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Moderately Priced Tex-Mex w/Good Food & Nice Atmosphere

I'm looking for a moderately priced Tex-Mex restaurant with good food and a nice atmosphere. I've heard Fonda San Miguel is good. Though, some say it's Mexican not Tex-Mex and when I looked at the menu it seemed a little pricey. If it's very good I might could splurge. I've been to Hula Hut several times, have never been impressed with the food but like the lake/river front view and the prices. I'm considering Chuy's but heard that it is owned by the same people that own Hula Hut. Is the food the same, better or worse? I'd very much appreciate your take on this, Austin Chowhounds.

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    1. re: NirvRush

      Thanks NirvRush. We very much liked Sazon.

      1. re: Helind

        glad you enjoyed it! what did you try?

        1. re: NirvRush

          My father was visiting from Virginia; so I wanted to take him for some Mexican food before he went back. He and I had the Conchinita Pibil and frozen margaritas. I had read on another Chowhound thread that the Conchinita Pibil was very good. I liked it. I was disappointed that it was served with white rice. But, after my first bite I realized that the rice had a delicious flavor; so I was okay with it. The black beans were creamy and the meat was well seasoned. I had some left over meat for dinner tonight. I was even better today. Our margaritas weren't anything to write home about but were good. My husband had a beef Chile Relleno with chipotle sauce. He liked it. I had a bite and thought it was great.

          For dessert, my husband and I shared the Tres Leches cake. I had read that it was a specialty. I guess I'm not that into Tres Leches cake. It didn't wow me. My father ordered the flan and said it was the best he'd ever had. When he mentioned it to the waiter, the waiter replied that it looked like it had "come out of the can perfectly", very funny.

          The restaurant is a little loud; but not too bad. A band started playing while we were having dessert. I was afraid that it would be too loud but they played at a pleasant level and were talented. The service was prompt.

          I read some discussion about the chips and salsa. They chips seemed homemade to me. The salsa could have been a little hotter but was very flavorful. I like a tangy tomato flavor to my salsa; so I was happy.

          Thanks again for recommending Sazon. I chose it over Azul Tequila because I’m having a hard time adjusting to going out to dinner at a strip mall. I’m not from Austin; and it seems a little weird to me. I see Azul Tequila in my future though. Maybe next time I go to The Dollar Store or Target.

          1. re: Helind

            Helind, I understand strip mall dining takes some getting used to, but Azul Tequila is definitely worth a try. Once inside, the atmosphere is warm, inviting, and pleasantly relaxing. If you're feeling unadventurous, try the veggie enchiladas.... mmmmmmmmmmmmmm!

    2. Fonda San Miguel is great, best atmosphere, but the food is interior mexican, not Tex-Mex. Nuevo Leon on east 6th, El Mercado on south first, and Antonios on Jollyville are the top three for Tex Mex....no atmosphere at any of them, but the food is consistantly good to great at all three. They have other locations, but dont try the other locations. If you just want the best margarita that is another story.

      7 Replies
      1. re: lakeman78750

        Thank for the recommendations, lakeman78750. I've been curious about Antonio’s Tex Mex as it's always advertised on the radio station Digital 92.5 Pop y Mas. I think I'm going to have to definitely go there.

        1. re: Helind

          I wouldn't rush to try Nuevo Leon. Here's another thread that started out about their north restaurant, but most of the comments seem to apply to both of their locations: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/346493 For my money, it is extremely run-of-the-mill Tex-Mex, without the benefit of even a decent margarita to compensate for the quality of the food.

          1. re: Helind

            We like Antonio's on Jollyville too. I wouldn't call it "no atmosphere", though. It's definitely a casual joint, but I really like the "Mexican kitsch" atmosphere there. I enjoy it more than a lot of the strip mall Mexican places I've been to.

            1. re: stephanieh

              Stephanieh:What are your favorite dishes there?How's the Carne Asada?How is the pricing?Are the pintos nice and porky?Do they offer homemade tortillas?How are the salsas?

              1. re: stephanieh

                I have to respectfully disagree about the Jollyville Antonio's. It's a grimy joint, which is fine, until you realize that pretty much anything on the menu is going to set you back at least 10 bucks. I'd put it about on par with Baby A's. It follows their same formula... strong and tasty margaritas, with thoughtless food in a utilitarian role, just meant to soak up some of the alcohol to keep you from stumbling too much on the way to the parking lot.

                If you do end up going, the habanero enchiladas are at least interesting. Probably one of the hottest items I've ever eaten in town.

                1. re: jwynne2000

                  I actually went last night - had the habanero enchiladas (one chicken, one mushroom). Everything was pretty tasty, and all three of us enjoyed the food. That dish has a strong burn, likely as hot as anything I've had in Austin. Salsa was better than average, with a thick tomato consistency.

                  We each had three house margaritas, which were passable, but not strong and not that big. Once we got the bill, we were dismayed to find that we were charged $6.75 for each. I didn't have a $40 buzz. I probably won't go back just because of that. It made me want to steal something on the way out, but there was nothing in the restaurant worth stealing.

                  1. re: jwynne2000

                    It's ok that you disagree, but I've never noticed Antonio's being "grimy". (I'll be inspecting more closely next time, though.). I was coming to its defense of having "no atmosphere", but will agree it's not on the level of Vivo or Manuel's, etc. I'm thinking it's not the place for helind, who was looking for nice atmosphere. But, I've been in much grimier (Mesa Rosa on Anderson Mill, ewwww. Rosie's Tamale House, dingy and depressing, and so on...). We go to Antonio's on Jollyville because it's in our neck of the woods. But, I like it because it feels like a secret place, even when they're busy. (In my hometown, there was a steak joint in an old speakeasy with the same kind of "hidden" vibe.)

                    Scrumptious, it's probably not a destination place if you're across town. I've had a couple different kinds of enchiladas, one with some shrimp or crab, can't remember, which was ok. And I've had my old standby, cheese enchiladas, which I keep going back to because of their dark red Tex Mex type sauce. My husband always gets the same combo, something with tacos and enchiladas that comes out on two plates. The tortillas aren't homemade. I'm no help on the beans (I get double rice). Or on the salsa. (My husband likes it, but isn't picky about it). Next time I go, I'll see if they have Carne Asada and get out of my rut. Prices are reasonable, IMO, for sit-down casual Mexican.

            2. Has anyone been to Antonio's South Austin Location?

              1. We love Vivo's on East Manor (near Eastside Cafe). It's got good food and a great atmosphere with an outside patio. They usually have a DJ in the bar area on weekends, too.

                2 Replies
                1. re: hookem90210

                  Second the rec for Vivo. Also, the old standby, Matt's El Rancho stands the test of time in good order and the outdoor patio is great.

                  1. re: bobbyh

                    It's RR but we were pleasantly surprised how good La Margirita is (we had a coupon) and they have a hot grreen salsa/suace if you ask.
                    They cook there meat on mesquite.
                    They might also have music on Thursdays, I know this past Thrusday they did it was advertised on KSGR.
                    Enjoy....

                2. If your looking for moderately priced Tex-Mex check out Jardin Corona. They have huge margaritas with a nice kick and some of the best Chiips and Salsa in town. Try the mango margarita if you go for the flavored kind. As far as the food it has overall been great. I have only had a couple items that were misses: fajitas and pumpkin seed chicken. The Chipotle enchiladas and the spinach enchiladas were great though.