Irma’s Original

At Irma’s Original, diners feel like the homemade dishes could have come straight from their own grandmothers’ kitchens. Owner Irma Gonzalez Galvan shares how her authentic Mexican eatery has become a Houston icon.

If you had to describe Irma’s Original in just a few words, what would they be?

My restaurant is homey and down-to-earth. We graciously welcome everyone with fresh, home-cooked food that’s prepared with a lot of love.

How did Irma’s Original get started?

I’ve been a widow for 40 years. When my husband died, I decided to start a business to help support my family. My restaurant started as a sandwich shop where the warehouse workers could grab a sandwich. Then, I started making tacos and hired someone to help me. I struggled for two
or three years—and almost quit—but something told me to keep going. The community has been supportive, and I love my area and the people. I expanded from offering only two different plates to about 12 plate lunches.

What are some of your signature dishes?

The enchiladas! We make Enchiladas de Queso and Mole Poblano Chicken
Enchiladas. The chicken for the mole is a good-quality chicken breast that we get from Sysco. We use all fresh produce—all from Sysco—for the veggie enchiladas. We also serve delicious Mahimahi, Shrimp, Black Angus Beef, and Ribeye Tacos.

What items do you source from Sysco?

I get everything from Sysco, from produce to meat. The Sysco team will get anything for me. Many of our Mexican cheeses have been sourced directly from Mexico. One of our Sales Consultant was hands-on in finding authentic Mexican spices.

How has Sysco been a key partner?

I continue to do business with Sysco because when people are good to me, I’m loyal to them. Over the years, Sysco has delivered quality—and a great relationship. You can’t buy loyalty and friendship. I attended a restaurant event in New York and had to make guacamole and tortillas for the Waldorf Astoria [in New York]. I was nervous and not as familiar with New York, so Sysco sent a couple of people to talk with me and ease my nerves. They said, “We’ll make a list and make sure you have everything you need.” Sysco boosted my confidence.

Sysco has delivered quality and a great relationship. You can’t buy loyalty and friendship.

How does your restaurant stand out?

Every restaurant has its own touch. Here at Irma’s Original, we’re just like home. We use the same ingredients just like when I was a little girl: garlic, cumin, pepper and Mexican spices and ingredients. I often hear diners say, “This is the best I’ve eaten.” “It tastes so fresh.” We start cooking by 8
a.m. and have food ready to serve by 11 a.m. When the food is gone, it’s gone. Cooking food in small batches is better. You lose the touch of the spices and flavor when cooking in big batches. We don’t give diners a menu; we tell you what we’re cooking for the day, and you trust us.

What are your plans for the future?

I plan to kick the bucket working. I’m 77 years old, and what keeps me going and healthy is being at the restaurant every day, kicking butt. Irma’s is what keeps me alive.