Galveston—We’re always looking for good things on Galveston Island and when we came across a little restaurant known for barbecue, barbacoa and tamales it was time to live on island time and make a stop!
Sitting in the center of the city, Pennie’s Tex Mex Take Out is situated in a building that’s been around the block for 100 years and has always been home to some fine food.
“This is Galveston’s best kept secret,” said longtime customer, Robert Quintero.
“I come here at least once a week,” admitted Galveston local, Ben Faulk.
“The food is incredible and it has history,” said customer, Tulisha Dampier, “it’s just happiness.”
“We’re the best little takeout in Texas, man, I’ll tell you what,” said Cameron Moreno.
Cameron is the grandson of Israel Ochoa who was also known as Pennie. In 1978, Israel and his wife, Connie, bought an old meat market and continued the tradition of slicing beef with the added bonus of barbacoa and tamales.
“I came over here and I remember running around as a little kid, seeing them work and how everybody used to come in there. I love my grandfather and my grandmother, and it really put a spark under me,” Cameron explained.
Damaged during Hurricane Ike, the meat market that had been a part of the area for so long was forced to close its doors. A decade later, a new generation decided it was time to continue the the tradition of cultural cuisine, with an added twist of Texas BBQ!
“Everyone wanted to see it. People loved my grandfather and my grandmother, and I can tell now more than ever in the way they come in and talk about them,” said Cameron.
They brought out the Tex side of things with the addition of BBQ to the menu, which can be a little confusing for folks looking for Tex-Mex of a different kind.
“Some people come in here asking for enchiladas and stuff…We understand where you get the impression,” he said.
Cameron’s dad, Louis, mans the smoker, his Mom, Isis, does anything and everything, while Grandma Connie is still on hand making sure her tamales are worth every cent.
“Oh yeah…She lets me know. I’m the boss in here, but when she walks in, she’s right there,” continued Cameron, “I tell you what. I say, ‘Yes ma’am.'”
“People love her tamales. There’s no doubt about it,” said Cameron’s father, Luis.
“I was real happy that they took it over because…they’re going to make a good business,” explained Connie.
Louis and Cameron put together a plate of monstrous proportions to please our palate. First up is the BBQ, along with ribs, sausage, barbacoa, and tamales!
“They [tamales] are extremely labor intensive. We have to close Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday to make the tamales,” continued Luis, “It’s a process…it’s a whole lot of work.”
“Tamales are a lot of work and we concentrate on the one kind because we do it so well. We just want to make sure that each tamale is perfection,” Cameron explained.
Their hard work pays off! The hardest decision is what to order, because it is all that good.
“The barbacoa, in the morning, that is the best thing,” said Connie.
“Mr. Ochoa has a recipe that beats all recipes,” claimed customer, Robert.
“It’s hard to decide if do you love the food better or the family? Because they’re all equally as wonderful,” said customer, Tulisha.
So whether you’re looking for some Texas barbecue or some Mexican tamales, Pennie’s Tex Mex Take Out on Galveston island is well worth the stop on The Texas bucket List.
“It’s one of those Texas gems that you’re going to hear from someone, as word of mouth” Tulisha explained.
“Food is wonderful. People here are wonderful,” confirmed Robert.
“Before you kick the bucket…try Pennie’s,” said Connie.