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Tex Mex - for Real? With Queso.

Okay, as a long-time Texan from Austin now living permanently in Los Angeles, I am constantly jonesing for cheesy, gooey Tex Mex. I'm talking the kind that has Chili Con Queso on the menu. If you're from Texas or have ever visited, you'll know what I mean. Now I can make some decent queso and Tex Mex myself, but I miss sitting down for an awesome meal at my local greasy taco joint. Any ideas?

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  1. Many "greasy taco joints," but they're usually a different item from the Texas brand, as you note. Cheese comes directly from Heaven, so what are these people, atheists? And there's certainly no Matt's out here, although your question might surface some disgusting slender pretender in a strip mall. (If so, enter the parking lot carefully, because I'll likely be speeding over within minutes of the posting!)

    The closest Abuelo's is in Phoenix, which has three of them, actually, so you and Tyrone Shoelaces may need to jump on the 10. Abuelo's is a fairly recent addition to Austin. It's a national chain -- big, handsome, busy faux-Mex-looking places that offer reasonably priced, delicious Mexican food (especially the house plate that includes filet mignon, bacon-wrapped shrimp, chili con queso, etc.). Going in, you might resign yourself to another Chevy's; coming out, you're happy and Texan.

    Now, if you were homesick for La Fonda San Miguel or similar high-end Austin eatery, then Los Angeles has several typically California takes on that great cuisine: Babita's (Babita Mexicuisine in San Gabriel), La Serenata de Garibaldi (Boyle Heights location only), La Casita (CenadurĂ­a La Casita Mexicana in Bell), etc. None compares to La Fonda when it's up and cookin', but they're all excellent, if you get tired of chili con queso. Search this board for reviews and details and other suggestions for the high end.

    P.S. At Abuelo's I always start with their good chicken tortilla soup. I place my bowl of chili con queso so that lifting a chip to mouth drips some of the cheese into the soup. Need I say more? We HAVE to get the Abuelo's people to put a location in Los Angeles. The most-similar restaurant out here is probably El Cholo -- great places for drinking and mingling but mediocre food, IMHO.

    1. This comes up from time to time and I don't know that there are a ton of options, but you could try Marix Tex Mex (WeHo and SaMo canyon), although the food isn't amazing. Very tasty seasonal mango margaritas, though. I also think that the food at Pink Taco is surprisingly tasty and I noticed last time I was there they had queso on the menu.

      1. I lived in Austin for many years and boy do I miss the tex mex and Fonda San Miguel. You could try Marix Tex Mex in West Hollywood. Its fairly close to the Austin style places, but it can get pretty scene-y and crowded at night. We like to go for a hungover brunch.

        2 Replies
        1. re: LarcyBScott

          Thanks for the responses. I've tried Marix, and I found it a little disappointing. While you're right and they do a Queso, there is something off about it. The consistancy is wrong. There is a place down in Manhattan Beach that comes close. A chain called Cozymel's. They have okay queso, but the food is just okay also. If Pink's has it now, that could be interesting. I do like their tacos. Somehow, nowhere is ever quite like the Tex Mex we Texans all love so much. But I hold out hope. I really do. At some point, someone will realize we need this in LA. And yes, I would sign a petition to get an Abuelos. Or a Matt's? Hula Hula? Anything...

          1. re: kelham

            The only consistent Tex-Mex place in town is Taste of Texas in Covina, which is practically a Texas embassy. No queso fundido, but very fine guisado, fajitas, chicken-fried steak, etc, and Texas-style barbecue that is better than good. Migas and barbacoa for breakfast. And now that the Lakers are through the Western Conference Finals, the Spurs swag on the walls is almost tolerable again.

        2. i get my fix at On The Border in Rancho Cucamonga. It is a chain and it has never been my favorite tex mex, but it works in a pinch.

          I would also sign on for an Abuelos. It is a regular stop when I go back home.

          1. Sadly, as another former Austin resident, I must report the pickings are terribly slim. Marix is barely functionaly though I find the Santa Monica Canyon location does a little better. Believe it or not, the On the Border version is the one I go to when I really need the fix. It won't be the best you've ever had (I'm missing Guero's myself) but it will a faithful representation of what you remember.

