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TexMex in Central Austin that does not "Keep It Weird"

r
ryansupak Jun 13, 2007 12:35 PM

Hi,

I'm looking for "hole in the wall" TexMex places in central Austin that do not "Keep It Weird".

This is just my opinion, but most of the widely-mentioned places in this part of town seem to try to "exotic" or "healthy" up the food to its ultimate detriment.

I'm just looking for the untrendy, uncontrived, good old joints that are more like something you'd find on every block in San Antonio.

The best I've found is Jefe's on (7500-ish) Lamar, which is in a stripcenter with a gas station. Janitzio, just east of Guadalupe on 24th, looks promising as well. Open to any more suggestions -- and bonus points for anything closer to the Hyde Park/North Campus area. Triple bonus points for late-night hours!

Thanks,
rs

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  1. Honey Bee RE: ryansupak Jun 13, 2007 01:02 PM

    I enjoy Angie's on East 7th. No late night hours; Actually they are only open for dinner one night a week. The only thing I ever eat there are the caritas tacos, but they are quite tasty. Nothing healthy about pork fried in its own lard!

    You can also find wonderfully detailed explanations of various "hole in the wall" places posted by MPH in a running series called "Tex-Mex on Austin’s Southeast and East Sides". Here is a link to the latest installment.

    http://www.chowhound.com/topics/406644

    3 Replies
    1. re: Honey Bee
      m
      melissad RE: Honey Bee Jun 13, 2007 01:13 PM

      We went to Angie's recently, based mainly on this board's recommendation, but we were shocked at how dirty it was. Everyone was very friendly, and the food was mediocre (American cheese?), but I'll never get anyone in my crew to return because of the filth. Maybe we went at the end of a big rush?

      1. re: melissad
        Honey Bee RE: melissad Jun 13, 2007 01:35 PM

        How sad! I have never noticed it being dirty. Maybe you should give it a try after they move to their new, bigger location. I imagine that will give them an opportunity to start fresh.
        As I mentioned, all I ever eat are the carnitas tacos so that is all I can vouch for in terms of deliciousness. I hope you'll go back and give those a chance (if you didn't have them the first time).

        1. re: melissad
          a
          achtungpv RE: melissad Jun 13, 2007 06:28 PM

          American cheese is the standard cheese in Tex-Mex cooking otherwise it'd be authentic Mexican cooking!

      2. a
        avi RE: ryansupak Jun 13, 2007 01:34 PM

        I've never been there, but I understand that EL PATIO on Guadalupe just north of the drag is an old-style San Antonio type Mexican food place.

        11 Replies
        1. re: avi
          m
          Meshelle RE: avi Jun 13, 2007 05:00 PM

          I vouch for El Patio and Enchiladas Ymas. At both places the food comes out very hot and stays hot until the end. Their refried beans are creamy - not chunky - El Patio serves crispy, hot tortillas and sherbert for dessert. Go early for lunch to Enchiladas Ymas or you will have to wait. Hope you enjoy.

          1. re: Meshelle
            a
            achtungpv RE: Meshelle Jun 13, 2007 06:29 PM

            If you like El Patio frozen dinners, then El Patio is the place. The quality is about the same. It's a place that survives because it is ritual of UT students and returning alumni. The food is bad, bad, bad.

            1. re: achtungpv
              rudeboy RE: achtungpv Jun 14, 2007 05:24 AM

              That's not entirely true, although some of the dishes are not adequate (like enchiladas). Here's what's good:

              1) Guacamole salad
              2) Chalupas
              3) Chile con queso
              4) Beer

              The best thing is that they fry the corn tortillas. If you can find a way to work in chili sauce, all the better.

              1. re: achtungpv
                a
                avi RE: achtungpv Jun 14, 2007 06:43 AM

                Who said old school San Antonio Mexican food is good? It's really not, but rather, it is nostalgic for anyone who grew up in San Antonio as I did. It is the same food that was served in the '50s and '60 every Wednesday in the school cafeterias for lunch and at every Mexican restaurant in the city in this period. Pancho's Mexican Buffet carried it for years, and still does, although the chain is now almost defunct. Joey's mother said that Pancho's was nothing but a grease factory. "Poison", she added.

