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THEY WANT HOW MUCH? Part 2: Egregious Food Pricing In Austin

In Part 1 a couple years ago we discussed absurdly priced foods at the Driskill, Pappasitos, Houston's, El Greco, Spiderhouse, Opal Divine's,The Tavern et al.

These places now almost seem quaint compared to Zandunga whose owners have apparently mistaken the East side of Austin for midtown Manhattan and their chef as the heir apparent to Jean George Vongerichten:

Mexican food is my lifeblood. It's been my daily bread for as long as I can remember and I typically eat a Mexican meal roughly 5 times a week.

I range broadly across the city to meet these needs and after two years of tutelage from my [former] sous chef Angel Castillo, the pride of Monterrey Mexico, I can make a reputable Mexican supper at my house if I don't feel like going out to eat.

So it was with great interest that I read about Zandunga, the new Mexican restaurant over on east 11th street.

Until I read their menu online.

TEN DOLLAR GUACAMOLE-get a grip on yourself Zandunga, this is Austin not Manhattan

SIXTEEN DOLLAR TILAPIA FILET-this is the cheapest fish on the market and is intensively farmed all over the globe. It's laughable to even see it on a menu of a restaurant pricing itself as "fine dining"

TWENTY DOLLAR PLATE OF CARNITAS-I don't doubt the team of menu writers were laughing themselves silly over this item

Unless you're sourcing your pork from Fudge Farms, putting it in the sous vide for 24 hours then smoking it over hardwoods imported from Argentina via donkey back-this pricing is plainly offensive.

This is Austin, where divine carnitas are available all over town for 5.99 a pound. I'd love to stack Zandungas carnitas up against La Hacienda but since I don't pull in 7 figures [their target clientele] I don't reckon I'll ever get to make that comparison.

And finally.

One of my favorite Mexican meals of all time is Huevos Rancheros. They're simple, easy to prepare and ridiculously cheap to put on a menu.

Unless it's Zandunga where they're TEN DOLLARS.


I do love the description though: Two over easy eggs in a rustic tomato onion salsa.

Rustic salsa-Urban pricing

I must give them their proper respect on their menu writing however.The flowery phrasing is really on point:

"A hint of Habanero infused tequila"

"Olive caper tomato ragout"

"Guava quince demi-glace"--- cause you know demi glace ain't demi glace unless it has guava in it

"Sherry Pork Reduction"- what in the world is that?

Here's the menu if you want a few more good laughs.


High dollar Mexican food has come to the East Side of Austin.

This is the sort of shameless behavior that has Austin being "heralded" as the new Dallas.

What other places around town have you noticed pushing the envelope on their pricing?

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  1. I've said this for years about Fonda SM. One single cheese chile relleno for $17?! Get serious.

    5 Replies
    1. re: amysuehere

      Yeah, they were my entry in the last thread. They want $20 for kid brunch. A child of six is going to eat a tortilla and a spoonful of beans. And the $40 for adult brunch, where all the stewed meat tastes exactly the same, is a crime.

      1. re: addlepated

        I believe restaurants do that primarily in order to discourage people from bringing their kids.

        1. re: conquer

          If this were the case, one would think the price would be mentioned on their website. Their dinner menu has prices listed, but not their brunch menu. And anyway, what they charge for adults is a crime regardless of what they charge for kids. They discouraged my whole family from coming. ;)

      2. re: amysuehere

        visited FSM Wednesday night for the first time. What a strange place. Did it have a purpose at some point in time, because it no longer does, IMHO.

        1. re: pinotho

          Yeah, it used to be pretty good 10 years or so ago. Now it's living on its name.

      3. I wrote a favorable review of Viva Chocolato over on Pitchfork (yelp), but their truffle prices, at $3.50 a chocolate, are absurd. Especially for counter service.

        Viva Chocolato
        3401 Esperanza Xing, Austin, TX 78758

        1. I have a bunch of "micro cilantro" popping up in my herb garden. Maybe I could sell it to them for two bucks a stem for their guac? Pretty nice mark-up on about a penny a seed!

          1. Let's see, I've made the mistake of paying:

            $15 for 2 cups of frozen yogurt @ Frutti Froyo

            for anything at The Oasis

            ~$8 for a chicken bowl at Zen

            $5.25 for a 'Garden Burger' at Posse East--oh, just to be clear, there was no 'burger' in this 'Garden Burger,' just 2 buns, shredded iceberg lettuce, a slice of tomato, and some shredded American cheese.

            for Tiff's Cookies--possibly the most overrated item in Austin, if you discount $4 trailer cupcakes and $9 trailer crepes.

