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Former NYT food writer wants Bestest TxMx

I'm new to town, and my oldest friend, a former NYT food writer, is coming to visit. He's asked specifically for authentic TX MX or MX. The dive-ier the better. Quintessential Austin. Absolutely nothing new or chic. Help me!

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  1. el meson. i'm also a fan of polvo's but some folks aren't as impressed (order the pastor fajitas of you go).

    3 Replies
    1. re: uarent

      I'll back uarent up on Polvo's, but only if you get Fajita al Guajillo, which is described by BTAustin below, and unlike any other fajita (they don't carry them smoking through the restaurant). I've only gotten beef, but now that pastor has been mentioned twice, I think I'll branch out next time. This will be a memorable dish for your friend. I know I'd never seen raisins and nuts in fajitas before.

      Also already mentioned, but get a big second from me is Juan in a Million. I love them for breakfast tacos. Beware, if you order the Don Juan breakfast taco, you may not be hungry the rest of the day.

      If you'd like a big plate of cheese enchiladas smothered in a chili con carne that is so Tex that it shares little in common with Mex, go to El Matador in Round Rock. I've ordered this dish all over the city and El Matador makes it most smothered and down and dirty.

      As already mentioned, Angie's carnitas are good. El Meson is good (I like their cochinita pibil) and Habanero has a really good torta (I get beef).

      I hope you're not vegetarians!

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      El Meson
      5808 Burleson Rd, Austin, TX 78744

      1. re: stephanieh

        I'm a Polvo's fanatic. Fajitas al Guajillo is my go-to dish. However, I've recently discovered the Puerco Adobado. It a huge serving of grilled pork and pineapples. I've had it the last 3 times I've been there. I recommend it highly.

        1. re: achtungpv

          That does sound good! I'll try to order that next time... which works out well, because the fajitas al guajillo seem more like a cooler weather food to me.

    2. Divey?

      La Mexicana, South 1st

      Juarez, in Round Rock

      1 Reply
      1. re: conquer

        La Mexicana has the best barbacoa west of I-35--not really TexMex exactly...

      2. Angie's for carnitas tacos and corn tortillas. Northwest you can find Chuy's bakery and El pollo Regio across from each other on Ohlen just West of 183. They make for a pretty good combination. Chuy's has every kind of sweet including a huge case of refrigerated tres leche confections as well as good whole wheat breads and will even make you a torta Mexico city style. El Regio chicken is justly famous. Their al pastor is very good too. Personally I'm a big fan of enchiladas y mas on Anderson lane too. Enchiladas or migas with cheese and a side of beef fajitas with vegetables. And don't forget Ciscos for breakfast. Migas and fajitas with biscuits and tortillas and gawk at the pics of LBJ and other Austin luminaries on the walls. Gloriously substandard facility : ) And yes Polvos, they've become trendy and are ignoring that daily. The pastor fajitas with the dried guajillo peppers, raisins, pecans and pineapple. Seems asian and will make you very happy.

        Garridos is trendy but if you don't like their bacon and mahi taco I'll buy you a car.

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        El Regio
        6615 Berkman Dr, Austin, TX 78723

        1. Mi Ranchito on William Cannon and Pleasant Valley. In the back of a C-Mart. Avoid everything they fry. Their choriegg dishes are alright. Focus on the shredded beef (desebrada?), carnitas, or any of their other tacos. Plus their absurdly amazing assortment of awesome salsas astound all who deign to discover the deliciousness.

          El Meson on Burleson. Not as divey, but amazingly amazing. Today I bought a dozen tacos just before halftime during the Mexico game, and the whole place was electric. Best chorizo I've had in Austin. Pastor to blow your brain into a wad of kablooie. Homemade tortillas. El Meson is holding up their end of the bargain in the "best Mex in Austin" pact. I hope their new venue on Lamar doesn't flip their junk out. Expansion can kill excellence. Their chorimigas and their pot-egg-chee-chori are the bomb. The money bomb. The bomb money. Disregard haters, acquire tacos.