                1. re: avi
                  MPH RE: avi Jun 14, 2007 10:39 AM

                  Your definition of "old school San Antonio Mexican food" isn't my version, avi. Moreover, my ideal San-Antonio-style food is nothing like what was served in "school cafeterias for lunch." This interpretation issue re-emphasizes tom in austin's point below: "Tex-Mex" means different things to different people. People have different ideas and expectations of "deliciousness" as well, as this thread shows.

                  Just tell us what dishes you're looking for, ryansupak, and what makes for good versions of them, in your opinion, and we'll be glad to help with your specific request.

                  You've already said this: "I'm just looking for the untrendy, uncontrived, good old joints that are more like something you'd find on every block in San Antonio." But again, the kind of "joints" in question still depends on what part of S.A. you're asking us to imagine!

                  I haven't been to Austin's El Jefe, but I do frequent Janitzio. In my opinion, if you're looking for something like the chow at Janitzio, then you probably won’t be satisfied by many of the offerings at El Patio, Trudy's, Matt's El Rancho, Enchiladas y Mas, etc. That’s just a guess about your tastes, of course. The only way to know definitively would be for you to try them.

                  If you're interested, here's a link that will pull up the posts in my series on Tejano-style Tex-Mex on the east and southeast sides [and thanks again to Knoblauch for coming up with this search technique]:

                  http://www.google.com/search?q=MPH+in...

                  Here are links to a few more relevant threads that may interest you:

                  http://www.chowhound.com/topics/407315

                  http://www.chowhound.com/topics/408043

                  http://www.chowhound.com/topics/396183

                  http://www.chowhound.com/topics/394276

                  You might also want to search for posts by scrumptiouschef. I believe that he’s the only other ‘hound who has posted about Janitzio. Perhaps you’ll enjoy checking out his recommendations. I certainly do.

                  I hope this helps!

                  Best,
                  MPH

                  1. re: MPH
                    a
                    avi RE: MPH Jun 14, 2007 12:38 PM

                    Orale, watcha talkin about, MPH man? Santonio food is Santonio food and don’t include no chips and salsa, green or suiso enchiladas, shrimp or any other gringo stuff. It include beef enchiladas with chile and cheese, guacamole, tamales, hard shell tacos, rice, frijoles, chalupas, flautas, and corn tortillas. Dats Santonio food, man, just like on Wensdays at Jeff High. An don mess with me no more, man.

                    1. re: avi
                      MPH RE: avi Jun 14, 2007 08:45 PM

                      Forget Jeff High, hombre. If any high school served institutionalized versions of the kinds of dishes I'm talking about (gorditas, lengua en chile verde, tripitas, chicharrones), it would have been Fox Tech. ¿Me entiendes?

                      But I like your style.

                      I may be wrong, but I think that the OP probably didn't mean that he wanted to find places in Austin that are like "old school" San-Antonio joints from 40 years ago. I understood it as a search for "untrendy, uncontrived, good old joints" like you find "on every block" in San Antonio *today.*

                      I've made a few Austin suggestions above. Do you have some other ideas?

                      Best,
                      MPH

                      1. re: MPH
                        a
                        avi RE: MPH Jun 14, 2007 09:25 PM

                        Chingua, man, you from Fox Tech?! Maybe I should be the one not to mess with you. I used to go there for night and summer school, in the company of returned sailors from 'Nam and pregnant bad girls (circa 1968/9). I do remember a diner that was just north of the school (across from Sears) that used to serve the only thing I could afford on the menu: fried burritos, almost like a chinese eggroll, but full of frijoles. Maybe 25 cents. Add a nickle for the Matador song on the juke box and there's a meal ... MPH, you a homeboy? As to more suggestions, they've been covered. El Gallo, Matt's ... it's all good, er, rather, it's all bad.

