HOME > Chowhound > Austin >
What are you cooking today? Get great advice
TELL US

Sazon

amysuehere Sep 18, 2007 10:27 AM

Finally managed to give this place a try and came away with mixed feelings.

I tell you, if this place had been up north instead of down so close to Polvo's I probably would go back again and again.

We sat out on the patio (noisy being right on Lamar, but great people watching because of ACL).

Waiter was a cut-up, but quick witted so enjoyable, although he let my large tea go completely dry and wait a while. However, he was hoppin, so I didn't let that influence me as much as I normally would.

Three in our party. I ordered the Cochinita Pibil, hubbers had the Puerco en Chile Cazcabel and our third had the Enchiladas del Norte.

Waiter brought out chips/sauce, stating they had just won the hot sauce contest just a few weeks ago, so I was expecting something better. If he hadn't told me that, I would have said it was pretty good sauce - good amount of garlic, cilantro, a bit of heat, but there were large unruly hunks of "unground" tomatoes in both bowls.

My CP was very good. Fall-apart tender and quite flavorful with nice crunchy charred bits for accent, sweet/salty/bitter/savory all playing well, plantains crunchy outside soft inside. Rice and beans were a dissapointment, being completely flavorless.

Hubbers pork was almost a neon red, but had a nice, slow burn to it. However, he did find three rather large pieces that were solid fat.

Enchiladas were of the Dart Bowl variety and perfect for our friend who isn't into spices. It was exactly what the menu stated.

Big dissapointment came with the hard store-bought variety of corn tortillas. These were the rubbery, stiff thick kind you find on the bottom shelf of the HEB brand. Bleck and a HUGE deduct against them for even thinking to serve these.

Would I go back? Probably not, just because of the proximity to better places and the distance we'd have to go to get there. Would I recommend it? Sure, if you're craving Cochinita Pibil and happen to be right in the area.

  1. TAF Sep 18, 2007 12:09 PM

    I was there just this lunchtime, snacking on some tasty enchiladas suizas. I know what you mean about the guy who doesn't refill the tea. When I first started going in there, I recall them telling me proudly that they made their own corn tortillas. Next time I'm there, I'll ask them if that has changed.

    1. williemac Sep 19, 2007 03:04 PM

      has anyone tried their huitlacoche? it tasted good when I was there a couple of months ago...but i had never had it before...so I was wondering...

      2 Replies
      1. re: williemac
        f
        foodiegal71 Sep 20, 2007 02:35 PM

        I haven't tried it yet, but I'll try it for sure next time I'm there. This is my favorite mexican place in town now, but I'm not near the die-hard like many on the board! The conchinita pibil is hands down one of my top 3 favorite dishes in Austin. (The other two being the green beans at Asia Market Cafe and the Bacon Steakie at Uchi.)

        1. re: williemac
          t
          taliesin15 Jan 27, 2008 04:35 AM

          I've tried it in a couple of dishes--DEE-lish!

        2. rollingplate Sep 22, 2007 08:21 AM

          I was in for the third time about a month ago and had excellent, moist, well marinated cochinita. Sorry you got bad rice. Mine was superb--white, but sauteed lightly with strong garlic oil. Different but a welcome change from the usual sort of tomato-y style.