          Lastly, Angie's carnitas tacos w/ yellow cheese are hard to beat. In fact, they may trip you out and create a deep and pervasive anxiety regarding consuming carnitas: can other applicants meet this new standard?

          Representing Austin hole-in-the-wall pride, avoid all El Chile/Chilito, Taco Shack, Taco Deli, Torchy's, Polvo's, Guerro's, Chuy's, etc. There are many vaguely interchangeable Mexifare stops in Austin. Don't get confused. There are a dozen places that rock unmentioned here. I'm lazy and my intel is incomplete. Please don't breathlessly endorse some lame joints. Keep it real, keep i cool. Cooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo

          -----
          El Meson
          5808 Burleson Rd, Austin, TX 78744

          1. Ignore everything you have read below except for a very few, e.g. La Mexicana, and go to La Borrega del Oro, or something close to that, across the avenue from St. Edwards. OTW, go to Juan in a Million, or some other place in East Austin.

            1. i agree with tom in austin. el meson and mi ranchito are great places to eat.

              1. Quintessential and best are often different. While I agree with most of the above posts about best, for quintessential I'd go with places like Amaya's, Dario's, Enchiladas y Mas, or Compadres. Of course except for Angie's it's been a while since I have been to any of them and they may well be gone or no longer "quintessential (in my humble and subjective opinion). I absolutely agree on the addictive qualities of Angie's carnitas tacos on her insane puffy tortillas. I really miss her old location. The new one is a big reverberating box.

                For more MX than TX MX, I always love Las Palomas, especially their flan, their mole, and the cochinita pibil. Unfortunately, it very not divey.

                -----
                Las Palomas Restaurant & Bar
                3201 Bee Caves Rd Ste 122, Austin, TX 78746

                1. check out this thread - it may be a little out of date - but will point in the best general direction for what you are looking for

                  http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/304597

                  All best and please report back!

                  1. Please forgive if this is not a correct response as I am new here but there is a kind of 'divey" little place in round rock called Dans Puffy Tacos. It has amazing tasting from the kitchen of your Mexican neighbor's food I know it is not "austin" proper but it is worth a looksee or a nibble taste

                    1. Thanks to all. Here's what I plan to put to the guy when he steps off the plane @ 5:32pm: El Meson(Burleson) or Mi Ranchito or Polvo's OR. . .
                      . . .Las Palomas or Fonda San Miguel.
                      (Depending on how the flight went and the fact we have to drive deep into the Hill Country after we eat.) The old thread worried me a little because things can change. I jes wanted My Friend's first meal on TX soil to be real. And real good. I'll report back.

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                      Fonda San Miguel Restaurant
                      2330 W North Loop Blvd, Austin, TX 78756

                      14 Replies
                      1. re: pickypicky

                        Picky
                        If you meant it when you said the "dive-ier the better" then you can't seriously be talking about either Fonda San Miguel or Las Palomas. Neither are now or ever have been dives.

                        Also the thought of Frank Bruni [?] coming to Austin for a quintessential Mexican dining experience and being dragged into Polvos would probably ensure your never seeing him again. If that's your plan then proceed accordingly otherwise you may want to consider other [edible] options of which we have plenty.

                        For a classic Tex Mex experience La Reyna is my favorite option in town. http://chowpapi.com/?p=227

                        For the best Mexican in town Tacos el Rico has yet to be dethroned. http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/560802 No one approaches Yolanda's mastery of the cuisine. I did have high hopes for El Naranjo Mobile but the lady cook over there doesn't even bother making her tortillas from scratch. Shameful.

                        I've never had a bad meal at Los Altos and I've eaten there dozens of times. If your buddy is into the Jalisco style Mexican food then they, along with their cousins, the Arandas chain are at the top of Austin's quick taqueria scene.

                        They [Los Altos] put out the best red/green one two punch of table salsas in town. http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/706420 as well as solid work a day fare like tacos dorado, mountainous tostadas, flautas and all the other taqueria classics.

