It is not, by any stretch of the imagination, a traditional place to celebrate Cinco de Mayo.

There is vegan Mexican food made with soy-based tostadas, so-called “Mexican sushi” and an array of spiced cocktails and beer.

There are even customers who bring horses to the parking lot on occasion, to demonstrate the animals’ “dancing” skills to the loud music of La Banda, a Sinaloan ritual that merges the vaquero tradition with good, old Texas-style machismo.

But there is the proof that Culichitown, the popular restaurant and bar at 11901 Aldine Westfield Rd., in the East Aldine Management District, is enjoying a post-pandemic popularity. 

“This place is designed to be an experience,” said general manager Raul Montas. “We are so happy to be back in business, and the restaurant is often filled. It is spectacular.” 

Business is so good, in fact, that Montas is looking for employees who want to learn the service skills that he willingly teaches to young people in East Aldine. The long-time Houston resident and restaurant manager is proud to work at the only Texas location of a national restaurant chain started by California chef Misael Guerrero. 

Guerrero, a native of Culiacan in Sinaloa, Mexico, began his culinary career by selling tamales in shopping center parking lots. When local health authorities shut him down, Guerrero decided to study culinary arts and began developing what is described on the menu as “Mexican Style Food.” 

His extensive menu now ranges from burgers to vegan tostados, traditional and fried sushi rolls, a wide variety of tacos, a “cold bar” featuring chilled seafood dishes, and a grill with offerings from steak to fajitas. The menu also features a wide choice of seafood, including shrimp, crab, prawn, scallops, salmon and octopus.

The drink menu includes a variety of micheladas (beer with tomato juice) flavored with special spices. The list also ranges from alcohol-free frappes to chocolate martinis, with a wild variety of signature cocktails like the Dirty Sanchez, (Silencioso Mezcal with watermelon, lime and habanero pepper) to Coffee Chata, (RumChata, Kahlua, coffee, creamer and beer.) 

The cocktail menu alone could explain the cowboys dancing with their horses in the parking lot.

But Montas stresses that Culichitown is a family-friendly environment, with a special menu for kids who delight in the playful music of La Banda. 

Think mariachi music, but substitute horns for guitars. 

“We have a beautiful menu, and the music is a real complement to that,” Montas said. 

With the restaurant now operating at full capacity, Montas is taking special precautions to ensure customers’ safety from COVID-19. Staff are specially trained to clean, must wear masks, and have been encouraged to get vaccinated.

Montas himself has had his Covid-19 vaccine. He will gladly provide masks to customers upon entering the restaurant. Instead of receiving printed menus, customers can point their cell phones at a QR code sticker to view the restaurant’s extensive menu online.

During the height of the pandemic, when the restaurant was closed for in-person dining, Montas said that a smaller staff continued to fill take-out orders.

“The people here were very loyal to this restaurant. But sometimes I had orders for sushi for one person. It was very hard at times,” Montas said.

Now, all Montas needs is more restaurant help. 

“I understand that people had to go get other jobs,” he said. “But I really see myself as a teacher. I want to bring people here so they can learn the restaurant business, to train them in this special business.”

— by Anne Marie Kilday