Don Luis: Good Chorizo con Huevo but Possible Downhill Slide on Other Dishes
I checked out Don Luis over the weekend after a break of at least a month or so. Here’s a link to one of the other threads on this place:
I couldn't help but notice that some of their best items, including the barbacoa, puerco en chile verde, and flour tortillas, were noticeably not as good as they had been on my last series of visits. Has anyone else noticed a downhill slide?
First, the good news. Their chorizo con huevo breakfast tacos (available at any time of the day) were very good. They're among the best I’ve had in Austin. They use lots of sausage, producing a filling that’s darkly speckled with chorizo. In fact, the tortilla itself turned orange as a result of all the sausage grease. To me, that’s a good sign. This taco is definitely worth checking out, in my opinion. The only reason that their chorizo con huevo is not on my all-time “best chorizo dishes” list is because (1) the chorizo still doesn’t taste amazing on its own, though theirs is better than a lot of versions served around here, and (2) the egg and chorizo were slightly overcooked. Just as it’s hard to get a perfectly scrambled egg at a restaurant, it’s hard to get perfectly cooked chorizo con huevo. Some places get it totally right. [My examples are in San Antonio: for example, Mendez Cafe and Garcia’s.] It seems odd that the ideal chorizo con huevo is so elusive. With regular grocery-store ingredients, this dish is quite easy to do right at home.
Similarly the potato-and-egg taco at Don Luis consisted of overcooked egg and tasteless cubes of fried potatoes. They failed to include the bacon that I’d added for an extra $.50. This taco needed a lot of salsa and salt to taste decent; ideally, it wouldn’t. It was my first try of their version of this taco, but I would be hesitant to order it again.
The items that seemed to have gone downhill were things that they’d previously done quite well. Their barbacoa is still greasy and made of cow’s cheeks, but it was totally flavorless, as though the beef were steamed in plain water, with nothing added to it. It didn’t even have salt. And the quality of meat they’re using doesn’t make superfluous the need for any added seasoning. The pork in green-chile sauce looked the same, but its green color wasn't due to the use of green chiles. This dish seemed to consist of cooked pork nuggets drenched in pureed canned tomatillos. Though the puerco en chile verde was never super-spicy at DL, this time it was completely mild, with no spice at all. Of my work colleagues who’d also tried the before- and after-versions, one thought it was different but still good. The rest of us really missed the past incarnations.
Their flour tortillas are still housemade, and still thin, transparent, and greasy. I appreciate their tortillas, but they are made from a pretty bland masa. Some salt would help, or a tastier kind of shortening. (I would recommend my all-time favorite: lard!) Their mashed—not really refried—plain, boiled, vegetarian beans and orange-colored but unseasoned rice remain unchanged, as do their salsas.
I wanted to share my most recent experience with fellow chowhounds who are on the hunt for the most-delicious versions of everything, but I really hope that I just visited Don Luis on an off day.
MPH - you are not alone. We had an off day there at lunch one time a few weeks ago. It was subtle, but noticable in each thing that we tried. Even the salsa and horchata were bland and watery. It took a few weeks to go back because of that visit. The next time we did go back, however, everything was on point again. Maybe they have two cooks or something, We know the waitress pretty well...I'll ask her for the lowdown next time we are in.
Thanks for posting about your similar experience, rudeboy, though I’m sorry to hear that the same thing happened to you. You may be onto something with the "two cooks" issue. This phenomenon has been the cause of many a bad restaurant meal.
If that turns out to be the case, try to find out the good cook's schedule. Or at least the make of his/her car! That way, I can just keep on driving if the good cook's not around.
I'm glad you wrote, sqordian. Can you please tell Don Luis to fix his consistency problems? The last time I went, the salsa was bland and the beans received first prize for the absolute worst refried beans that I've ever had (tasted more like water than beans). I want it to be like it was when he first opened. Please tell him that for me.
You are right, though, the servers are very nice.
I work out by La Frontera, use to visit Don Luis, when he had the trailer. I was awesome. They even catered a company luncheon, everyone loved it. Now, that he's moved into bigger digs, it's just not the same. I stopped by one morning and picked up some tacos to go, they were ok. Chorizo, Egg, and Beans. Prices are about the same, larger menu. If anyone is every by Rutland Dr, try Taco More. You will need to speak Spanish, but worth the try. The sopes are made fresh to order.
I was severely disappointed by my visit to Don Luis recently. Ironically, the place was packed at 8 o'clock at night (must've been a review in the paper or something) and I think that contributed to the problem.
I had the pork & green sauce, and it did look and taste like they dumped a can of tomatillo sauce on top of some pork chunks. My companions had the vegetarian supertaco and a bistek burrito. The vegetarian supertaco was very bland. The bistek was good, but the burrito had been ordered wet and came out with melted shredded cheese on top instead of queso.
The sides were just as bad as you described. I like my rice and beans to have some flavor to them. Instead, it was just a runny mess of mashed beans and some yellow rice (all hail the Goya achiote packets).
Our food took about 30 minutes to get to us. We would've left sooner, but we were starving at that point.
I am willing to give this place another try IF and only IF they fix their service issues. Don Luis is about 5 minutes down the road from my workplace, so I'd like to have a place other than Salsaritas (ick) or Tacodeli to get some good Tex-Mex on lunch breaks. I suspect they were overwhelmed by the crowd, but they certainly had the numbers to handle it. There had to have been 5 or 6 servers there that night. And they all mostly stood around and did nothing...or complained about the crowd. Our own waitress was gone most of the time cashing out the registers or something.
The place was so packed that they seated us at the "bar". We spent most of the night trying to not look at the dirty plates that were quite often plunked down right in front of us. No one ever offered to move us to a table once one was made available. And moreover, there was a large group of 7-8 that must've waited patiently for 30-45 minutes for a table and there was a 6 top open for at least 20 of those minutes and a 2 top hiding off on the other side empty.
All in all, Don Luis lacked in both deliciousness and service. Not worth making a special trip for.
I noticed that there is a Don Luis taco truck at the corner of Parmer & Lamar. I've rarely seen anyone eating there, so I was curious if any hounds have been brave enough to try it? I
There are so few places in town that turn out hand-made tortillas, let alone good ones. I hope that success does not prevent DL from pulling it together again. In my more recent meals, many of the fillings have not been up to the original standard of my early visits, but I have been pleased with the chorizo and egg lately, too.
I'd brave almost any service deficiencies to get deliciousness. The tortillas are still a draw, but it was the combination with delicious fillings that initially attracted me. It makes me sad to see the downhill trend, but it fits the old adage that by the time the media notices a place it's past its peak.