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Coming from non-chowhound town to Austin for the weekend...

Desperately seeking some/one of the following:


1. Chicken Wings (hotter the better)

2. Vindaloo

3. Shawarma

4. Anything that is Mex-Tex related and a *must not* miss in Austin

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  1. I'm not a wings or India food guy, so I can't help on 1-3, but I'd recommend Maudie's for Tex-Mex. There are several around town (http://maudies.com/locations.html) and you really can't go wrong with any of the enchiladas or with the Rockin' Ruthann's.


    3 Replies
    1. re: yongi

      I'd have to disagree re Maudie's. I was not impressed at all on my visit, and it's definitely not something I would characterize as an Austin "must not miss". I'd opt for Matt's El Rancho. It's popular among foodie freaks in Austin to turn their nose up at Matt's, but it's solid tex mex in my book. El Azteca is also good, and Las Manitas on Congress is worth a visit.

      1. re: cstrombe

        I'll add a second to both -
        NO to Maudie's and
        YES to Las Manitas

        Las Manitas is an Austin institution. The building will be torn down and re-"developed" into condos, so be sure to get it while you can!

        1. re: Gleep

          Las Manitas is acutally moving just a few doors down. Also, not being replaced by condos, but a hotel.

    2. "4. Anything that is Mex-Tex related and a *must not* miss in Austin"

      What does this mean, exactly? Are you looking for a specific dish? Or cooking style?

      Tastes vary. Everyone has different criteria for judging “good” Chinese food, for example. For some it’s the quality of the fried rice and spare ribs; others decide based on salt-and-pepper shrimp and pea-pod stems; some only judge a place by its char siu, salt fish, and sweet bean curd. And so on.

      As for Tex-Mex, there are enchiladas on the menu at modest mom-and-pop taquerías catering to Tejanos; interior/regional-Mexican restaurants; and places that cater to Austin's dining majority of white middle-to-high-income locals and tourists, plus students (or what some people call gringo-Mex joints). In other words, even what is meant by “good enchiladas” is not self-evident.

      The more specific you are about what you want, the better the advice you'll get.

      By the way, barbecue is one of the things that the greater Austin area does very well. You might want to consider subbing that for wings, vindaloo, or shawarma.

      1. For shawarma, Marakesh on Congress Avenue downtown is servicable, and it's close to a lot of the fun stuff. If you want to branch out a little, Alborz is a Persian restaurant on W. Anderson Lane near MoPac.

        For "mex-tex," MPH hit the nail on the head.

        1. For chicken wings, go to Pluckers. There's one in West Campus on Rio Grande, one at Burnet and 183 and one somewhere way up north. Get the Fire in the Hole if you want it really, really hot. Medium is plenty spicy for me. They also have waffle fries for dipping in your ranch dressing. Good stuff.

          1. Thanks for the help.

            Not sure what i mean by tex-mex to tell the truth, I just assumed it was something native to be found in Austin...maybe tex-mex is not the word i was looking for... maybe just mex? or tex?

            I read about the BBQ places on another listing here.

            Coming from a place with very little good Indian food I thought there might be some in Austin, is why I ask.

            I read about the Texas Chili Parlor and am looking forward to trying that place out... especially their xxx chili.

            3 Replies
            1. re: stangoldsmith

              Sorry, we get so picky about Mexican cooking, and I know it's kind of off-putting! Generally, I think you can split the restaurants up like this:

              Tex-Mex - Generally refers to the best known style of Mexican cooking, things like cheese enchiladas with chili con carne, fajitas, etc. Some examples from the recommendations are Maudie's, Matt's, Chuy's, etc.

              Mexican - again, I'm lumping a lot in here, but it can vary from traditional specialties from the Mexican interior (Austin restaurants in this style include Azul Tequila, or Fonda San Miguel if you have the money), taquerias that serve inexpensive food like tacos and tortas to Mexican-Americans and immigrants, and places that straddle the line, like Polvo's and El Chile.

              I don't think you can go wrong with -any- of the recommendations given, except maybe Matt's - I'm not fond of it, and I'd avoid it like the plague on a UT game day.

              1. re: stangoldsmith

                Don't feel bad. There's disagreement even among locals about what Tex-Mex is. For instance, mkwng just defined Tex-Mex below as what some call "gringo Mex," but I include Tejano cooking (homemade tamales, tortas, barbacoa, menudo) in this category, and I place food from the interior regions of Mexico in the category of “regional Mexican.”

