Eatery driven by fresh ingredients
Surrounded by beachfront murals, frozen margaritas and fresh Mexican food, a visit to Don Julio's Mexican Restaurant in Cypress is a relaxing retreat from the fast-paced Hwy. 290 that sits just yards away.
A year after initially retiring, owner Sam Rivera opened the first Don Julio's location in Dickinson in 2006. He opened his third and largest restaurant at Cypress Village Station in 2010, offering Mexican food such as fajitas, enchiladas, tacos and tamales to the local community.
"We looked at this area demographically and saw that it was really growing, and it hasn't disappointed," he said.
Rivera prides himself on making fresh dishes at Don Julio's, coming in daily to prep the necessary ingredients needed for the afternoon and evening.
"You can spice a product by putting a lot of garlic and cumin and all the dry spices, but we try to use the fresh stuff—minced garlic, whole ground pepper and sea salt," he said.
There are a variety of seafood dishes, enchiladas and tacos on the menu, but the fajitas—chicken, beef, shrimp or pork—are one of Rivera's favorites.
"Our fajitas are a pepper-flavored marinade, which is a little different from everyone else's," he said.
Above the restaurant there is another area in which patrons can play on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights. Don Julio's Upper Deck has a full bar, pool tables, a jukebox and a dozen televisions, but Rivera primarily likes to use the 3,400-square-foot upper deck as an event center for catered events, birthday parties, graduation and wedding receptions.
"There's really nothing else in the Cypress area that does this," Rivera said. "It's unique, the atmosphere is cool, and we cater to the customers."
Rivera has made it a point to stay active in the Cy-Fair community, especially with local sports teams, sponsoring Little League and high school teams annually. The first year his restaurant was open he sponsored 10 youth teams, and now typically sponsors about five annually.
"I've always been driven by school sports; it's just near and dear to me to be active in the community with sports," Rivera said.
- Fajitas—Chicken, beef, shrimp or pork fajitas are served with grilled onions, white Spanish rice, charro or refried beans, guacamole, sour cream, cheese, pico de gallo and tortillas ($14–$15 half pound, $25.50–$27, full pound)
- Enchilada dinner—Two enchiladas are served with the choice of chili gravy, ranchero, verde sauce, red, mole or sour cream sauce and a side of black or refried beans and white Spanish rice ($8)
- Fish tacos—Two stuffed corn tortillas are stuffed with fried, grilled or blackened tempera fish, red cabbage, cilantro, onions and Don Julio's special sauce. Served with black or refried beans and white Spanish rice ($11).
- Shrimp borracho—Seven grilled shrimp are topped with cheese and jalapeo slices and wrapped in bacon and are served with white Spanish rice, charro beans, guacamole, pico de gallo and fresh flour tortillas ($16.50)
- Happy hour is Monday–Friday from 11 a.m.–6 p.m., during which draft beer is $2.75 and base margaritas are $3.50
- $1 margaritas on Monday
- $6.50 top shelf margaritas on Tuesday
A work of art
When owner Sam Rivera opened one of his other Don Julio's locations, he had a tropical mural painted on the wall reminiscent of a vacation he took in the Bahamas. When the Cypress location opened in 2010, Rivera decided to have a similar mural done, but wanted it to be lusher. Visitors to Don Julio's are greeted by a set of murals that depict a beachfront island, complete with palm trees and a colorful parrot. Upstairs at Julio's Upper Deck another mural is displayed, dedicated after detective novelist Mickey Spillane; it features a darker cityscape with a 1950s or 1960s vibe.
25250 Hwy. 290, Cypress 281-758-4000, www.donjulios.com
- Sun.–Wed. 11 a.m.–9:30 p.m.
- Thu.–Sat. 11 a.m.–10 p.m.