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El Chile Coming to Northwest Hills

I noticed that El Chile is remodeling the old Mesa Hills Cafe space on Greystone just up from Mopac. I'm embarrassed to admit that while i've heard good things, i've never had the chance to dine at their original restaurant.

What should i be anticipating when they open? Any words of wisdom will be much appreciated. Looking forward to a great new locally owned restaurant choice in my neighborhood. Thanks.

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  1. salsa. hmmmmmmm. I could probably drink it.

    My husband loves the flautas, and I'm particularly partial to a chicken dish they serve. It's chicken covered in a green(spinach?) creamy sauce with mushrooms. I get that just about every time I go.

    They also have good fish tacos too. The tortillas are excellent in my opinion because I think they make them fresh there.

    The only time I had a dish that was a miss was when I ordered off the specials menu. It was a dish with duck in it (and I'm a sucker for duck) but it wasn't done especially well and tasted overcooked. My advice is to order off the main menu and you'll be fine.

    1 Reply
    1. re: shan

      El Chile's food is very good and we love the Chilango Margaritas; but their tortillas are not made at the restaurant. They are bought from El Milagro on 6th street.

    2. Ha! Mesa Hills Cafe finally closed shop, huh? It's about time. That place was a joke.

      El Chile should be a great improvement for the area, food-wise.

      6 Replies
      1. re: jwynne2000

        Yahoooo! Can't wait to have them in my 'hood. I think they have the best salsa in town, yummy smoky tones.

        1. re: waldy

          I'm thinking of bringing some NYC family members there tonight, with the baby. They like "TexMex" a la Trudy's and Chuy's. Is it a good idea to try El Chile now? Have things smoothed out at all?

          1. re: rudeboy

            Donno if they have received the licence yet (bonus to you if they haven't) but I'd say you're fine to go. My meal was perfectly acceptable...Yes, even if I was at the table next to you, baby would not be a problem. Have fun, RB.

            1. re: amysuehere

              Thanks for the info, Amy. Do they give you a couple of drinks, or do you bring your own? Or both?

              1. re: rudeboy

                They will give you three beers or two margaritas on the house. Donno about bringing your own. Think they might have wine as well, but didn't ask. Oh, btw, I ordered frozen and it was pretty awful, but the rocks are darn good and they exchanged it for me no problem. Really not a bad patio for it being a parking lot patio, too. Enjoy, my friend.

                p.s. - when do I get to see the bambino?

      2. Besides the salsa, which, like Shan, I can drink (and buy by the jar at Whole Foods), I love the enfrioladas. They are chicken enchiladas topped with a black bean puree. I always get them with just cheese instead of chicken and they're delicious. I also love the fish tacos (might be my favorite in Austin) and the Tamal Azteca, which is like a veggie Mexican lasagna.

        The first time I went there, I had a really great special that was a duck stuffed chile relleno. I've never seen it again, and it was great.

        1 Reply
        1. re: foodiegal71

          I second the enfrijoladas and the salsa. Their mole is good, and I like the rajas con queso appetizer.

          And they have a very tasty red chile spice blend they add to their micheladas, and to my favorite drink in town, their Chilango margarita.

        2. Thanks for the heads-up, and please post when they are open!

          1. A perfect addition to the Land of the Bland.

            1. This cannot be true! Dare I hope? El Chile is one of my favorite restaurants and I happen to live very close.... I've always thought the Mesa Hills location was terrible, so it's interesting that they'd choose to go there, but ah well...

              To answer your question, the BEST thing on the menu at the original EC is the Chicken Mole Enchiladas. The sauce is to die for. I also love their Chilango spicy margarita. They have a great brunch menu.

              1. The best summer nonalcoholic drink is their limeade (not sure if it's on the menu). I believe they make it fresh--it definitely tastes that way. I also second sweet100s, please post when they are open!

                  1. re: ridgeback

                    It's right across the street from husband's office, so the gang has unanimously decided to make it this Friday's lunch.

                  2. We went last night. The patio was full but probably only about 25% of the inside. They don't have their liquor license yet so....FREE margaritas and Dos Equis. Um, okay. When word get out about that I would think the whole place would be full. I asked when they thought they would get it and our server said they expected 2-3 weeks. Food was great. Service was a little slow but very friendly.

                    1. I just ate at the NW Hills locations tonight and I must say I won't go back. The wait to be seated was pretty average, however the wait to get our food was extensive. The table next to us ordered their meal at the same time we did and their appetizers came out when our food came out. They didn't start eating their dinner until we were walking out the door. My food was somewhat cold and looked like it had been sitting out for a while. They brought my fiance the wrong meal. The amount of food we received compared to the amount we paid to eat it wasn't equal and I didn't find the taste to be worth the money, either. My point is, from what people here are saying, the food must be good normally, however I will not return to try it out again and I would recommend waiting a while until they get the kinks worked out before heading over there.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: postitnote

                        I'd suggest waiting a few weeks--the original was similarly disorganzied at first but it turned out well. If this location becomes anything as busy as the one on Manor they will not notice that a few early customers get irritated and decide never to return. I'm glad I gave them a second chance.

