Sunday, February 24, 2019

The Best Mexican Food in Austin, Updated for 2019

Click here to see the full Austin Food Blogger Alliance City Guide! 
** Post updated for 2019 ** 

Mexican or Tex-Mex? What’s the difference you ask?


I think of Mexican (or interior Mexican) as more chicken and pork than beef, thick flavorful sauces like mole, and while not edible, beautiful ceramic plates and tile work. Tex-Mex is more cheese and bean-centric, nachos and plastic tortilla holders. Think chicken enchiladas in mole sauce vs. cheese enchiladas with red chile sauce. Here’s a great article explaining some of the differences on Serious Eats (and written by a former Austin Food Blogger Alliance member). Some places serve both types of dishes, and that’s okay, there's bound to be crossover! And I don't claim to be an expert, I just know good food when I taste it! 😉


Here’s my guide to the best Mexican and Tex-Mex restaurants in Austin!

Interior Mexican
ATX Cocina, 110 San Antonio Street (Downtown)
Modern Mexican food in an upscale setting. Heirloom corn from Mexico, from which they make their own tortillas and masa; gluten-free establishment. Pretty much everything we had was spot on; you can read my full blog post here
ATX Cocina pork carnitas tacos
Pork carnitas tacos from ATX Cocina's happy hour menu
Borrego de Oro, 3900 South Congress (South) 
Definitely a diamond (or should I say piece of gold?) in the rough; just north of Ben White/Hwy 290. One of the few Mexican spots that I see with lamb.  Breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Borrego de Oro chipotle cabrito
Borrego's chipotle cabrito, which was absolutely OUTSTANDING! The meat just fell off the bones.
Curra's 614 East Oltorf (South)
Popular spot, known in part for their avocado margaritas; prepare to wait on the weekends. Breakfast, lunch and dinner. 


El Naranjo, 85 Rainey Street (Downtown)
What started as a food trailer on Rainey Street has graduated to a brick and mortar, run by Oaxacan Chef Iliana de la Vega. Dinner and weekend brunch; fine dining.
El Naranjo mole negro de oaxaca
Niman Ranch Pork Chop with Mole Negro de Oaxaca
Fonda San Miguel, 2330 North Loop (North Central Austin)
This iconic spot has been a mainstay of fine dining in Austin for over 25 years; the beautiful hacienda and all it’s gorgeous tile work and decor is worth the price of their delicious margaritas. Try their traditional dishes like mole or cochinita pibil. Dinner and Sunday brunch; fine dining.
Fonda San Miguel margarita
Fonda's margarita
Habanero, 501 West Oltorf (South)
Mom and Pop place just off South First Street, open breakfast and lunch daily, and dinner on Friday and Saturday only. 

Hecho en Mexico, 6001 West William Cannon Drive (Southwest) and 4300 North Quinlan Park Road (Steiner Ranch/West)
This family-run establishment is also known for their monthly tequila dinners. Lunch and dinner.
Hecho en Mexico
Tacos al Pastor at Hecho en Mexico
Juan In A Million, 2300 E. Cesar Chavez Street (East) 
A neighborhood staple since 1980, very popular, especially on weekends.

La Condesa, 400A West 2nd Street (Downtown)

Trendy, modern Mexican in the heart of downtown. Great little outdoor patio to watch the people go by while sipping on a sangria, margarita, or cerveza.

La Mexicana, 1924 South First Street (South)
Mostly known as a Mexican bakery, they also have great inexpensive tacos, tortas, gorditas, and street foods. Open 24 hours, which comes in handy when you're jet lagged from an international flight.
La Mexicana breakfast tacos
Fat and inexpensive breakfast tacos at La Mexicana
Manuel's, 310 Congress Avenue (Downtown) and 10201 Jollyville Road (Northwest)
Their tortilla soup never disappoints, and I've always been a fan of their chicken mole. Lunch, dinner, and Sunday brunch at both locations. 
Manuel's enchiladas de mole
Manuel's enchiladas with mole sauce
Papalote,  2803 South Lamar (South), 3632 South Congress (South) and 13219 North Hwy 183 (Northwest)
The South Lamar location only has a handful of tables, and does a lot of carry out business. Street foods including tacos, tortas, and tlacoyos; known for the vegetarian cauliflower taco. Daily, breakfast, lunch and dinner. Great spot for a quick meal, not to be overlooked by other area taco places.


Sazon, 1816 South Lamar (South)
One of the few spots that serves huitlacoche; they have indoor and outdoor seating, nice happy hours.
Sazon tacos al pastor
Sazon's pastor
Suerte, 1800 E. 6th Street (East)
New trendy spot on the eastside, brunch with tacos, tostadas and doblado was quite good, but the palmier with cajeta is not to be missed!
Suerte brunch beef tongue taco, shrimp tostada, grilled doblada
Shrimp tostado, beef tongue taco, and chorizo + potato stuffed doblado.
Taqueria Chapala, 4201 S. Congress Ave. (South)
Looking for awesome chilaquiles? Look no further.  Breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

Veracruz All Natural, Several trailers plus a brick and mortar
This popular food truck offers plate specials on weekends, like these mole enchiladas with plantains and chilaquiles.
Veracruz All Natural mole
Mole enchiladas at Veracruz

