Starvin' for good Mexican near Lakeway?
Finding myself in Lakeway when my stomach started rumbling, I recalled recommendations of Los Pinos. It's smack in the middle of the peninsula of Hudson Bend, in a low stone building that reminds me of the hideout where John Wayne disarmed Dennis Hopper in True Grit. A lot of old roadside restaurants have that feel for me.
The first thing I ordered turned out to leave me with the best memory: a large agua fresca (melon). It was refreshing, and the flavor held up even as the ice melted during the meal. I got an impression somewhere that the chile con queso especial was not to be missed. It wasn't bad. I had to eat a fair amount to notice the chile, and the guacamole and meat did not add much to the overall experience, but it was a decent version of the ubiquitous cheese dip. The chips seemed house-fried, and were light and crisp, but a bit bland.
It seems that they make their own tortillas. The corn tortillas were unusually thick, and maybe 7 inches in diameter, which is large for Austin and huge compared to those in a place like Tucson. Their texture was tender but not gummy, but the flavor was a bit sweet when I noticed it at all. The flour tortillas were likewise thick and large, but were a bit light on the shortening. The refried beans were homemade, but must have been made with a light vegetable oil. I remember thinking at the time that the only acquaintance these beans could have had with a pig was waving at each other across the farmer's fields (imagery in honor of scrumptiouschef).
The chile relleno was a big pepper, stuffed with chicken, breaded and fried. They top it with some white molten cheese and your sauce of choice. Their list of sauces includes a green sauce, a ranchero sauce, queso, and a few others. They are also available as enchilada toppings. The texture of the pepper and breading was pretty good. The flavor was not striking—the chicken was not really seasoned and the poblano was very mild. The chicken was moist in most places, but was a bit dry where the chicken was packed thickly and could not absorb moisture from the pepper.
I also sampled a few bites from a beef fajita taco. The meat was a little chewy and did not have any charring from the grill. It was smothered in a spicy red sauce that reminded me a bit of the guajilo flavor at Polvos, and hid the lack of intrinsic or marinated flavor in the beef. There was just a touch of grated white cheese in the taco. (This particular one included about a half-ounce chunk of white cheese from the corner of a block, but I don't think everyone can expect that luxury.)
Among their dessert items, the sopapillas and the flan with a hard-candy shell seemed interesting, but I was too full to try them. They also have both menudo and posole with pork on the menu daily, a variety of plates (including barbacoa), and a handful of combination plates.
All in all, I'd say it would not draw me to the area as a destination, but it does seem to be the most appealing Mexican food within a radius of a few miles.
And people classify things differently into the two categories. There's such a variety around the state in the traditional Texan food inspired by Mexican cuisine (Texas used to be part of Mexico, of course) that one 'hound's Tex-Mex is another 'hound's Mexican. My guess, since Rustcat asked for either one, is that any good chow that fits into those categories would be welcome. Does anyone know any?