                      2. Yummmm. Don't miss their brunch...or the canteloupe margarita. I too could drink their salsa. That is a truly exciting addition to NW Hillls.

                        5 Replies
                        1. re: lisatex

                          Everybody's all excited about their salsa. I don't get it. Ground up re-hydrated chile, no salt, kinda bitter. Obviously, they have a following.

                            1. re: sighmesigh

                              I've only eaten at the original location once, and I thought the salsa was kind of bland or something. The flavor didn't live up to its rather exotic appearance.

                              The pork mole enchiladas, on the other hand, were heavenly. Delicious sauce, tender, moist pork, mmmmm. I recall the rice was very nice, too, even though I think it was pretty plain. Maybe it had butter in it.

                              I'm excited to have a location close to me.

                            2. re: amysuehere

                              yeah. overrated. i mole isn't bad though. overall the place is decent, but hardly worth writing about. i do like el chilito an stortini quite a bit.

                              1. re: amysuehere

                                Yeah, I have to agree with the El Chile dissent. To me, the salsa is more novel than delicious, and doesn't have the spicily refreshing flavors of a good traditional tomato salsa. That's why I like Polvo's salsa bar; you can switch to the traditional stuff when you get tired of the fire-roasted salsa (yeah I know, Polvo's has its own issues.) Plus, the last time I was there, I felt the chef took his creative license way too far by referring to the thick and saucy bowl of chicken stock and cumin as tortilla soup.

                                For better or worse, the El Chile-El Chilito-Stortini (ex-El Gringo) triumvirate has become the most prominent station of east Austin gentrification (not to be heavy-handed, but it's true) and I wonder if the restaurants would thrive as well if they weren't in such a trendy/hip location. El Chilito has some pretty decent food and has lots of American Apparel models hanging around the parking lot and working the register, but Mi Madre's will always have vastly superior breakfast tacos. (But I do have to admit a strong affection for Red House, the annex bar of Stortini; pleasantly yuppified atmosphere and radical sandwiches.)

                            3. man oh man, i really want this place to get good. they have a great location with a beautiful view from the small outdoor patio. but so far, they're just not very good. i've never been to the other one so i can't compare the two. i can assert that we of north central and northwest austin are in deep and serious need of some quality mex/tex-mex.

                              other's are complaining about the salsa; i sort of liked it. it's different. but needs some heat. i tried the chile relleno. pretty good. nice achiote pork filling and a very good salsa roja. but the accompanying rice and beans were mediocre. my compatriot's cheese enchilladas were not as good. not good at all really.

                              service was terrible, but at least the drinks are still free (still no liquor license - why even open a tex-mex restaurant if you can't server beer and margaritas?) i'll give them a month or two and see if they can up their game a bit.

                              4 Replies
                              1. re: demmer.knob

                                Hey y'all, I went last night. I don't have time to post a detailed reply, but generally we all enjoyed everything. It is a little pricey for mex food, but in line with most affordable restaurants.

                                I agree with demmer.knob on the salsa. I did notice, however, that as a group we didn't dive into it like we would a regular salsa. Somebody said it reminded them of Apple Butter.

                                Dishes sampled:
                                Guacamole - pretty good. The large was pretty small for $7.95 - I almost asked if he brought the small by mistake. I didn't look at the bill closely to see what was actually charged

                                Queso Flameado - I thought this was very good. Just enough chorizo, but not too much.

                                Dinners included enchiladas, a couple of steaks (Tampequena and Arradera? or something, the salad, and the shrimp. My arradera was topped with the same cheese as the flameado, it actually seemed like a flank steak. The tampequeno was advertised as flank. Not sure. Salad was good but a little too mayonaise-ey. Shrimp were pretty good and had a nice smoky chipotle taste. Enchiladas were declared "excellent," and the tortilla soup was declared "good but not as good at Manuel's."

                                Everything just generally could have used a little more heat, but that's just me.

                                Drinks were FREE and plentiful. They accidently dropped salsa on our table and on one of our shirts right at the beginning of the meal. It seemed there was no limit applied to us, potentially for that.

                                Service was excellent and attentive. The manager or owner came over and offered to pay for dry cleaning. They came to the door and said bye to us when we left. Whatever service problems they have probably been corrected.

                                1. re: rudeboy

                                  I was there on Thursday and we also had a good experience. Still love their salsa, though it could do with a bit more heat (and I have a very mild palate, so if I think it's too mild that's saying something).

                                  I had the same chicken dish Shan describes, the Pollo something-something Hongos--grilled chicken breast in a very light spinach cream sauch with mushrooms and big slices of poblano peppers. The chicken was perfectly grilled, plenty of smoky flavor but still juicy. Yummy sauce with several layers of flavor. It came with white rice that was actually quite tasty--I always think of white rice as being bland, but this was mixed with diced carrots, corn, onions, and cilantro. Also a little side of guac and pico, which was perfect for cooling off the toungue after the heat of the poblanos. My friend had the nachos (an appetizer on a pretty small plate--definitely wouldn't be enough for a full meal except that she wasn't very hungry.) I didn't try any but she said they were good.

