Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Rob’s Favorite Mexican Restaurants in Austin: Part 1

One thing we lack no shortage of in Austin is tasty Mexican restaurants: both the simpler Tex Mex and the more complicated tastes of Interior and Coastal Mexican cuisines. I do have some favorites in both genres and in no particular order, here they are.

Azul Tequila

A great little joint on Ben White near Target. They have a Chile Relleno in a tomato and almond cream sauce that is to die for! The Carnitas de Puerco are also delightful. The little morsels of pork are marinated in oranges and spices and sauteed in the jus created from the marinade. Serious flavor here. Good tex mex menu choices as well like the Enchiladas Tejanas and the Carne Guisada.

El Patio

This restaurant on Guadalupe at 30th is 57-years-old and going strong. It has a killer Tex Mex menu yet it’s owned by a Lebanese family (don’t you love Austin). I am addicted to the Queso that’s served with massive deep fried tortilla And the Bean and Cheese Nachos are legendary. Add some onions and jalapenos and oh my! I also regularly order the Chicken and Cheese Enchiladas. In fact, El Patio is largely responsible for our move to Austin years ago. When I interviewed for a faculty position in the RTF dept at UT, they took me to El Patio for lunch. It was love at first bite!

Curra’s

This comfy restaurant on East Oltorf makes some of the best breakfast tacos around. Not to mention some serious caldo! Start with Curra’s Pappas. The french fries are covered with chorizo, onions, chipotle and Monterrey Jack cheese. Need I say more? And how about the Cochinita Pibil, a dish from the Yucatan featuring a tender pork leg in a banana leaf. This is amazing as are all of Senora Julieta’s recipes.

Guero’s

Interestingly, Guero’s used to be on E. Oltorf in the location that now houses Curra’s before it moved to S. Congress. Rob Lipincott and crew have done a great job with this place over the years. Bill Clinton liked it so much he used to have food brought over to Air Force One while it was parked on the tarmac at Bergstrom. Their Tacos al Carbon are flat out amazing and and the Chicken Enchiladas are the absolute bomb. This place is mobbed virtually every night: the ambiance just screams out Austin!

Fonda San Miguel

Owner Tom Gililand and chef Miguel Rovago have teamed to create a dynasty of interior Mexican cuisne on Loop 110 off Burnet. I love the Sopecitos de la Casa. These are little corn masa wafers (with potato added) which are filled weith salpiucon Pescsdo (sauteed fish, peppers and onions), Camaron Adobado (shrimp with an adobado made from ancho chiles) and Napolitos (which are slices of prickly pear). What an appetizer. And I adore the Camarones en Chipootle. The shrimp is sauteed with onions, peppers and cilantro and then adorned with a beautiful cream sauce.

Polvos

This little gold mine on South First is not long on ambiance and the service can be a bit indifferent at times. But I love their Salsa bar and their Cerveza Fajitas (what’s not to like about marinating something in beer). Great drinks as well. In fact, have had to resort to Menudo in the morning after several nights at Polvos,

Matt’s El Rancho

As long of a history as El Patio and some good Tex Mex on South Lamar. Love the Bob Armstrong Dip and their chips and salsa are great. The Flautas with green sauce are also very tasty.The Shrimp Fajitas are overpriced at $20.95 for half a pound but they are worth the occasional splurge.

The Steak Tampiquena is pretty damned good as well. And the Pork Tacos al Pastor are among my favorites in the city.

Joe’s Bakery

This equally long-term spot on East 7th started out as a bakery in 1935! Not I must admit that Mexican bakeries don’t thrill me. Lots of multi-colored confections but they all pretty much taste the same. But the breakfast dishes (served each day until 3pm) are nothing short of amazing. In my opinion, Joe’s has the BEST Huevos Rancheras in town.They dip the bacon in an egg wash, coat it with flower and grill it. Served with their homemade sauce and eggs over easy and OH-MY-GOD! I love that dish. This is also where I go when I am in need of the best known cure for a hangover in captivity: the Menudo. Joe has passed on but daughter Rosie is at the helm and she is a lot of fun.

Iron Cactus

They pioneered the concept of the Tequila Grill here and I love the idea. I also love the Lobster Tacos. This dish is so good I’m surprised the Republicans haven’t tried to add and extra tax on it. You start with tender sauteed morsels of Maine lobster, homemade flour tortillas, Monterrey Jack cheese and a zesty red pepper coulis! Wow. Equally tasty is the New Mexican style Stacked Pork Enchiladas. And I also love the Ancho Chile Rubbed Pork Tenderloin. Fun Sunday brunches at each of the three locations as well.

Casa Chapala

Owner Lupe is a wild and crazy guy. He is fond of wearing a Pancho Villa style bullet vest except there are shot glasses where the bullets are supposed to go. Needless to say, the tequila flows freely here. The food is excellent. I tend to go to the Cesar Chavez location across from the Four Seasons for my regular fix of their delicate Shrimp Ceviche and and the Empanadas de Camaron (masa empanadas filled with shrimp, tomato, onion, garlic and pico de gallo). And you haven’t lived until you’ve tried Lupe’s version of the classic Cabrito. It’s fairly spicy but laden with interesting and captivating flavors. This will be the scene of our next Gonzo Gourmet Club Dinner.

La Condesa

This captured the top spot in the most recent Chronicle restaurant poll. I don’t know about Number 1, but it’s a pretty darned good spot. The Huarahches are very tasty as are the El Califa Taquitos. I adore their housemade chorizo with Poblano rajas. And the Chuleta de Puerco, the chile marinated roasted pork chop is drop dead good. I really like the salas morenita served with this as well. The address is 400 West 2nd Street.

El Sol y La Luna

The sun and the moon is a great name for this place on 6th St. Nilda de la Lata is a great proprietor and she makes perhaps the best Shrimp Enchiladas on the planet. Excellent soups here as well and killer Gorditas. They’ve moved from their long time location on South Congress to bigger digs which means there’s room for some seriously cool music each night as well.

You didn’t think I could cover this vast expanse in one article did you? Part 2 and the next list of 13 more of my favorites will be posted soon!

Bon appetit!

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