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                        Los Altos
                        3301 N I H 35, Austin, TX

                        Las Palomas Restaurant & Bar
                        3201 Bee Caves Rd Ste 122, Austin, TX 78746

                        Fonda San Miguel Restaurant
                        2330 W North Loop Blvd, Austin, TX 78756

                        Aranda's
                        2129 E 7th St, Austin, TX 78702

                        1. re: scrumptiouschef

                          (I love Chow and you, scrumptious, for taking good care of me.)

                          I know FSM is not a dive. And I know my friend. If he deplanes with that I-Need-a-Cocktail-this-Instant, then I know a tacqueria is not the best choice for our first meal. BUT if he is hale, hearty, game, and hungry then I know he'd prefer Yolanda and Tacos el Rico. I just moved here from San Diego, and have had dismal MX food so far except for a TX MX greasy joint outside Fredricksburg (We lovingly call the place Enchanted Grease) which doublefries its chips and uses lard as first ingredient for the enchilada chile gravy I needed to have a bag of Austin tricks ready for my friend, and you just topped it off for me. Thanks!

                          1. re: pickypicky

                            Please clue us in: what is the real name of Enchanted Grease?

                              1. re: addlepated

                                Enchanted Inn. On the highway to Enchanted Rock. But the locals call it Enchanted Grease.

                          2. re: scrumptiouschef

                            I'll second most of these recs, except to note I've enjoyed el Rico more for breakfast than lunch. other places to consider are Azul Tequila Lamar/183 for their MexMex side of the menu (love the tinga and tuna stuffed peppers) and La Casista on Anderson by railroad for some great totillas and salsa

                            -----
                            Azul Tequila
                            4211 S Lamar Blvd Ste A2, Austin, TX 78704

                            1. re: Carter B.

                              As Carter B notes Azul is a good choice. Vast selection of liquors, cold ac, good chips and salsa and several really good appetizers [Tuna stuffed chiles in a cream reduction-ask for light sauce as they get a little heavy handed]. Their menu is cordoned off between Mexican and Tex Mex. While they no longer fry the totopos per order they don't use the miserable El Lago brand that every restaurant in town is hooked on.

                              La Casita has great carnitas, good refrieds and friendly service. I really like their cheap breakfast platters too.

                              With over two hundred Mexican restaurants in town you should be able to find something fit to eat and if events warrant, a trip to San Antonio is little more than an hour away where Nicha's, Mendez, Panchitos and La Bandera Molino await.

                              If San Antonio style flour tortillas are your friends thing then head on over to La Fruta Feliz.
                              http://maps.google.com/maps/place?oe=...

                              They knocked La Reyna out of my number one spot for this delicacy.

                              1. re: Carter B.

                                whoops, Azul is at Lamar/71 (the complete other side of town). This post inspired us to go to Azul for lunch. I went Tex-Mex side (enchilada and tamale plate). Good not great. Stay with mex-mex side. Oh and they have marachis on Thursday and Friday evenings--which can either be good or bad depending on if you want to have a show or conversation.

                              2. re: scrumptiouschef

                                this is the best reply I've seen on this thread--my fave Mexican places (Tacos El Rico, Fonda San Miguel, Borrego de Oro, Curra's on Oltorf, Sazon, etc) are not Tex Mex--I think it would be a good idea to take a NY Times person to some place like La Reyna first, as a classic Tex Mex place (there are other good ones too), then to one of these kickass Mexican places...thing is, a place like Fonda San Miguel is high end, gourmet Mexican interior cuisine that rivals French cuisine (once I had a Duck dish with Green Mole that was just incredible), then Tacos El Rico is street food, really homemade honest to goodness slow food, cooked by ladies with 20-30 years at least experience making incredible soul food at it's best--Tacos El Rico's Barbacoa is the best Barbacoa I've ever had, even better than Barbacoa I've had made by Mexican immigrants I've worked with cooking in kitchens in Austin--definitely one of the top 5 best foods, ANY cuisine, in the Central Texas region--I'd have to put it up there with any of the big three BBQ places in Lockhart too (Smitty's, Kreuz's and Blacks), and a handful of places like Uchi & Trio @ Four Seasons and the like...