                                  Drinks are still free~wow. I had a prickly pear margarita, which has a very light, subtle flavor--nice. My friend had the spicy orange margarita, which is sweet and sour and yes, a little bit spicy. I would order either one again.

                                  Our service was good even though the place was full.

                                  My only suggestion is that El Chile reconsider their outside spaces. They have a small covered patio, which looked nice, but also a few other tables and chairs still outside but not on the patio. We sat at one of these tables, on the sidewalk and literally inches from cars coming and going (with no curb separating parking lot from tables). The chairs are metal with no padding and not very comfy--it was like sitting on lousy lawn chairs. The tables are very close together, and I was occasionally distracted by the conversation of the table next to ours.

                                  All in all, I'm glad to have a good restaurant in my neighborhood. Pickings are slim up here and El Chile is very welcome.

                                  1. re: waldy

                                    We went to El Chile tonight (Saturday) and they would only let us choose between the house frozen and house on-the-rocks. That was after I ordered the Top Shelf Margarita and was turned down. I'm curious how you all got the prickly pear & spicy orange margaritas. They didn't offer us any other choices and won't, that is, until they get the liquor license. Oh well. I'm not real crazy about margaritas made with sweet/sour syrup so the only bonus to this margarita was that it was free.

                                    However, I did like the enchiladas del quesos. There was a sweetness to the sauce that was especially good. My husband, didn't like it so much. But he doesn't like his food sweet unless it's dessert. Ergo, he doesn't like cooked carrots because cooking makes them sweeter. So you must take our two perspectives into consideration before embarking on your dining adventure.

                                    I loved sitting out on the patio. I've sat out there when the place was Mesa Hills Cafe, but El Chile has got these great red plastic chairs which are a great improvement over the ubiquitous white plastic chairs. Don't know if Mesa Hills had those, but I'm sure you know what I mean. These red ones are quite sturdy and even have a hole in the center of the bottom of each seat, assuring drainage of rain water should they be caught in a shower or Texas deluge.

                                    BTW tonight - May 17th - was a lovely night to eat and drink and talk outside. Not muggy or windy. Not too hot or too cold. Just right with the slightest breeze. In short, just perfect.

                                    And, no, we didn't have to wait for our table. We were seated immediately. And our food was delivered in a timely manner - so perhaps the restaurant has taken the above comments to heart and has gotten their act together. Or maybe it just happened as a natural course of events. Whatever. We had a good dining experience and I recommend it.

                                    I'm willing to return and check it out at least one more time. Mesa Hills Cafe was there since at least 1987 (when I moved into the neighborhood) and I've never understood how they kept going all that time. My only nit pick with El Chile was the margarita and hopefully it will get straightened out once they get their liquor license.

                                    1. re: itsyaya

                                      Huh, strange about the margaritas--our waiter suggested the prickly pear and the spicy orange himself. He also offered complimentary beer or wine. An odd inconsistency, tbat they're telling different people different things.

                              2. we went last night. very bland. i had the vegetarian tacos, my husband the fish tacos. we left very disappointed.

                                the patio is too small. i hate when tables are put on the sidewalk. the inside looked nice but we ate outside. our table was very very wobbly. that pretty much ruined it for me.....as i am really into the environment as well as the food.

                                my food was so horribly bland.....i couldn't bear to eat it. didn't complain though. there were no patrons......the staff was already bummed out.

                                maybe it's still too early to expect much from the Greystone El Chile.

                                we won't go back. the patio at the Manor location is so worth the extra mile or two.

                                The limeade was very good.......btw..............

                                1. Went Saturday for brunch. Place was literally empty except for waitstaff. They do not have liquor license yet on Greystone. Food was great and being only ones in there with 5 waitstaff, service was superb. we had migas and Omlette de Hongos (mushrooms) . Each came with a different type of fried potatoes(the ones with green chile salsa were very nice). Salsa for chips was weird mix of what seemed to be canned mole and chipotles en adobe, though. All in all a B+ experience--but they won't stay open long without customers

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: Pinedaspinata

                                    We had a nice lunch there yesterday. We liked the table sauce alot. Waiter said it was a normal sauce just everything was roasted. I think some dried reconstituted but not smoked pepper and some seeds, pumpkin. Meant to ask if there was anything else we could have to dip chips in but never did. Ceviche was barely okay, too big hunks of tilapia (?) with some onions and things, on some green leaf or whatever lettuce, kind of weird. Pork and mole enchaladas were good. Nice Carribbean style rice and black beans, seperate but firm and the rice wasn't tomatoey. Friend's fish tacos were mostly this pink cooked cabbage in way too big hunks and tasteless. He called them cabbage tacos and wished for more fish. Place is nice and bright and the staff was pleasant and plenty quick. Plates looked nice and it's going to be possible to learn to ask around the menu and direct garnishes and such to put together nice meals. Overall a good addition to a tough part of down to get a decent meal. Patio's nice.