                    2. re: MPH
                      cornbiterD RE: MPH Jun 15, 2007 10:32 AM

                      I'm from the Rio Grande Valley, and my idea of Tex-Mex is a heaping plate of cheese enchiladas covered with a comino-heavy meat gravy and shellacked with processed american cheese. I know many of you foodies would find it repulsive, but it is a plate of food that needs to be appreciated on it's own merits.

                      I enjoy eating at El Patio from time to time for the nostalgia factor, but, for me, the gold standard for Tex-Mex in Austin is Amaya's Taco Village in the Capitol Plaza.

                      The cheese enchilada plate is a stone classic, the beef soft tacos and chalupas compuestas will put a hurt on you, and the salsa is incredible.

                      As far as keeping it non-weird, Amaya's is about as far from 'health-mex' or 'aus-mex' as you can get.

                      I'm usually more a Jalisco style guy, and only hit up Amaya's once or twice a year when I'm really, really hungry, but for South Texas style Tex-Mex, it does the job every time.

                      1. re: MPH
                        s
                        scrumptiouschef RE: MPH Jun 15, 2007 11:37 AM

                        MPH, Please don't go to Jefe's.I found out the hard way.Cool name,very run down,hookers working across the street...in other words alot going for it but the food was plain bad.The salsa tasted like marinara and everything else sort of cartwheeled downhill from there.I know Jefe's has it's lovers and that's cool but for me.No.

                        1. re: scrumptiouschef
                          MPH RE: scrumptiouschef Jun 15, 2007 04:36 PM

                          Thanks for the warning about Jefe's, scrumptious! I always appreciate your feedback. It just goes to show you that the chow's not great at every hole in the wall. For me, it's all about finding the most delicious version of everything, wherever I find myself. I guess I don't really feel nostalgia for the bad foods that I've known.

                          As for me, I'm just a 'hound who's been all around, avi. But I'm pretty easy-going—unless you get between me and my chow. =)

              2. b
                brattpowered RE: ryansupak Jun 13, 2007 02:20 PM

                "Keeping It Weird" refers not to trendiness but to supporting local businesses above national chains, so it sounds like this is exactly what you are looking for. Anyway, try out Arandas #3 on Burnet, or Enchiladas y Mas on Anderson Lane.

                1. g
                  gawain44 RE: ryansupak Jun 13, 2007 02:49 PM

                  Try El Patio just north of 29th and Guadalupe. No frills, good ol' Mexican plates that will destroy your arteries. El Mercado on Burnet across from Top Notch is another good no frills kind of place. El Azteca on E. 7th is yet another.

                  I'm so bummed....Las Colinas on Mesa just closed down. Great small neighborhood place with great food.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: gawain44
                    e
                    exlnghrn RE: gawain44 Jun 13, 2007 03:51 PM

                    If you like El Patio, I'd also suggest El Gallo on South Congress south of Oltorf. Total Tex-Mex nostalgia. And the tacos don't have any odd bits of stuff in them like the current trend...

                  2. l
                    LaurenTX2CA RE: ryansupak Jun 13, 2007 06:55 PM

                    My fav place is El Arroyo. On 5th I think near Mopac. I don't know if it's too weird for you though. They have all the standards and it's not too fancied up, but they have a nice porch that makes it actually fun to go there.

                    Matt's El Rancho on Lamar is seriously old school, to the point that I never went back, even though it is good in a sort of SA kind of way. It is not a hole in the wall though, I believe it's a free standing structure.

                    El Patio might be what you're looking for but I heard it was bad so I've never been.

                    If you are in North Campus, you should just go to Trudy's North Star before 8 pm, order some enchiladas and a mexican martini to help you get over your untrendy self. It is such a blessing to live in Austin, appreciate it PLEASE, not everyone is so lucky!!

                    1. tom in austin RE: ryansupak Jun 13, 2007 09:11 PM

                      Ryansupak,

                      Please explain what dishes you're looking for. Tex-Mex's definition is not universally established; it means different things to different people.

