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Mar 31, 2008 02:55 PM

one Tex-Mex meal in Austin

I have time for only one Tex-Mex meal in Austin - where should I go?

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  1. I know what *my* pick would be, but w/o telling us a little more about yourself, it'll be hard to find your best bet.

    First, what day of the week will you be dining? What time of day (or night)? Are you constrained to a specific area of Austin, or can you travel a bit?

    Second, what sort of meal are you looking for? The classic oldschool Tex-Mex, with chile con carne enchiladas, gloopy queso, crispy beef tacos, and frozen margaritas? Or a more Mexican-influenced meal, with tacos al pastor, barbacoa, lengua, cochinita pibil, and enchiladas con mole? How much does atmosphere matter? Any price range restrictions?

    5 Replies
    1. re: tom in austin

      Thanks for your thoughtful response! My husband and I have never had the classic Tex-Mex, so we should give that a try. (Coming from L.A., we have had incredible upscale Mexican...) No price restrictions - we would love to stay in the downtown area if possible, but we do have wheels!
      Again, thanks!

      1. re: lbonn

        If you're craving a true Austin Tourist Tex-Mex Experience, the first pick is Guero's. Matt's El Rancho and Polvo's also represent the Austin feel -- Matt's being the oldschool Tex-Mex UT alum spot, and Polvo's representing the Austin hipster/slacker (you'll notice this most in their laid back service). El Chile, Vivo, and Curra's round out the ultra-Austiny picks. Maybe throw in Cisco's on the Eastside. Finally, Chuy's, while being a chain, has to be included as a near "best fit" for meeting the intersection of Austiny and Americanized Tex-Mex.

        My personal pick for a single Tex-Mex meal in Austin would be El Meson on Burleson, but this is way out of your way, and a bit divey. Probably not what you're looking for. Habanero is a good middle ground between the authentic and the Americanized. In this thread, El General steers you towards what to order. I think their beef fajitas are quite excellent.

        However, you do specify that you want classic, Americanized Tex-Mex. I feel that no place in Austin crystallizes this cuisine like Jorge's. This isn't Austiny Tex-Mex. It is the West Texan-style. Also in this mold are El Gallo, El Patio, and Enchiladas Y Mas -- all with more Austin history (but, in my opinion, worse food).

        Summing up: for Americanized Tex-Mex with an Austin flavor, your best pick might be Chuy's (on Barton). If the Austin flavor doesn't matter as much, Jorge's. If the the Austin flavor matters more, pick which type of Austin experience you want: Slackery & hip - Polvo's; hip sans the slackeryness - El Chile; Median - Guero's; Oldschool - Matt's El Rancho. If pure deliciousness is your standard, I'd go with El Meson for tacos or Habanero for fajitas. (With a respectful shout-out to Angie's delicious carnitas tacos, Rosita's al pastor tacos, and many carts and trucks around town.)

        1. re: tom in austin

          Tom, I think you've summed it up quite nicely. I was trying to think of a diplomatic way of describing Vivo, et al. My own, personal opinion about them is they lack flavor/soul in favor of style/vibe; a very new and somewhat, again in my opinion, trend in Austin dining.

          1. re: amysuehere

            I agree with you about Vivo: something about it feels fabricated, almost like they're trying to manufacture cool. It doesn't work for me, and the food doesn't give it a lift.

            I guess that (in my opinion) Vivo is to Tex-Mex hole in the wall as Blue Star Cafeteria is to Americana diner.

            1. re: tom in austin

              Exactly! Hubs and I were talking about this thread and your comments last night and hubbers came up with "DisneyLand Mexican". I think that's a good one.

    2. This will make some people cringe, but I think you might enjoy Chuy's. It's kitschy and Austin-y and some of their food is really good.

      I am very fond of El Azteca on East 7th (despite their not-so-great chips) and recommend the #1 combo with a chicken taco instead of a beef taco.

      Dario's (also on the east side) used to be a regular go-to place for me, but they had a downward slide for a while. The last time I went a couple-three months ago, it was really good again. There, I like the Salad Plate #2. Mmm, salad plate #2.

      1. curra's on oltorf, maybe polvo's on s. 1st.

        el azteca is a good recommendation, too.

        1. Angie's on E. 7th. Their carnitas tacos are fabulous and you can search for detailed reviews of those. However, I just had their chicken enchiladas and they are great. They use the usual brown gravy but not only are they stuffed with very tasty stewed chicken but they are covered in chicken also. that's the first time I've seen that. Also, on Wednesdays they have beef ribs that are pretty dang good. Also, a plus is that they make their refried beans with lard. Lard. Is. The. Greatest.

          2 Replies
          1. re: achtungpv

            unless you are having the carnitas tacos, i'd avoid Angies, These are the best thing they have, but everything else i've had is just ok. And the atmosphere here in the new place is just lacking.
            For traditional Tex-Mex, (this rules out Polvo's, Sazon, Fonda, Curra's, although these are closer to Tex-Mex than interior Mexican, except Fonda), I like the original El Arroyo. Its a great place to sit outside and have drinks and queso. The standard Tex-Mex fare (enchilada's, etc.) is about as good as any. And it's and kitschy too.

            1. re: TroyTempest

              oh wait. MBrox reminded me. I'd rather have Vivo, or El Chile (both on manor rd.)

          2. I second the El Azteca and Polvo's recs.
            I wouldn't recommend Chuy's. They do make yummy margaritas and have great chips and salsa, but the food has never wowed me.