            Unfortunately, there are surprising devides in the Mexican and Mexican influenced food you find in Texas vs. California--or AZ/NM--for that matter. Each place has such a long history of this cuisine truly regional tendencies have developed. Some are cuisine related and some are just different preferences that have taken over. For instance, have you noticed that Texas is all about the breakfast taco whereas California is all about breakfast burrito?

            If you find some good melted cheese with rotelle let us know!!!!

            1. You might try Barragans (locations in Glendale, Burbank and Echo Park). I lived in Houston for 7 years and loved Ninfa's and all the other Tex-Mex joints, and Barragan's comes closest to reconjuring those memories. However, I must confess that because I've traveled (and eaten) extensively in Mexico after leaving Houston I no longer much care for Tex-Mex. So my opinion may be way off base.

              1. Try Mexacali on Ventura in Studio City. Queso makes me dream for days.

                3 Replies
                1. re: JustMeMeMe

                  Cubancoffee is dead on, it works both ways. My Texan husband is now more accustomed to non-Tex Mex Mexican food, and when we travel back there, we adjust our orders to a few favorite Tex Mex specialites but steer away from many things that we simply find not to our liking. And we try to enjoy the local specialties (like, did someone say BBQ?!?! now those restaurants, we really could use a lot more of those old fashioned BBQ joints out here. with all the great southern side orders and all. i do plan to try the newly revamped reopened Gus's soon.)

                  1. re: MaryT

                    Gus's is nice but nothing like Texas. Nothing like Louie Mueller's in Taylor or City Market in Luling or the absolute best, the original Sonny Bryan's near Love Field in Dallas -- tender, juicy brisket with Wonder Bread, and you sit at tiny schoolhouse desks eatin' that delicious chow! I don't understand why a huge metropolitan area that offers every which kind of ethnic food can't provide decent barbecue and at least one great Tex-Mex restaurant.

                    1. re: Mel Gee

                      I'm wondering if the Air Resources Board would even allow a proper Texas-sized smoker to operate. They'd probably have to put a fullbore smokestack "scrubber" on the chimney, and that could run into some real money.

                      I'm gonna hold my final judgement on Gus's until I try the ribs. The pork is tragically lean, and thus dry in spite of being sopping wet - neat trick, that - and the brisket, while tasty enough, is no more barbecue than my oven-cooked fake Kalua pig is.

                      A couple of years ago we dropped in at a Long Beach Mexican restaurant - I think it was on 4th, a few blocks east of our favorite dive, the V-Room - that turned out to be run by a family of Texans. Lots of oil-rig pictures and memorabilia in the lobby, and the food was the same kind of oldfashioned GringoMex as you get at Barragan's. Can't remember the name, don't know if it still exists.

                2. AGREED. I'm on the hunt too. Spanish Kitchen and Pink Taco queso are pretty good.

                  The Spanish Kitchen
                  826 N La Cienega Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90069

                  Pink Taco
                  10250 Santa Monica Blvd #220, Los Angeles, CA

                  1. Back around the time this thread was started, we and our chief co-conspirator down in Long Beach happened one day on a Tex-Gringo-Mex outpost of long standing, one that had been started by some oil people who moved to the fields of Long Beach when they began to outdraw the fields of Texas, not sure if it was before or after WW2. It was staffed by Latin persons exclusively, but the lobby had many pictures of oil wells, and the name was Anglo. What it was, alas, is a thing that escapes me. All I know is it was somewhere on 4th St. Oh, and the food was very Barragan-ish; we did not actively look for Tex-type things, just because we didn't think of that. But IF the joint still exists I would encourage a look-in. We were happy with what we got.

                    1. I'm from Texas and miss Tex-mex something awful! I've become accustomed to Fresh Mex, but miss the enchilada sauce, the lard-laced refried beans and everything slathered with cheese.

                      That said, this place in Santa Paula (near Ventura) is pretty damned good. http://www.familiadiazrestaurant.com/ The enchilada plate is tasty and the beans and rice are done Texas style. If you're in the area it's well worth the stop. Or if you're jonesin' really bad take the trek. If you like seafood they have a great selection of seafood to choose instead of just traditional beef, pork or chicken. The lobster tacos are great, but the crab enchiladas not so much.