                                -----
                                Uchi Restaurant
                                801 S Lamar Blvd, Austin, TX 78704

                                Fonda San Miguel Restaurant
                                2330 W North Loop Blvd, Austin, TX 78756

                                Sazon
                                1816 S Lamar Blvd, Austin, TX 78704

                              3. re: pickypicky

                                Fonda San Miguel is the best of the 5--I still say follow what scrumptious chef says--Tacos El Rico, since it's so close to the airport, and ROCKS, should be the first place...Mi Ranchito is damned good too, as is Meson...

                                -----
                                Fonda San Miguel Restaurant
                                2330 W North Loop Blvd, Austin, TX 78756

                                1. re: taliesin15

                                  I apologize if I dithered re: MX, TXMX, Fonda San Miguel. My husband sometimes despairs of my indirect processing of desires. . . through this thread, I realized that what I really wanted (craved) was recreating the happy times My Friend and I shared at tacquerias and taco trucks in SAn Diego, and THAT'S what I was angling for. A native Texan , my MX-food tastes have been redefined by too long in So Cal. SO, that said, I'm with ScrumptiousChef (love your thread: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/543798 ) and taliesin 15 and all the rest who read my confused, taco-jonesing mind. We'll eat TXMX at Enchanted Grease later in the week, maybe a cocktail at Fonda, and if M.F. wants MX and to cry over our lost San Diego days of indolence, tacos Austin-style at Taco El Rico, El Ranchito, or El Meson. . . and there's always the flight out and what we'll eat before that!

                                  -----
                                  El Ranchito
                                  983 N Highway 123 Byp, Seguin, TX 78155

                                  El Meson
                                  5808 Burleson Rd, Austin, TX 78744

                                  Fonda San Miguel Restaurant
                                  2330 W North Loop Blvd, Austin, TX 78756

                                  1. re: pickypicky

                                    He's asked specifically for authentic TX MX or MX. The dive-ier the better. Quintessential Austin. Absolutely nothing new or chic. Help me!

                                    Well, you sure fooled me.

                                    1. re: singlemalt

                                      just be glad youre not married to me.

                                2. re: pickypicky

                                  Does anyone know if El Meson Burleson is even open in the evening? I can't find hours for them, and pickypicky's friend is arriving at 5:32pm. I thought El Meson was breakfast/lunch only.

                                  Last time I went was on a Saturday at noon and they were almost completely out of salsa.

                                  -----
                                  El Meson
                                  5808 Burleson Rd, Austin, TX 78744

                                3. Yes, My Friend arrived at 7pm-- flight delayed. I had 3 options: Sazon, Mi RAnchito, or Fonda SM. (Based on dinner hours) We opted for FSM and it was perfect. I won't go into detail since it doesn't quite fit the thread, but FSM IS quintessential Austin and it is MX. A first visit for all, we agreed it was like no place we'd ever been, and could be no place but Austin. Both of us have cooked from Diana Kennedy since the 80's, and her spirit was with us. The margaritas were excellent (including mine made to DK's recipe), the chips and tortillas light and tasty as manna from heaven, or as if made by magic hands. The salsas were two of the best I've ever tasted-- no heavyhanded smack of garlic but a range of complex piquancies. Our appetizers were best part of the meal-- particularly the Queso con Rajas. The entrees were good not great; the beans and rice dull. But you must admit the room is beautiful, the buzz good (eclectic clientele, old money to young computer geeks to an Eharmony biracial first date), the aesthetic a kind of wacky made-up austiny fantastic mexicoland. And the service is obsequiously old-school. Perfect for an old friendship reconvening in a new city and state. I'd go back happily to drink and nosh-- and visit their huerta in daylight. Next stops: Enchanted Grease for TXMX (Fbg) and Tacos El Rico (or Meson or RAnchito) when we return to Austin for Friend's flight home.

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: pickypicky

                                    ...and it is such a dive, nothing chic about this place!