            I have less of a problem with being ripped off by 'fine-dining' places (where, arguably, being ripped-off *IS* precisely what contributes to the experience of luxury consumption), than by places that bill themselves as 'hole in the wall' but then take advantage of oblivious hipsters and dumb college kids.

            1 Reply
            1. re: conquer

              Ah, Guerro's fits that last comment perfectly.

            2. Well, for as much as you'd pay for the food they're so damn proud of, you'd think they could afford a proper copy edit of their menu. Second, I hope their menu is seasonal, otherwise you're getting some frozen quince in their demi-glace.

              1. La Condesa is starting up lunch service on December 1. The whole menu is outrageously expensive for lunch: tortas that run $10-$12, a red pozole de res for $12 (!!!) and a rabbit caldo at $14. All the food sounds and looks like it's outstanding, but I know how cheap many of these things are to make. If I had a bundle to blow, I'd probably eat there, but I don't.

                2 Replies
                1. re: agoodbite

                  This doesn't necessarily belong here, but you reminded me that Garrido's has a 3-course $10 menu at lunch that's worthwhile. App, entree, dessert. I was impressed on my one lunch visit.

                  1. re: Steven Dilley

                    That's a great idea for it's own thread Dilley.

                2. A review of a scanned in menu?

                  Great writing as always, Scrumptious.

                  Funny? You betcha.

                  But without seeing or tasting the food, the vicious certainty that it will not measure up seems -
                  oh, wait -
                  has some Austin startup succeeeded in creating an iPad Nostradamus? Wasn't over-priced Tilapia was one of his signs of the end times?

                  Now I’m not one for bland hipster haunts (Manuel’s, El Chile) or "Dallas in Austin" (or "in general"). But before piling on, I challenge my fellow hounds to at least go by for 1/2 price apps during Happy Hour and report back.

                  In fact, I'm gonna do that myself.

                  That way, we can legitimately compare notes on something other than their choice of menu fonts. If it really is as bad as all of that, I'll eat my words.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: Alan Sudo

                    A note to Scrumptious - rereading this post it sounds harsh. I didn't mean the "great writing as always" line sarcastically. I do really enjoy your writing, and this was funny, but maybe not fair.

                    I myself had been tempted to whine about Urban, with their $17 meatloaf, mashed potatoes and green beans, or their $23 Roast Chicken with carrots and greens, but I haven't tried the food,

                  2. El Greco belongs here. 3 dips with one little pita for $17. The souvlaki "plate" is one little skewer of chicken for $13. As an added bonus, it will take an hour to get your food even when the restaurant isn't crowded.

                    El Greco
                    3016 Guadalupe, Austin, TX

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: heyzeus212

                      I second that heyzeus. Their sides are also at LEAST 5.99 a piece. The greek burger is delish, but a tiny 1/6th pound patty for 10 bucks? This is good food, for sure, the pork souvlaki plate is always lovely and med to med rare and good quality. And the chick pea salad is great. If the prices were 40% lower, they'd have a line out the door. moronic economics. every time my lunch crew and i go (b/c we forgot our anger over the prices the last time), we leave mad, and sometimes only half full.

                      1. re: slowcoooked

                        I was excited for another greek place, but y'all saying how crazy-high their prices are/were, I've never set foot in the place.

                    2. I'm actually going to Zandunga for a friend's birthday tomorrow, so I'll report back what I find.

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: angusb

                        Can't wait to read your report Angusb.

                        Also, please report on whether the owners are lighting up Gurkha’s "His Majesty’s Reserve" cigars with 100 dollar bills on the patio.

                        1. re: scrumptiouschef

                          Oops! The birthday boy changed his mind after reading a few more reviews, so he chose to go elsewhere. Sorry I can't report back. Maybe somebody else will chime in.

                      2. Ate at Zandunga tonight. 3 course meal for $20.

                        Had the nopales salad: grilled cactus, red cabbage, queso fresco, bacon oregano vinaigrette. Wonderful, perfectly balanced seasonings.

                        Had the aforementioned tilapia, with a garlic sauce, huitlacoche risotto and watercress salad. Really nice dish, tilapia very well cooked, the flavor combination of the risotto & the water cress salad & the fish was also very well balanced. I did get one bite of risotto towards the end that was quite salty, but that wasn't the experience with the whole of the dish.

                        Dessert was a bread pudding with tropical fruits with a fabulous caramel sauce over it. Really really good, especially if you are a caramel lover. ;->

                        All in all, a wonderful meal. I'd go back in a heart beat. Ohh, they make their own tortillas (best ones I've found in town) and their own chips (also best I've had at a resto).

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: malarkey

                          did their prices go down drastically after this post was created?
                          that's a huge difference compared to what sc listed above.