August 14, 2022

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Houston’s Brothers Taco House faces looming development

3 min read
“Cambios” is a five-part series by Adán Medrano examining neighborhood changes in Houston and how...

“Cambios” is a five-part series by Adán Medrano examining neighborhood changes in Houston and how they affect Mexican American businesses through the lens of five taquerias in the city.

As with many Houston taquerias, there’s a long line at Brothers Taco House. This one often wends from the canopied front door past two utility poles, a full thirty yards, one-third of a football field.

Celso Mendoza, a retired civil engineer who lives in East Houston, doesn’t mind the line. He’s been going to Brothers since it opened in 2003, and says it’s a time to chat about the ballgame, run into old friends and make new ones.

Brothers Taco House in East Downtown is known for its excellent breakfast tacos.

Brothers Taco House in East Downtown is known for its excellent breakfast tacos.

Marco Torres

Anthropologists use the term “commensality” when referring to the human experience of eating together. The five taquerias I visited for “Cambios” embody all the rich dimensions of sharing a meal, but in a larger sense, they show society working out its social relations. Fast, inexpensive and unmistakably Mexican food brings Houstonians of all backgrounds together in community.

Brothers Taco House started serving tacos 19 years ago in the fast-changing neighborhood immediately east of downtown, now coined EaDo. The taqueria was founded by the Alejandro family, and today it is managed by second-generation siblings Maria and Miguel.

The efficient taco line staff at Brothers Taco House makes sure diners get their breakfast quickly.

The efficient taco line staff at Brothers Taco House makes sure diners get their breakfast quickly.

Marco Torres

The breakfast tacos are the draw at Brothers, not only because they are delicious, but they are also genuine “comida casera,” or home cooking. “I cook some of this food myself at home: chicharrón with chile and tomato and onion,” Mendoza said.

He’ll keep coming to Brothers, even though the neighborhood looks and feels different now, with new tall apartment buildings—which he calls “beehives”—high-priced condos and Range Rovers. He doesn’t think it’s all bad, but he’s quizzical about the new neighbors. “Los gabachos no tienen niños pero tienen perros,” he said. (“The white people don’t have children but they do have dogs.”)

Brothers Taco House is popular among construction workers from nearby development in East Downtown.

Brothers Taco House is popular among construction workers from nearby development in East Downtown.

Marco Torres

One block from the taqueria on a recent Sunday, Matt Harryman was walking his dog, a Jack Russell-Dachshund mix. He bought a two-story townhouse here five years ago. Both his home and the taco house are surrounded by empty lots and new construction. Development and gentrification are thick in the air. Two weeks ago, the restaurant announced that the City of Houston would begin charging them and their customers for parking on Leeland Street, for the first time in almost 20 years.

The City of Houston recently began charging for parking near Brothers Taco House.

The City of Houston recently began charging for parking near Brothers Taco House.

Marco Torres

Harryman points to an entire city block across from Brothers that’s empty except for one small house on the corner. His wry assessment: “This guy there is sitting on his land ’til he can sell it for a billion dollars.” The expansive 1.3-acre lot behind the taqueria is also vacant, waiting to be developed.

Brothers Taco House in East Downtown is surrounded by townhomes and empty lots waiting to be developed.

Brothers Taco House in East Downtown is surrounded by townhomes and empty lots waiting to be developed.

Marco Torres

A lifelong Houstonian, Harryman knows his tacos and frequents the taqueria regularly. He says that if you time it right, you can get through the Brothers line pretty quickly, and the food is inexpensive. His favorite item is the spicy pork taco, which he asks the staff to make on the spicier side, and he loves their fluffy, thick tortillas.

“I hope they stay around for a long time,” he said.

This story is the last installment of the “Cambios” series by Adán Medrano. Catch up on previous dispatches from Houston taquerias here.

Brothers Taco House

Find it: 1604 Emancipation Ave, Houston, TX 77003; (713) 223-0091
Hours: Sunday, 7 a.m.-1 p.m.; Monday-Friday, 5 a.m.-3 p.m.; Saturday, 6 a.m.-1 p.m.



 

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