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

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. 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

      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

        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

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

      2. 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

          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

            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

              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

                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

                  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

                    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

                      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

                        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

                      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

                        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

                          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. "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. 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

                    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. 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!!