Taquería Guadalajara in New Braunfels
When I got hungry driving back from San Antonio to Austin late one night last week, I spied this taquería in a shopping center on the I-35 access road in New Braunfels, north of Walnut Ave. I had a good feeling about the place, but first I drove around the historic downtown area, just to see what else was open at that hour. Nothing else looked appealing, so I made my way back to Taquería Guadalajara. It must have been about 11:30 P.M. Even though it was very close to their closing time of 12 A.M., they still cheerfully served our table a pretty elaborate spread of tasty food.
I didn't really have a lot of time to peruse the menu, given how little time we had to order, but it seemed fairly extensive—with lots of seafood plates, featuring fried and other preparations; tacos; enchiladas; fajitas; steaks; quesadillas; and more. There was even a hamburger, but that would require ordering off the kiddie menu.
Mojarra entera frita ($9.99)—A moist, flavorful, and very tasty small, fried, whole fish that was nicely crisp on the outside, still moist on the inside. This came with two salsas: one thin, orange-red bottled sauce [I don't remember the name] and a spicy red one in a red squeeze-bottle that was housemade. The dish also came with square-cut golden french fries, served piping hot, and a huge pile of more or less unseasoned rice whose dry, lifeless texture suggested that it had been microwaved. That's probably not surprising, given the fact that they were probably well into the process of closing when we showed up.
Milanese ($9.99)—This dish consisted of two thin cuts of beef about 2" x 6", and of the thickness of bacon slices, that had been pounded until tender, breaded, and fried. The breading did not cohere well to the meat; in fact, on first glance, the pieces looked bare. However, the flavor was pretty good. I would guess that they do their frying using at least some butter or pork fat. While visually unimpressive, the Milanese looked and tasted like something that you might fry up at home. It came with thick refried beans that still had a few whole beans mixed in with the smoothly-mashed portion. I thought their beans could use more bacon grease or lard, but they were still quite satisfying. Several slices of ripe avocado, about the size of pats of butter, and some more of that rice also accompanied this dish.
Taco with grilled lengua [tongue]—Grilled lengua contains little to distract you from the flavor of the meat, except maybe the onion and cilantro. Fortunately, their tongue was flavorful and of good quality. I enjoyed this taco, which came on doubled-up, non-oiled, store-bought but acceptable corn tortillas. Note: I can't remember the exact price of this, but I'm guessing it was less than $2 but more than $1.50.
TG's cilantro-heavy standard red table-salsa was fresher (and hotter) than average and came with good packaged chips. The housemade lemonade was good—and also very sweet, which is common in many Tejano-Tex-Mex places. Their store-bought flour tortillas, while nothing special, weren't nearly as bad as some of the ones I've had in Austin. Taquería Guadalajara seems to benefit from their proximity to San Antonio's superior Tex-Mex and Mexican food sources. FYI: There's a restaurant mini-chain of the same name in San Antonio. At this point, however, I have no reason to think that they're related, though it's always possible.
At a counter in the back, you can place take-out orders. If you choose to eat in, you order at the table but pay your ticket at the counter at the end of your meal. Next to that counter is a kiosk with various packaged cookies and sweets. Behind it, you can see a row of machines dispensing aguas frescas, so you know that they all come from mixes. The kitchen is behind the wall with the aguas frescas. On two sides of the room, there are plastic booths, while in the middle of the room, there are at least as many tables available. On the night I was there, the Tejano music was blaring in the big, square, well-lit dining room. The other diners, all Hispanic, seemed to be laborers on their way home from the late shift, uniformed employees of nearby stores, and at least one multi-generational family on their way back from a late night out on the town. The staff spoke Spanish, but the printed menu is bilingual.
In many respects, Taquería Guadalajara reminded me of Austin's Janitzio, though perhaps without Janitzio's flair for sauces (and sans their giant TV). I didn't try any of TG's stewed dishes, but the fact that so many plates featured grilled or fried food made me wonder if guisados were just not their forte. This report is based on just one visit, but it was a solid, satisfying meal that hit the spot on all counts—well, except for the rice. We local chowhounds know that good options right off I-35 between Austin and San Antonio are few and far between. I'm already looking forward to exploring more of Taquería Guadalajara's menu. If you choose to do the same, their hours are 7 A.M. to 12 A.M. On Google, their address comes up as both 105 and 195 S IH 35. You might want to call them to verify their exact location (830-608-1664).