                      1. Alan Sudo RE: ryansupak Jun 14, 2007 12:29 AM

                        Try Amaya's Taco Village in the shopping center near Target (I-35 and 51st). Get the regular (not soft) taco's on corn tortillas - they're great!

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: Alan Sudo
                          TroyTempest RE: Alan Sudo Jun 14, 2007 12:53 PM

                          The corn tortillas at Amaya's are homemade and are among the best in town. The rest of the food is typical tex-mex, not bad, but a distant second to the corn tortillas. (the soft ones that come with your food) I used to go there just for the tortillas. They were kind of thick, real fresh tasting.

                          1. re: Alan Sudo
                            femmenikita RE: Alan Sudo Jun 15, 2007 03:58 PM

                            Ohhh, gosh, Amaya's.... I don't go there for any reason other than the tacos, because their homemade corn tortillas are so tasty. They are thick, fresh, and taste like...CORN. Imagine that. Pure, simple, corn flavour. So good. Ryansupak, if you do end up trying Amaya's, you might consider ordering them "soft fried corn." This is when they fry the corn tortilla to the point where it is not exactly crispy, but kind of a chewy texture with crispier edges. Not up everyone's alley, but reminds me of the tacos that the mexican side of my family used to make at home.... I order fresh *slices* of avocado on the side and that, for me, is an example of what constitutes delicious tex mex. Also, I believe you can request that the nachos be made with the homemade tortillas as well; strangely they dont use them in all their dishes.

                          2. shanntastic RE: ryansupak Jun 14, 2007 02:02 PM

                            I really like Los Comales on E 7th. You might too.

                            1. t
                              tipsytexan RE: ryansupak Jun 14, 2007 10:37 PM

                              El Gallo on S. Congress is the ultimate Tex-Mex timecapsule. My grandmother took us there when we were kids. The decor is 60's vintage complete with indoor fountains and bullfighting themes rendered in black velvet (too bad they took down the green velvet drapes.) There is nothing inventive about this menu, it's just the standards of the Tex-Mex canon (by which I mean the mid-century, gringo-friendly version) done well. I usually get one of the combination platters; everybody gets a praline with the check. It's one of those rare places on S. Congress that has survived the hip "Soco" transformation relatively unscathed.

                              2 Replies
                              1. re: tipsytexan
                                r
                                Rene RE: tipsytexan Jun 14, 2007 11:14 PM

                                Yea! It's good to hear it... especially about the praline!

                                Much like El Fenix in Dallas - the original downtown, of course... it is about nostalgia sometimes. I can ever remember my first nacho... beans, cheese and a pickled jalepeno. We were small kids but were not allowed the nacho if we wouldn't eat the jalepeno.

                                Way before anyone ever heard of fajitas or chalupas...

                                1. re: tipsytexan
                                  e
                                  exlnghrn RE: tipsytexan Jan 8, 2008 03:33 AM

                                  My favorite Tex-Mex timecapsule. While others prefer the taquerias that have proliferated throughout Austin, my sine qua non of Mexican deliciousness is still the classic Tex-Mex combo plate with enchiladas and tacos. Bonus points for anyplace (like El Gallo) where the combo plate still includes a choice of iced tea or coffee and a dessert of a praline or sherbert.

                                  Call me unsophisticated, but I know what I like. (Although there is little worse than BAD gringo-Mex.) And alas, these establishments that know how to properly prepare gringo-Mex are all too rare anymore.

                                2. k
                                  KPeff RE: ryansupak Jun 15, 2007 03:11 AM

                                  I swear I submitted a reply to this thread yesterday. But the site was acting strange, so I guess it got eaten.

                                  Jefe's is good. I've spoken before on this board about their aweseome breakfast burritos. I belive I said something like, "Everything but pancake batter and maple syrup."

                                  I used to live at 50th and Duvall. There are several good places near there.

