A Family Affair - Molina's Cantina Celebrates 75 Years!
Molina’s Cantina Celebrates 75 Years
After growing up working in his family’s restaurant Molina’s Cantina, Ricardo Molina knows the secret to successfully operating a business for over seven decades: Treat everyone like family.
The wall of portraits that greets guests as they enter the Westheimer location literally puts the family at the front of the business. But for the Molinas, “family” includes everyone who has played a role in the restaurant’s story. The entryway also features a patron’s poignant painting of Gilberto, who worked as a waiter for 50 years, and a warm photograph of George and Barbara Bush embracing Sammy and Lupe, who played mariachi at Molina’s for years. They’re all part of the family, too. “We’re in the people business,” Ricardo says.
This summer, Molina’s Cantina—which Ricardo co-owns alongside his brothers Raul III and Roberto—celebrates its 75th anniversary of defining Tex-Mex cuisine for Houston. Some dishes, like the Mexico City Dinner and the Enchiladas de Tejas, have been on the menu since their grandfather, Raul Molina Sr., opened his first restaurant on West Gray in 1941.
“We still have people come in that ate with our grandparents as young kids,” Ricardo says. Some of the menu specials, like Berly’s Burrito, are even named after longtime guests who’ve made requests from the kitchen and then spread the word about their new favorite dish. It takes a certain amount of determination to achieve a namesake dish, though. Ricardo advises that “you don’t get on the menu overnight; you have to work at it!”
In planning the anniversary celebration, Ricardo is focusing on bringing together staff and guests who are a part of Molina’s Cantina’s long history. He hopes to create a new family portrait, representing how much the Molina’s family has grown in 75 years of welcoming Houstonians.