          1. n
            NirvRush Oct 13, 2007 06:15 PM

            Thumbs up for this place. you could see the chips in the kitchen in these giant clear garbage bags - blech. but the salsa was good, so we kept eating them. we tried the huitlacoche empanadas. tasty - they have satisfied my huitlacoche curiosity. the empanadas were a bit greasy, but the corn dough was yummy. someone in a review said that they would probably benefit from some queso fresca or something and i could agree with that. i'll probably try a different appetizer next time, but i really liked the originality. for entrees, hubby got the Enchiladas del Norte w/ beef. these are cheesy gooey comfort food. his charro beans were good enough, had pieces of bacon, but he thought his own recipe was better. not big on rice myself, but the fluffy white rice w/ peas and carrots was fine. i got an al pastor and arrechera taco plate on corn tortillas. i had (mostly) heard that the corn tortillas were homemade and these were very good in my opinion. i could even taste how good they were in hubby's cheese-laden enchiladas. the arrechera (a.k.a., beef fajita) was pretty tough. it came w/ some grilled onion - probably wouldn't order this again. the al pastor was awesome. cubes of pineapple and onion and cilantro. they were comparable to Chango's which i enjoy. i chose refried black beans as my side. i liked them, but i think most ppl would have preferred more salt. i would definitely return, based on the choices they have to offer. i've come to realize that i'm not quite so into cheesey greasy Tex-Mex as much as "interior". Azul Tequila (the interior side of the menu) is one of my fave Mexican restaurants in town. i can't wait to try Sazon's conchinita pibil and the chiliquiles for breakfast. the chipotle filet or the cascabel pork sound awesome too.

            3 Replies
            1. re: NirvRush
              a
              ashes Oct 14, 2007 11:45 AM

              Having worked Tex Mex, the chips in the clear garbage bags MAY mean that they fry their own, but need the fryers for other things during the rush and fry in advance/in the morning. These usually taste better, even if not piping hot, than store bought.

              1. re: ashes
                c
                crippstom Oct 14, 2007 12:11 PM

                I've noticed that w/places that make their own tortillas as well. Sometimes I can't tell if they make their own. Unless it's very fresh. Finished product is what it's all about for me. If you can cheat a little and still turn out good chow you're in.

                1. re: ashes
                  n
                  NirvRush Oct 14, 2007 01:08 PM

                  i'm the general manager of a tex-mex-type place. =) these were definitely not homemade, and they were worse than the pre-fab kind that we serve. but again, that wasn't the highlight by far, though the salsa was good.

              2. tom in austin Jan 26, 2008 08:35 PM

                I'm late to the party on this one: pretty much everybody has hit this place and made up their mind. But I'll go ahead and throw my two cents into the mix.

                On Thursday night, my wife and I decided to get dinner out on a whim. We hopped in the car with no distinct destination, heading north from what our meaner friends refer to as "North San Antonio", and brainstormed places to try. Shortly after Manchaca turned into Lamar, I quipped, "Sazon is coming up, we've never tried that." My wife agreed, and left we shortly turned into an extremely crowded parking lot.

                Parked and inside, the decor was humble and the restaurant not nearly as packed as the lot had been. No idea what all those cars were there for. We were seated immediately, and quickly brought salsa and chips.

                My wife really liked the chips, I thought they were just OK. Where we agree at this stage is the salsa. Really great. They must have had a good batch today, because amysuehere's bland approval doesn't explain the greatness of this salsa. The perfect mix of chunky tomato, onion, cilantro, garlic. The heft of the sauce was perfect for our tastes. Runny sauces are fine for covering entrees, but we prefer chunky sauces for appetizers. This sauce was confused and had a slight pico de gallo feel to it. Still a sauce, but I'm just saying it was chunky enough to fulfill you as an appetizer.

                We split a cup of the caldo xochitl (chicken, avocado, cilantro, and onion), which was decent. Basically a tortilla soup minus a couple ingredients. We enjoyed it.

                Next up were the mains: for me, carnitas tacos on corn tortillas; for my wife, pollo al carbon. The corn tortillas were not store bought in any way. They were fresh and delicious. They were different in texture, but on par for quality with my hallowed and beloved El Meson. In other words, they were more than adequate to the task as a vehicle to carry carnitas or chicken fajitas to my mouth.

                The carnitas were excellent. I'm a fan of the Angie's version, like everyone else in Austin, and a critic of the Curra's variant. This was a more traditional take, with a delicious sweetness to the fried, shredded pork. I gringo'd the place up by ordering a side of white cheese to sprinkle on the carnitas. Yes, I know it isn't done that way, but Angie's changed me forever and if I'm having carnitas I want the option. I barely used any because the carnitas-plus-corn tortilla was pretty ideal in overall flavor balance.