                                  First, there's Taqueria Jalisco at 2222 and Woodrow. It is a very clean taqueria with a nice staff, occasionally slow service, bad flautas, and good everything-else. They have $4.99 plates you can have at any time of day, and they usually have a $3.99 lunch special from 11am to 230pm. I think I'll go there tomorrow.

                                  Second, there's Tamale House at 51st and Airport. They're only open until 2pm or some such, but they serve 85 cent two-ingredient breakfast tacos (bean and egg, egg and bacon, etc). It's 15 cents for each extra ingredient, and it's still cheap. They also serve decent enchiladas.

                                  Third, Mi Victoria Bakery on Burnet just south of North Loop. They serve very good breakfast tacos. Always piping hot, and their tortillas are solid (they make 'em themselves).

                                  Fourth, if you're willing to go some place because I once had two delicious tacos there, go try out the yellow, shoddy pool hall a half a block south of Tamale House on Airport. My friends and I literally went taco hunting one night; we came to this place and one girl wanted to leave because she felt strange. Her boyfriend told her to relax and that these might be the most delicious tacos ever.

                                  And they were. Al Pastor, in particular. I need to go back there. Very succulent pulled pork.

                                  Last - if you find yourself needing a TexMex meal after 11pm, go down I 35, exit on Riverside, turn left (east), and you'll soon find Taqueria Somesuch #something. It has a fluorescent green sign. I have many fond memories of drinking coffee and eating tortas there. Open late, and they have good salsa.

                                  4 Replies
                                  1. re: KPeff
                                    d
                                    diva360 RE: KPeff Jun 15, 2007 05:28 PM

                                    KPeff, I think you're talking about Taqueria Vallarta on E. Riverside. I agree that their salsa is very good--full of cilantro and white onions with a nice level of serrano heat. And this little dive is open 'til 3:00 a.m. and has a drive-through.

                                    1. re: diva360
                                      Knoblauch RE: diva360 Jun 15, 2007 10:11 PM

                                      Everyone seems to agree that the table salsa at Vallarta is not bad. The only description I've ever seen of their food was this one: http://www.chowhound.com/topics/358425

                                      Even after hours, decent salsa isn't enough by itself to draw me to mediocre (or worse) food. Has anyone ever had a dish there that they consider delicious?

                                      1. re: Knoblauch
                                        k
                                        KPeff RE: Knoblauch Jun 16, 2007 02:11 AM

                                        Well, Knoblauch, here is where we disagree.

                                        When I'm bored and hungry at 1am, I'm not going to turn down a taco that isn't Interior-Mexican delicious, a wait staff that is nice, and preposterously cheap food.

                                        For me, it's just a safe, late-night, eatery choice.

                                        I've always enjoyed their barbacoa burritos and tortas, their beef fajita burritos, and their tortas cubana.

                                        I never went there until it was after 10pm. If I craved delicious breakfast/brunch tacos, I always went to Juan in a Million. For easily accessible late-night food in a relatively central location, you and your friends can gladly meet at Vallarta for some decent chips & salsa, good burritos and tacos, and a fun post-bar aftermath.

                                        1. re: KPeff
                                          MPH RE: KPeff Jun 16, 2007 02:31 PM

                                          This would be a great topic for a new thread: Where do you find the best-tasting chow after 10 pm (or 1 A.M.) in Austin? Lord knows there's plenty of mediocre chow available at "fun post-bar" places such as Magnolia Cafe, Kerbey Lane, Taquería Arandinas.

                                          I don’t like to eat mediocre chow, period. Lists of what’s open late, compiled by other media outlets, are useless to me because they focus just on hours, not deliciousness. I’d bet that fellow food-obsessed chowhounds could shed light on where to find the truly delicious stuff.

                                          Within the context suggested by this OP, I'll second Janitzio (a sit-down restaurant) and recommend Al Pastor or El Taquito (both taco stands). All are located on East Riverside, and all are more delicious options than Taquería Jalisco Vallarta—in my opinion—that are likewise open very late. There are also several locations of Taquería Arandas with late-night hours.