                I asked what your definition of Mex-Tex was so that we local ‘hounds would have a better idea of your preferences. Since you say "something native to be found in Austin," which covers a lot of chow—-much of it mediocre, unfortunately—-here are my recs:

                El Chile (very good Tex-Mex, plus regional-Mexican offerings)
                El Chilito (their separate take-out taquería with outside tables)
                Las Manitas (a downtown classic for breakfast--through the end of the year)
                Habañero Cafe (great-tasting food--breakfast and lunch only)
                Taquería Arandas (a good approximation of down-home Tex-Mex)

                In my opinion, "funky and fun" and "typical Austin" joints often serve the worst chow. In this category I include places like Chuy's, Trudy's, Güero’s, Maudie’s, Matt's El Rancho, etc. These places are fine for chips with salsa and strong drinks, but not so great if you want good, authentic Tex-Mex.

                Polvo's has some die-hard fans, who like its "typical Austin" vibe and its fajitas, etc. Polvo's may not the worst in town, but it's not the most delicious, either. I think they do a bad job with Tex-Mex basics, and better regional-Mexican food can be found elsewhere. You can do a search for more opinions on it; there were a few good discussions on its merits in the past couple of months.

                Even better options are available on the Hispanic east/southeast and north sides, though these places don’t cater to Austin’s dining-out majority of white middle-to-high-income locals and tourists, plus students. They’re great for adventurous ‘hounds who will track down the best food, no matter where it’s located. If you’re interested, just do a search for "Austin" and "Mex" to pull up some old threads on the subject.

                Have a great visit,

                1. re: MPH

                  "In my opinion, "funky and fun" and "typical Austin" joints often serve the worst chow."

                  So very, very true. This statement can also be applied to BBQ.

              2. For good Austin-style Mexican, check out El Chile on Manor Rd.

                1. You know who actually has amazing wings? Green Mesquite on Lamar/Barton Springs and they have a great back patio and skooners of Shiner...what could be better?

                  Also, my hubbie has a real guilty pleasure on Texas Chili Parlor XXX Chiliburger, but we haven't been back since they closed/re-opened with new management, so I can't vouch for them now.

                  Please don't go to Matt's (it's exactly like the brown frozen enchiladas you can get in the freezer section of the store - blech!).

                  I'm gonna get slammed for this, but I always take visitors to Chuy's on Barton Springs - fun, campy, kitchy, and I really love the Chuychanga with lots of tomatillo sauce. Hubbie loves the steak burrito (huge!) and the Elvis Chicken. I've had the fajita taco salad and I thought it was great.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: amysuehere

                    Amy, I totally agree with you about Matt's and I know that Chuy's can be fun and has decent Tex-Mex, but why not Polvo's? The margaritas are excellent and cheap by the pitcher and most of the menu items are just great, IMO. I get cravings for the choriqueso and the chile rellenos with the creamy pecan sauce can't be beat. I also think the fajitas are the best in town.

                  2. As you know I LOVE Polvo's but lately I've been burned recommending Polvo's, so...

                    I picked a safe choice.

                    (between you and me, Greg, I'll take Polvo's every time)

                    1. Polvo's has bad days but it's sooooo cool and weird that you should go there. Check La Mexicana bakery next door too and the half mil and (mostly) up converted hippy houses on W Mary and the surrounding streets. And go to El Chile. Don't forget Hoover's on Manor too--excellent Suhthuhn homestyle and a cool place. Cisco's for breakfast!!!!!!!!!!

                      1. ok so i'm here in Austin from school in LA and the mexican food that i have tried is pretty disappointing. I personally thought El Chile was nothing special, though I enjoyed the shrimp nachos and margaritas. Can anyone suggest real Mexican food, maybe something more like the mexican food you can find in southern cali?

                        10 Replies
                        1. re: angiex117

                          Angie, the Mexican food here is different than the SoCal variation. I just moved back from LA last year, so I can tell you from experience. Personally, I wasn't happy with much of the mainstream Mexican food I had while living in LA, although there are some great places in East LA.

                          Are you looking for more gourmet Mexican or taco-stand style? On the gourmet side, maybe you should try Manuels. For taco-stands, check out the list MPH has. I like Taqueria Arandes on Burnet -- try the Al Pastor tacos.

                          1. re: Mike B

                            I definitely miss the taco stand 'carnitas' type tacos. I'm just looking for some good enchiladas and maybe something more 'cal-mex'. I'll try out Manuel's hope it's better than El Chile. :) Thanks!

                            1. re: angiex117

                              Having spent only 3 days of my life in LA, I have no idea what cal-mex is. But I can highly recommend the carnitas tacos and corn tortillas at Angies on E. 7th St. just east of I-35.