Tex Mex
Chuy's, Six locations
The original on Barton Springs Road is what started it all, now with multiple locations nationwide. The tortilla soup is still a staple for many. Daily, breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
Chuy's
Chuy's sangria
Cocina de Consuelo, 4516 Burnet Road (North Central) 
Try the huevos rancheros and enchiladas. Breakfast, lunch and dinner, closed Saturdays.
DK Maria's Legendary Tex-Mex, 1807 Slaughter Lane (Far South)
They took over the former Tres Amigos spot at Slaughter and Manchaca, and have incredible thick tortilla chips and a jalapeno/avocado sauce that's amazing. Pictured here, Anselmo's Grilled Fish, which on this day was a drum with veracruz sauce; hearty portions. Large venue, great for groups.
DK Maria's Legendary Tex Mex Anselmo's Grilled Fish
Anselmo's Grilled Fish at DK Maria's
El Dorado Cafe, 3300 W. Anderson Lane (North Central)
This family-owned establishment has quickly earned its buzz. I went for lunch and the place was packed! Salsa X, calabacitas, and Esme's Magic rolled enchiladas with mashed potatoes amongst the standouts. I really wish this place was south!
El Dorado Cafe Esme's Magic Enchiladas
Esme's enchiladas at El Dorado
Fresas, 915 N. Lamar Blvd (Downtown; drive through/carry out) and 1703 S. 1st Street (South Austin)
I recently had a very solid meal at the South 1st location with excellent service, which had been my bone to pick before. But they are back in my good graces. While known for their chicken al carbon, the posole was outstanding.
Fresas posole
Posole from Fresas

Joann's Fine Foods
,
 1224 S. Congress (Downtown/South) 
I debated whether or not to include this in my Mexican foods post, but yes, as they say online: "The menu is a tribute to diner culture featuring Tex-Mex favorites and California inspired healthy options." And the beef picadillo enchiladas were delicious. Here's the link to my full blog post.
Joann's Fine Foods hash brown nachos
Joann's hash brown nachos
Matt's El Rancho, 2613 South Lamar (South) 
Serving some of Austin’s most popular Tex-Mex since 1952. Lunch and dinner daily; closed Tuesdays.

Maudie's Tex MexSeven locations

Multiple locations around town, popular happy hours. Breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
Nachos compuestos for $5 during Maudie's happy hour!
Mr. Natural, 1901 East Cesar Chavez (East) and 2414 South Lamar (South) 
This is the spot for vegetarian and gluten free options; tamales, migas, and rellenos. Both locations, breakfast, lunch, and dinner, closed Sundays.
Mr. Natural's stuffed pepper
Trudy's,  Four locations
A popular spot near UT campus, and now with multiple spots around town, try the stuffed avocados. Daily, breakfast, lunch, and dinner.


If you've got favorite dishes at any of these places or suggestions for other spots, leave a note below! Buen provecho!


And check out my City Guide picks for the ultimate South Austin restaurants!

Thursday, February 14, 2019

First Look: Joann's Fine Foods

How fine was Joann's Fine Foods, the new Mexican/California foods entry from local hospitality group McGuire Moorman? Pretty fine! I am honestly a bit surprised to say I liked the food as much as I did.

This retro diner has moved into the South Congress spot that was previously Snack Bar (and El Sol y La Luna for those of us who have been living in Austin for more than a hot minute), adjoining the Austin Motel. So given their pretty central location in the midst of trendiness and tourism, and their pedigree (the team behind June's All Day, Josephine House, Clarks...) the menu prices are on the high side. Like $32 for chicken fried steak....it better be a huge portion!

Having studied the menu before visiting, I was a touch apprehensive given the pricing but knowing they can command those prices due to their physical location. But folks, Happy Hour is the time to go! {Weekdays, 4 - 6 pm, 25% off all food as well as drink specials.} My friend and I had liquid libations and an early dinner.
Lolita Sunrise, which matches the colors of the bar. 😉

Hash brown nachos were kind of a revelation, especially for my friend who is ALL about potatoes in all varieties of dishes. Nice textural combo of the toasty hash browns, firm beans, silky queso, sour cream(y), and fresh pico.

Grilled corn + zucchini squash with a green goddess dressing, cotija cheese, and jalapenos. And the acid
from the lime was perfect. Looking at the menu, it also mentions dill, which I see a tiny bit sprinkled on top.
If I were a dill lover I would have been disappointed, but I did not miss it at all.

Beef picadillo enchiladas, which aren't really photogenic, but fortunately they were delicious. The rolled tortillas were crisp and the picadillo had some nice zing to it! Add queso and yum! 

We don't really pass up the opportunity for dessert and this coconut tres leches hit the spot.
 Not too rich, though I wish the coconut on top had been toasted. 
The beautiful bar counter, complete with old-school plastic letter sign board. 

The booth area, as seen from the restroom alcove.
And from the booths, looking towards the bar. There's also a large outdoor seating area to the back left in the photo.
All in all, a very successful outing, and I was even shocked to find (albeit annoying) back-in parking right out front. Open since October, Joann's serves food from 8 am - midnight daily, and will undoubtedly be a destination for many during SXSW and beyond. 1224 South Congress, across from the Continental Club.