Best place for caldo de res in Houston

Last weekend, temperatures in Houston dipped below 50 degrees for the first time in a long time, and for many Texans like me, that meant pulling the hoodies out of storage, turning off the air conditioning, and beginning the search for hot comfort food. to warm our bodies and souls. One of my favorite items that always hits the spot during these frigid times is a large bowl of beef broth.

I had two options. I could go to HEB for the ring bone with all the veggies and then start the hour long cooking process. But I was hungry, so I opted for my second option: visiting Irma Perez at La Imperial Bakery in the East End, who has been up since dawn making her own version of this delicious broth.

Menu at La Imperial Bakery in Houston's East End

Menu at La Imperial Bakery in Houston’s East End

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La Imperial is a charming little business that opens at 6 am for the many day laborers in the neighborhood looking for bread and coffee and maybe a taco for breakfast before going to work. Pérez’s offerings rotate constantly, so much so that there are no menus on the table. Instead, a couple of posters on the wall show what you might have available that day.

This tradition is called “comida corrida,” he informs me, which translates to “fast food,” though you won’t find hamburgers or Happy Meals here. In Mexico City, the comida corrida is served for a quick lunch, starting with a small bowl of broth or noodle, followed by the stew of the day with rice, beans, tortillas, and agua fresca or fruit juice.

The beef stew from La Imperial Bakery

The beef stew from La Imperial Bakery

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The breakfast taco from La Imperial Bakery

The breakfast taco from La Imperial Bakery

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Stewed beef and breakfast tacos are on the menu at La Imperial Bakery. (Photos by Marco Torres)

Pérez usually has beef or pork stew ready every day, along with chicken, picadillo and meatballs. He makes a variety of breakfast tacos like ham and egg, nopales with egg, and Mexican potatoes. Tamales, both of the Mexican and Salvadoran varieties, are also available. On Thursdays he makes a delicious mole, and on Saturdays you can enjoy a hot plate of menudo or pozole.

Before opening Imperial nearly nine years ago, Mrs. Irma spent 23 years working in the bakery inside Fiesta Mart #4 on Spencer Highway in South Houston. She made pan dulce and worked as a “contadora” (accountant)… “but for tortillas”, she adds with her witty and cheerful sense of humor and her millionaire smile.

Irma Perez of La Imperial Bakery in Houston's East End

Irma Perez of La Imperial Bakery in Houston’s East End

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Pérez has fond memories of Huayacocotla, Veracruz, where he grew up. When he was 8 years old, his family moved to what was then known as El Distrito Federal, now known as Mexico City. He came to Houston as a teenager and remembers going phone shopping at El Mercado Del Sol with his family in the 1980s.

Perez’s food reminds me of home, which is also the main reason customers love his cooking so much. Everything they serve has that aura of home cooking, transporting you to those big family dinners with your mom, aunts, and grandma. At La Imperial this weekend, after adding some rice and diced serranos to the broth, I closed my eyes and savored the first big spoonful of beef broth of the season. The broth is flavorful, the carrots and potatoes are perfectly cooked, and the large chunks of meat are tender and delicious. It was heavenly, an absolutely perfect remedy for this cold front.

During my visit I also found out that Perez has a heart of gold. He sometimes offers food to homeless customers who come with just a dollar or two. She is very caring and works hard to serve each customer as a member of her own family.

La Imperial Bakery in Houston's East End

La Imperial Bakery in Houston’s East End

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As we talked, he paused for a few seconds before telling me about the many regular customers who have passed away during the pandemic. Pérez says that several young people came to buy pan dulce when they visited their parents who lived in the neighborhood, and in recent years that number has drastically decreased.

When I finished my meal and went to the counter to pay, he offered me a small bag of sweet bread “for your dad.” When I got home, I sat down with my dad and we ate bread with some coffee. I definitely shed a few tears that day and will always cherish people like Mrs. Irma and her amazing food.

The Imperial Bakery

Find them: 732 Phone Rd, Houston, TX 77023; (713) 928-2536
Hours: Monday-Saturday, 6 am-6 pm

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