                              1. re: Brian Lindauer

                                The difference between Cal-Mex and Tex-Mex is pretty substantial...i'm from SF and most Mexican food there is based on salsas frescas and is pretty light compared to most Tex-Mex that I've seen; sauces aren't baked or cooked and cheese isn't necessarily melted...the flavors are brighter, i.e., the use of serrano chiles and lots of lime and cilantro as opposed to Tex-Mex style which seems to feature a lot more cooked sauces based on dried red chiles and a lot of melted cheese...and oh yeah, more whole beans as opposed to refitos... don't get me wrong here, I'm certainly not saying one is better than the other, they just have major differences as far as style and ingredients...perhaps something to do with the climates and cultures of the states of origin of the Mexican people who live there...taco truck food is the most similar to Cal-Mex that I've found in Austin...

                          2. re: angiex117

                            Tex-Mex is different from Cal-Mex.

                            Then there's high end interior Mex at Fonda San Miguel.


                            1. re: Kent Wang

                              you're not kidding $20 enchiladas! Is Cal-Mex considered more 'high end'?

                              1. re: angiex117

                                In Texas, 'Cal-Mex' is NOT "considered more high-end." CalMex is not "considered" at all. Nobody in Texas would even know what you're talking about unless they just happened to have lived out there, or visited for an extensive period of time.

                                Fonda San Miguel is 'high-end' because it serves interior Mexican food, well-prepared, with the best ingredients available. Diana Kennedy was instrumental in its origination, and the chef is nationally famous.

                                Just as each region of Mexico serves its own take on their native cuisine, so do each of the US states that border it. CalMex is different from NewMexMex which is different from ArizonaMex which is different from TexMex.

                                Just so happens I've lived in each of these states, including two years in the LA area. Major cities in each of these states have areas where the Mexicans congregate and there you'll find 'authentic Mexican' food that is at least slightly similar from region to region.

                                But away from the Mexican parts of town, the cuisine varies widely according to states. I, for one, never got accustomed to the New Age 'bean sprout and avocado' style of 'Mexican food' that I found in Southern California. So when you're talking about California-style Mexican food, I'm not sure what you mean. If you mean the more authentic Mexican food served in the Mexican neighborhoods, you'll find that in Austin as well. Go to one of the Mexican neighborhoods and search out the smaller joints and taco stands.

                                1. re: ChrissieH

                                  Angie - Wanted to add that in my experience, although with some searching you can find good authentic Mexican food in all of the US states that border Mexico, it's extremely difficult to get good examples of whatever is your favorite US-State-Mex blend outside of that state.

                                  Of the Mexican-influenced cuisine of all the states where I've lived, NewMexMex is my favorite. And that's practically impossible to find in any of the other border states. If you think the Californians don't like TexMex, talk to a New Mexican!

                            2. re: angiex117

                              For the love of God drop everything and go to Oaxacan Tamaleo on Anderson Lane....you will not get another plate of Mexican this calibre unless you fly to Oaxaca-find an elderly Oaxacan woman and browbeat her until she agrees to make you some food.Seriously.

                              1. re: scrumptiouschef

                                I'm so glad to hear this. I spent 6 weeks in Oaxaca, and every day I would buy tamales for breakfast from the street vendors. I live in NC, but will be in Austin for a week or so later on this month. I think Oaxacan Tamaleo will be my first stop!

                            3. Fonad San Miguel is very good and great ambiance, but you are going more for the experience. The food is wonderful, but fancier. Good, casual Tex-Mex:Maudies (best shredded cheese ever), Polvos, Gueros (great atmosphere and margaritas). Austin has great Mexican food---should not be hard to find. If you want true true no atmosphere just good ole' mexican food. go to East Austin, but I dont know any names of places there.

                              1. Thanks for all the replies, I never made it to Texas Chili Parlor because Quentin Tarantino is filming a movie there at the moment.... too bad

                                I ate Pluckers, great wings, I only made it through 9.5/10 of my "fire in the hole" wings. If you can eat 25 you get your pic on the wall.

                                I also ate at Rudy's BBQ (takeout). I think this may be a chain, but I thought it was amazing...

                                We also ate at a bar on 6th? 5th? the street with the bars... it was called "Daddy's" and had "OK" burgers and bad wings. Last time I went there the wings seemed better but this time they were not very good.

                                We ate at a touristy type place in Bee Cave called Casa De Luna (something along that line). It was actually good, even with the "El Torito" type feel.

                                And... we ate at a great Italian place which is new (I forget the name, does anyone know?). It's a part of a condo development and is an Italian grocery type store/deli/pizza & pasta place. They had great food & wine. You order at the counter and they bring it to you.

                                Thanks again for the tips...

                                2 Replies
                                1. re: stangoldsmith

                                  Pretty sure the Italian place was the new Mandola's Italian Market, in the Triangle development at Lamar/Guadalupe/45th.

                                  Glad you enjoyed your trip!

                                  1. re: mkwng

                                    Mandola's is the name indeed, I recommend