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Made it to Austin! Need to revamp my list!

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So, I flew in yesterday to 85 degree weather, and it was just gorgeous--so we were on a search for an outdoor happy hour margarita. that being said, we went straight to Polvos, but it seemed dirty (tables sat dirty, salsa bar was dirty--and it was only 4:45pm (and really smoky) so we left. did not really seem to even have much of a kitschy Austin vibe --what gives--am I missing something?

Leaving there, we went to vivo's to sit outside on their patio (and it was nice albeit a bit loud with the music being piped in-..I even liked the little outdoor area next door at El Gringo). They do not do happy hour, so I had a $10 cucumber margarita (which was a bit bitter), chips and salsa (the salsa was horrible--t was almost as if salt had just been poured into it--and I love salt!) Then we tried two different puffy tacos, which left us disappointed--greasy, without much flavor, and left. I know, I know, a lot of you will say you told me so, and I was full warned...but isn't there anywhere to go for Mexican that has great food (either interior mex ot tex mex) and a bit of charm--be it kitschy, or with an outdoor area, etc? I know hounds, me included, don't typically care about ambiance, but when visiting Austin and bringing my sister, a single 29 year old, it would be fun to dine in a more Austin type place...my husband said El Arroyo, or hula huts, but the last time he chose a place, he said Gueros, and I thought the food was horrible! Help, please Austinites!! Need a Mexican plae and another fun place--do we have to eat at Shady Grove? Help, help!

so, I guess I didn't finish our dinner last night--even though I was admittedly kind of full, we went to Enoteca Vespaio and sat inside. We shared a great bottle of Barbera D'Alba, and at $32, I found it a great bargain. then, we had the tagliatelle with funghi and truffles, and the spaghetti with polpetta--veal meatballs,,,although I preferred the tagliatelle because the marsala red sauce on mine was a bit light/oily, I really enjoyed them both. Our caesar was also great, and the service, sublime. Great place! I loved the cozy ambience inside with the small round tables and little votives on the tables. Great for a date night! I just usually don't want Italian in Austin...but I was cold from the snow and 15 degree weather in Chicago when I left! A great place that I would return to in a heart beat.

Heading to Black's and City Market for brisket today, and then going to pick my sister up..also need a fun happy hour place with outdoor area for her tonight...Little Woodrow's? Opal Devines? thanks for all the help.

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  1. If it's a choice between Opal Divine's and Little Woodrow's, go with Opal's, hands down. Better ambiance, beer selection (get a locally-brewed Live Oak, whatever seasonal they have now) and ... they have food, which Woodrow's doesn't, except for a trailer in the parking lot.

    Don't forget Smitty's while you're in Lockhart!

    1. I know some people on here won't like my recommendation, but if you want good (not great) TexMex but want that Austin weird ambiance, try Chuy's. North Lamar is my favorite, but many prefer the downtown location (Barton Springs? I don't remember).

      2 Replies
      1. re: danny_w

        For TexMex and drinks, my recomendation is Trudy's. The food is always good and the Mexican Martinis are.. well, they limit you to two.

        1. re: GenieinTX

          Sorry, I've just never seen anything to like about Trudy's. I've never found anything there that I liked, certainly not anything worth the price. Of course, I haven't been for a while (years ), so it may have changed.

      2. Try Curra's on Oltorf for interior mexican food.Also Sazon on south Lamar is pretty good.

        2 Replies
        1. re: auspr

          Agree with auspr wholeheartedly--and of course Fonda San Miguel for upscale Mexican. For inexpensive but totally outstanding Mexican food, you gotta check out the taco trucks--they are totally the "in" thing here--the best one of the moment is Tacos El Rico, off Montopolis, on the NW Corner of Felix and Vargas. Best Barbacoa I've ever had in my life (surpassing the previous best at La Michoacana, on E. 7th).

          1. re: taliesin15

            I will definitely hit Tacos El Rico, as we love the taco truck dining! We used to go to torchys and their truck is gone....the locals I know have always preferred their S. 1st st location, but it just isn't the same when not coming from a truck! thank you!

        2. Go to La Condesa and Lamberts, 2nd Street District, they will not disappoint. Smart move on Enoteca, also one of my favorites. Have you made it to Whole Foods, it is the landmark store with five sit-down eateries, you can pull a bottle of wine from the shelf, they serve it to you and cook your meal fresh, it awesome!

          1. I'm wondering if the sort of Mexican place you're looking for even exists in Austin. I put up a post a few months ago looking for someplace similar to take my dad. We ended up going to Sazon. The food was very good but not fantastic. The atmosphere at Sazon is okay but is not very exciting and the outdoor area is right next to Lamar Blvd. I've been to Gueros and totally agree with you. I usually end up going to Hula Hut because of the view and the atmosphere but the only good thing I've had on the menu is the chili relleno. Mozart coffee is in the same area is a nice place to sit and have coffee and dessert. It's kind of pricey though.

            1. I'm not trying to be offensive, I'm telling the truth as I see it.

              Austin has some great places.... but few are perfect, and most are perfect -1.5... but in general is is cheap to try and the try is the fun. There are TONS of choices. So many people blame the restaurants, I blame the community. With such a diverse and liberal customer base, what do you expect? It is all about personal style, not about world standards.

              Enjoy the trying and unique flavors. If you think Gueros is "horrible" you are missing the point. Maybe a second visit or a second dish... or maybe learn that Mexican isn't all about one style.

              Shady Grove has a great Pisco Margarita, something I've never seen in the USA - and their NM Chile stews are great.

              Look, I've been around. I spent 2001-2006 traveling in an RV full time and eating out 3 or 4 times a week. Everywhere from Seattle to Miami with Vegas and San Diego in between. But I eat mostly $25/person meals and not $60/person meals.

              Austin is not a city about "bargain" $32 bottles of Wine, and I hope it keeps hanging on to the "weird" that it is. Yes, the Elite exists... but you are forcing Austin to not be Austin. There's a lot of that in the economic boom of 1998 to 2008 here. Watch the codo's still rise here when the rest of the USA is tearing down. It's different here, for real.

              2 Replies
              1. re: RoundSparrow

                I think you are missing the point. I like the hole in the walls--they just should have good food, too. I do not think good Mexican food is a lot to ask for. I think other hounds will agree Geuros is overrated (buth with good margs). We had tacos at El Rico and they were awesome, and I loved flip Happy Crepes, too--so there are places kike what I asked for. I was merely looking for advice on others like it

                1. re: ljero

                  There is a world of difference between horrible and overrated. I agree Gueros is overrated... it is considered a fun and popular place to many. It has the Charm you seek with the SoCo location... but the food...

                  You want unique and good Mexican in that area, go over to South 1st street: Taqueria Arandas (soups and more), Torchy's tacos, La Mexicana Bakery (more than baked goods), Habanero Mexican Cafe (ask for the hotter salsa, you get both). Not a lot of obvious charm, but it's there.

                  Many places in town are very good but not consistent... much like reviews ;) You have to try different dishes. When it comes down to it, it is specific dishes at specific places that matter the most to people.