Yes, the title is correct. Guadalajara Hacienda The Woodlands is actually located in Shenandoah Texas; at least that's the municipality that collects taxes from them. Do you want proof of this declaration? You may wonder how it is that the restaurant can be in Shenandoah when it is clearly, physically located in a shopping center which anyone would likely consider to be in The Woodlands. Well I will tell you - when looking at a map of Shenandoah, you will find that the city of Shenandoah actually has a small strip of right-of-way land that follows alongside the feeder road and then opens up to encompass Guadalajara Hacienda. Sounds really sneaky doesn't it? Well, that's just the way Shenandoah rolls.
The chips and salsa at Guadalajara Hacienda were typical except for the salsa. The green sauce was thin and watery and had a lime-based flavor. The red sauce has some chunky style tomatoes and the flavor has a more tartness to it than spice. Neither of them are bad tasting, they just seem to be more 'authentic' rather than Tex-Mex even though you generally won't find chips and salsa in any truly authentic Mexican Food Restaurant. The owner(s) of Guadalajara prefer to have something unique about the food they serve in their restaurant; not sure if we agree with this particular bit of uniqueness. In our opinion, many of the authentic foods from most anywhere else in the world have more flavor once they have been 'Texanized'.
I had the Enchilada Combo ($11.95) which came with one cheese and one beef enchilada with onions, two tiny crispy beef tacos and an adorably sized Tex-Mex empanada, along with rice and beans. Despite the tiny size of the tacos and empanada, this combo was a whole lot of food; far too much for me to finish. But I enjoyed almost everything I tried - almost. The empanada was wonderful, especially when dipped in the green sauce that accompanied it. Guadalajara also gets my vote for their tacos - there's a particular flavor to ground beef that I really like in a taco, and I've only found it at a select few Tex-Mex restaurants; Chuy's being another of them. I prefer a dryer (not soupy) ground beef with seasonings similar to a good fajita seasoning. The only thing I didn't much care for was the odd, almost sweet flavor I detected in the cheese enchilada. I don't even know how to describe it; almost like maybe there had been some sugar left on the prep counter where my enchilada had been rolled. At any rate, overall everything was good. Maybe not the best I'd ever had - far from the worst, certainly - safely on the 'yeah, I could eat here again' list.
The amount of competition for your 'dólares para comer' or 'dining dollars' in The Woodlands is strong and many competitors have come and gone over the years. Some Tex-Mex Restaurants Fail because simply enough, they just suck - while others whimper along and finally just throw in the proverbial towel. In other cases, such as with chains like Guadalajara, more profitable stores will frequently help to make less profitable stores stay afloat as these other stores have sales that are much like a roller coaster. Now, I am in no way suggesting that Guadalajara in The Woodlands is or is not profitable; it's impossible for me to know of course. I can say that Guadalajara has survived for a long time so they must be doing something right.
So, what is the big deal about the Guadalajara Especial plate ($13.95)? The combo includes an Enchilada Guadalajara with roasted corn sauce, a chicken taco al carbon and tamale. The chicken enchilada was actually pretty good, but the tamale was filled with shredded beef was dry and not very good. The taco al carbon, a large flour tortilla filled with fajita style chicken and nothing else, was less than lively. I had to resort to using some of the remaining rice, pico, and enchilada sauce to make it edible. (The refried beans has the consistency of soup and had a rather flat taste.( Not to say the chicken wasn't worth eating; it's just that dry chicken and a flour tortilla is not very exciting. Maybe it was my fault for what I ordered, if I wanted fajitas, I would have ordered fajitas and got the guacamole and cheese to go with them.
This was only the third or fourth time (in recent years) to eat at Guadalajara The Woodlands and my expectations were quite low. I've never been excited enough by the flavor of food served in this restaurant and is therefore not very high on the list of favorite Tex-Mex restaurants be they in The Woodlands or not. This experience was a little better the previous but still nothing to get excited about. The food at Guadalajara Hacienda is better than some but only average across the board and there are way to many other options in The Woodlands to settle for less.
If you have ever been to Guadalajara Hacienda, you may have noticed that they have an abundant staff, two or more providing hosting services, several servers and a few bussers/drink refillers. And why would we even consider discussing this subject? Well, while we dined, we noticed one of the busboys doing something that he definitely should not have been. The drink station and chips warmer station seems to be a favorite gathering spot for the bussers, and one of the bussers must have been a bit hungry. As you may know, it is generally against policy for the staff to be eating or drinking while on duty, but this busser wasn't concerned about any such rule. We observed him whipping a towel around in the air, wiping his face and his hair all between opening and closing the warmer, taking individual chips and eating them. We informed the manager, who, upon watching the busboy chew a recently-pilfered chip, promptly addressed the issue.
So will we go back? Possibly. Maybe. There are, as he said earlier, a lot of places around here to get your hands on some Tex-Mex. And (in my best Don LaFontaine [the deep voice movie trailer guy]) in a world, where Mexican food can be procured from all manner of places, at all levels of prices - why settle for average Tex-Mex at above-average prices?
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27885 I-45 S (Southbound), The Woodlands 77380