                The chicken fajitas / pollo al carbon were pretty good. I'm not a fan of chicken in almost all dinner settings. The meat doesn't carry a lot of inherent flavor, so it really lives or dies by its surroundings. This chicken exceeded my expectations by carrying a great char and grilled flavor, a thorough oniony-ness that came from the bed of onions the chicken arrived on, and being of a decent quality as far as meat goes. I'm a lover of Mexican dives and eat too many tacos. My primary critique of taquerias is that while their dishes are good, the main ingredients often taste like they were bought from the cheapest possible source. This is especially evident with chicken, so I often avoid it and prefer beef and pork. Well, this dish was chicken, so it definitely had some of the requisite blandness, but it was better than most grilled chicken bits I've had in town. Honestly, I think I prefer El Regio, but the two are so different that comparing them doesn't really make sense.

                With our mains, we also got the automatic beans and rice. The charro beans we received also exceeded our expectations. A lot. Really, really good. Sazon, these are worth eating and not just a throw-away. Thanks.

                One visit does not a full picture make, but I can say I'm very excited to return. After several more visits, I'll decide if this place is really good or if they were overperforming on our first visit. In the meantime, Sazon has achieved a significant provisional ranking. It does not overtake El Meson, but gives Curra's significant competition. If this experience could be commonplace, it would be vastly superior to nearby Polvo's, La Feria, Borrego del Oro, Casa Garcia, La Reyna, Mexicana, et al. Only repeat visits will define whether it can challenge nearby Habanero, but I'm up to the task and will let y'all know.

                1 Reply
                1. re: tom in austin
                  c
                  Carter B. Jan 27, 2008 03:48 AM

                  Nice observations, Tom. I think Sazon has improved in the last 6 months. I was pretty disappointed in my first few visits but my last 2 were much better.

                2. t
                  taliesin15 Jan 27, 2008 04:48 AM

                  Being a chef in this business, and also having just read Marco-Pierre White's The Devil In The Kitchen (as if I needed reinforcement on this point), consistency is a serious issue. My housemate and I went to Sazon about a year ago and thought everything was outstanding. We've both been back about ten times at least each since, and only very recently did I notice something not that great as far as entrees. Ironically it was the same dish I got the first time, the one that got me hooked, the Chicken Leg Quarter with Mole--the first time I got it, it was a sort of miracle, Mole that tasted like authentic *homemade* Mole, impossible to find stuff that good in a restaurant unless you're at Fonda San Miguel or their equal. Two weeks ago the Pollo Mole was so-so, might as well been the stuff they serve at Curra's, Polvo's, or even Trudy's. I'm pretty certain that the Mole I had a couple of Saturdays there during lunchtime was made the day or two days before--hey, I know the reality, restaurants have scrape by in their first few years. And since most places don't do what Fonda San Miguel obviously does (grinding the spices fresh, probably roasting them too), and most customers either don't know the difference because they've never had the real thing and/or don't have the palate, many places can cut corners.

                  The only other thing I can attempt in a way of real criticism of Sazon is that their drinks are seriously overpriced and not particularly interesting or good. Come on: $8-10 using a tequila I can buy for $20?

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: taliesin15
                    sweet100s Jan 27, 2008 08:00 AM

                    >> consistency is a serious issue.

                    Completely agree.

                    After first visit, Sazon was tops on my list of places that serve Migas during lunch hours on Fridays.

                    After visit #2, the Migas had almost no egg in them. How strange is that.

                    Visit #3 I ordered the CP, which was tough and served barely warm. (if hot tap water is 104 degF, this was probably 80) Which made me wonder how long it had been sitting around; probably longer in the danger zone (40-140 degrees) than I would want to eat.

                    I've always enjoyed their chips and salsa.

                    Overall, could not recommend Sazon because of their inconsistency.

                  Show Hidden Posts