It’s no secret that El Rey is one of Houston’s best Cuban restaurants. They have been in business for nearly 20 years and they have four locations in the Houston area, but how inviting is the menu if you are trying to stay paleo? Well, excluding the rice, black beans, and tortillas that are obligatory with every meal at Cuban restaurants, there is quite a lot to choose from at El Rey. On my last trip to the El Rey on Ella Boulevard, I was with my wife and son who are celebrating what they call Taco Tuesdays. Taco Tuesdays have become an annual summertime pilgrimage where they tour the city and try tacos at different restaurants every Tuesday. It was a good thing we were at El Rey because they have 12 different tacos to choose from. The problem is, I always get the same three tacos. My favorite paleo hack for tacos is to order them in a bowl, minus the tortilla. Ordering tacos without tortillas was weird at first, but I don’t miss them any more. They aren’t as convenient to eat as they used to be, but once you get used to eating tacos with a fork, you’ll never go back.
I always get the Carnita Taco, the Ropa Vieja Taco, and the Tacos al Pastor. Feel free to try anything that looks good, because I have never had anything at El Rey that wasn’t good. Three tacos may sound like a lot, but without all of the rice and bean filler, three tacos really isn’t that much.
The Carnita is made with bite-sized pieces of pork meat, onions & cilantro with lime & jalapeño sauce. If you like pork this one is hard to beat. The pork is slow roasted, tender and juicy. The lime really gives it a nice bit of tanginess that pairs well with the earthiness of the cilantro.
The Tacos al Pastor is another pork dish. The meat is also tender and delicious, but this dish has a red sauce that really kicks up the flavor. The onions and cilantro are also great companions to the pork.
Finally, if there is one taco you can’t pass up at El Rey, it is the Ropa Vieja. It features, shredded beef stewed in a tomato broth with cabbage, pico de gallo and cilantro sauce. Think of the shredded beef as a spicy pot roast, so tender you can eat it with a plastic fork, and if you are eating your taco out of a bowl, that’s exactly what you will be doing. The cabbage and pico de gallo go perfectly with the beef, and make the dish more refreshing and lighter than it would be if it were paired with potatoes.
If you want a side dish, try El Rey’s fired plantains. They add a sweet touch to any of El Rey’s main dishes. My family and I split an order. If you aren’t familiar with plantains, imagine a big banana, but even more nutritious. Plantains have double the Vitamin C as a banana. They are high in carbs, but they make a nutrient-rich replacement for potatoes, and they taste way better. Also, don’t forget the pickled carrots, jalapeños, onions, and garlic. They are a great way to spice up any of their meals.
You can’t go wrong at El Rey. Every dish is a winner, and there are lots of paleo options. Just steer clear of the black beans, rice and tortillas. They make it easy for you by dumping all of the ingredients for a taco into a bowl. You won’t miss the grains at all.