation in 1973.

Legendary Houston chef Ninfa Laurenzo added steak to the tortillas she was selling out of her house, and the recipe stuck. She died in 2001 and her family sold the restaurant, and now Chef Alex Padilla, whose mom used to work alongside Ninfa, runs the kitchen. He still uses Ninfa’s original fajita recipe.

That same authentic Tex-Mex cuisine is also available right in Washington Mills.

Rio Grande Tex-Mex Grill, located at 3913 Oneida St., offers food made with Ninfa’s original recipes. It’s a local favorite, and from what the manager tells us, people from Houston often stop in as well, thrilled to learn they can get their favorite Tex Mex dishes here in Central New York.

So how did the family business based in Houston make it this far north? Love, of course.

"Well my mom is from here, she grew up on Sanger Ave., and she moved down there and worked for my father's mother," said Jimmy Laurenzo, manager of Rio Grande. "They worked at a restaurant, they met there, and then I guess she dragged him back up here."

Laurenzo’s grandmother grew their production plant that made frozen tortillas and pizzas into a restaurant in Houston before she became widowed. Her pictures grace the wall of the restaurant in Washington Mills.

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