                                          One point of clarification: None of the dishes that I sampled at TJV [and described in the link Knoblauch gave above] was “Interior-Mexican.” I didn't evaluate their chow on those terms; I evaluated it in terms of deliciousness. To me, it fell in the range of bad to mediocre.

                                          Best,
                                          MPH

                                  2. c
                                    concierge_guy RE: ryansupak Jun 17, 2007 10:00 AM

                                    Try Los Altos on the north-bound IH-35 frontage road and about 32nd street....great cheap eats, menudo everyday, and the last time I went I got the daily special: huge plate of carne guisada, refrieds, rice, guacamole, corn tortillas, and all the chips and salsa you want for $4.75.

                                    5 Replies
                                    1. re: concierge_guy
                                      cornbiterD RE: concierge_guy Jun 18, 2007 08:33 AM

                                      Los Altos is just around the corner from my house, and I eat there, and enjoy it, often.

                                      It's a Jalisco style joint, which I consider very different from Tex-Mex, but it's a solid one. Arandas (south first and burnet locations) Taqueria Jalisciences (aka Funny Shaped Taqueria on 290) and Taqueria Chapala on Cesar Chavez are my favorite Jalisco Style places.

                                      Maybe it's time for a Jalisco Style thread.

                                      1. re: cornbiterD
                                        Mersenne twister RE: cornbiterD Jan 8, 2008 12:41 AM

                                        A Jalisco thread would be groovy.

                                        Looks like there's a bad place up north called Casa Chapala that is unrelated to the Taqueria Chapala on Cesar Chavez.

                                        I was just at the latter the other day and enjoyed the Jalisco style barbacoa.

                                        Any one have other thoughts about this place?

                                        1. re: Mersenne twister
                                          MPH RE: Mersenne twister Jan 8, 2008 11:26 AM

                                          A point of information: Barbacoa is not a regional specialty of Jalisco, despite the use of the phrase “Jalisco-style barbacoa” in the Austin Chronicle’s review and elsewhere.

                                          But what a great idea for a thread, Mersenne twister. Why don’t you start it? We can always use more detailed reporting, on this board, by members of the chowhound community.

                                          1. re: MPH
                                            Mersenne twister RE: MPH Jan 8, 2008 12:51 PM

                                            They make a special Jalisco-style barbacoa in addition to the conventional kind. It is a more orange/red color and appears to have more of a chile-based seasoning.

                                            1. re: Mersenne twister
                                              MPH RE: Mersenne twister Jan 8, 2008 01:12 PM

                                              Meixcan-regional adjectives can be used by local restaurants to mean just about anything, since most diners don't know what's characteristic of Jalisco (and other parts of Mexico). From what you've just added, it seems like their version of barbacoa may be similar to carne ranchera. Of course, this is just a guess, since I don't have much information to go on.

                                              By the way, a Texas chowhound started this thread on General Topics about the meaning of "Jalisco style":

                                              http://www.chowhound.com/topics/403110

                                              I'm sure you'll be able to make use of it!

                                    2. l
                                      lauralakoala RE: ryansupak Oct 3, 2008 01:21 PM

                                      I don't know anything about San Antonio (yet!) but Janitzio is great. Absolutely. Not Tex Mex, but not the Mexican equivalent of a greasy spoon--super tasty. Try the stuffed avocado. Also, their seemingly vegetarian stuff (beans) are actually vegetarian, so that's nice! Salsa is amazing, try not to gorge before your meal comes. BYOB too!

                                      1. t
                                        taliesin15 RE: ryansupak Oct 3, 2008 03:37 PM

                                        Going back to ryansupak's original post, ya'll really should try Taqueria Jefe's near 7500 N. Lamar--their salsa verde is just amazing, tastes like a perfect blend of serrano, jalapeno and garlic and something else--a real mind blowing green salsa.

                                        El Patio as others mention is uncontrived, but for the real deal check out Curra's on Oltorf or La Michoacana on E. 7th. Muy authentico...

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