The best Mexican food in Texas since Texas was in Mexico

Mama Ninfa started something
money can’t buy – tradition

Welcome to where it all began: This is The Original Ninfa’s.

When Mama Ninfa Laurenzo first began grilling skirt steak then placing the sizzling meat in a handmade flour tortilla, all from inside her family’s struggling tortilla factory in Houston’s East End, she had no idea she had jumpstarted a culinary revolution. It was 1973, her husband John had just passed away, and Mama Ninfa was cooking to take care of her children – and provide her beloved community mouthwatering comfort food along the way.

The dish she created was tacos al carbon, which the whole world would eventually come to know as fajitas, the bedrock of Tex-Mex cuisine.

We lost Mama Ninfa in 2001, but her legacy of love and fierce skill continues.

A James Beard Award semifinalist in 2019, The Original Ninfa’s masterfully combines a commitment to comfort and tradition with a sense of culinary adventure, all helmed today by Executive Chef Alex Padilla.

Casual and fun, yet historic and elevated, The Original Ninfa’s offers the best Mexican food since Texas was in Mexico at two Houston locations: Ninfa’s on Navigation and Ninfa’s Uptown.

Chef Alex is a man of few words – fire, spice and seasoning are a few of his favorites

No one blends tradition and adventure like Chef Alex Padilla. Our award-winning Executive Chef has been with us for more than 15 years, but his story with The Original Ninfa’s begins much earlier.

A native of Honduras, Chef Alex moved to Houston as a teenager in 1985. He attended Westfield High School, and his mother Maria found work as a line cook at The Original Ninfa’s on Navigation, where she was hired by Mama Ninfa Laurenzo. Here, Chef Alex was introduced to the commercial kitchen — and the world of food is so much better for it.

After graduation, he embarked on a culinary education that would take him around the world to work alongside renowned chefs at internationally acclaimed restaurants. Chef Alex returned home to Houston a master, ready to assume the role of Executive Chef at The Original Ninfa’s, in 2006.

He has perfected Mama Ninfa’s classics and introduced his own interpretations of fine dining, drawing from fresh Gulf seafood and locally sourced produce to create innovative dishes that have led to numerous accolades, including The Original Ninfa’s James Beard Award semifinalist nod in 2019, as well as myriad national television appearances. Through it all, Chef Alex has remained curious, humble, and just like his predecessor, full of love for family and food.

Honors & Accolades

2018 Best Chef on the Block champion, broadcast on ABC’s The Chew

Executive Chef, The Original Ninfa’s, 2019 James Beard Award Semi-finalist for Outstanding Restaurant Category

Executive Chef, The Original Ninfa’s, 2017 Southern Living’s Best Restaurant in Texas

Travel Channel’s Food Paradise

Travel Channel’s Man v. Food

Food Network’s Top 5 Restaurants: Best Mexican Food

Food Network’s Top 5: Tex-Mex Faves

Food Network’s Old School: The Best Thing I Ever Ate