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Favorite B-Grade Mexican in Austin

s
scrumptiouschef Feb 7, 2011 10:38 AM

Not every Mexican food restaurant has the talent or inclination to make their tortillas from scratch.

Their food can still be pretty good though.

Lots of middling talent-level operations prefer to reach into a plastic bag and call it a day when it's time to begin cooking tortillas to feed their hungry patrons.

Places like Taco Mex, El Naranjo Mobile, La Condesa and I'm sure plenty others, put out some pretty good Mexican food.

You can't discount them merely because they don't have the ability to produce top flight,made from scratch tortillas like La Flor or El Taco Rico.

An added bonus in eating Grade B Mexican food is that it makes you really appreciate it when you finally get your hands on the cuisine of an actual, dedicated, Mexican food chef.

So let's hear some endorsement for the level 2 Mexican in Austin: The Torchy's, The Izzoz and the Pueblo Viejos out there are working fairly hard, putting out average food and this is the thread for their acolytes to give them the recognition they deserve.

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Taco Mex
2611 Manor Rd, Austin, TX 78722

La Condesa
400-A W 2nd St, Austin, TX 78701

  1. b
    brentwood Feb 10, 2011 06:22 PM

    This seems like a particularly passive-aggressive theme for a post, if you ask me (and nobody did). I dunno if Amaya's is "middling talent-level" or not, but I leave happy every time.

    4 Replies
    1. re: brentwood
      TheBadWolf Feb 11, 2011 06:16 AM

      I would never consider Amaya's "middling". In fact that's the best Tex-Mex in town for me (I actually think that all Austin Tex-Mex is a step below San Antonio Tex-Mex). That's why I mentioned it as a place that "gets it right". I've never deducted points from any restaurant for not making their own tortillas. I would add points for homemade, but it's not a big offense when they aren't made onsite. I would guess a lot of people didn't grow up with homemade tortillas so I don't see why it's that big a bummer when a place doesn't have them.

      1. re: TheBadWolf
        d
        danny_w Feb 11, 2011 07:26 AM

        Just goes to show that different people have different tastes. To me Amaya is definitely "middling" or below, but to each his (or her) own. It would be a boring world indeed if we were all alike.

        1. re: danny_w
          s
          scrumptiouschef Feb 11, 2011 07:52 AM

          I would lean toward Amaya's being an A grade joint. I don't eat there often enough to weigh in fully but a recent carne guisada taco was nearly perfect with a top flight, scratch tortilla and pluperfect carne.

          If you can taste the effort the kitchen is putting into the food, scratch sauces, scratch tortillas, no fear of manteca, top level service-then you're A grade.

          As much as I love Los Altos, they're B grade. High B grade but nonetheless B grade.

          Most people could give a fig whether the tortilla is made from scratch but to me it's THE most important thing. It takes talent and effort to put them out and a busy joint will have a person who does nothing but make them-all day and all night.

          It's like frying your own totopos, 99 percent of places here just don't do it. But to be topflight you simply must.

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          Los Altos
          3301 N I H 35, Austin, TX

          1. re: scrumptiouschef
            s
            Steven Dilley Feb 11, 2011 08:03 AM

            I agree with the tortilla standard. Scratch tortillas are often emblematic of a restaurant's overall approach. As good an indicator as any.

            When making Mexican at home, the first thing I do is grab the lard and make some tortilla dough.

    2. c
      conquer Feb 9, 2011 07:56 AM

      I just went to Texican Cafe, good value for the food (half-price carne guisada enchiladas on Tues, 12.99 fajitas for two on Wed) - if you like things drenched in cheese (which I do). Lots of television sets everywhere inside, very post-modern.

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      Texican Cafe
      4141 S Capital of Texas Hwy, Austin, TX 78704

      1. slowcoooked Feb 9, 2011 06:11 AM

        I have to chime in for Angie's beef rib special (i think wednessday??) and puffy carnitas tacos - and their con carne chili enchiladas are simply old school delicious.

        another is mi madres, while the reviews of the proprietor's zandunga are equivocal, mi madres might be vastly underrated if for no other reason the migas taco, arguably the best and perhaps biggest, in town (especially if one adds the essential avocado)

        1 Reply
        1. re: slowcoooked
          tom in austin Feb 9, 2011 11:15 AM

          I agree w/ you on Angie's, and I think lots of their items are B-Grade, but that I'd put their carnitas tacos solidy on A-Grade territory. On a good day, the carnitas tacos and iced lemonade are one of the top lunches in Austin. Preferred over most the Tex-Mex choices that are breathlessly raved about on this board!

        2. tom in austin Feb 7, 2011 02:27 PM

          To me, this is La Reyna, Tamale House, Enchiladas Y Mas. All heavily discussed here already.

          11 Replies
          1. re: tom in austin
            d
            danny_w Feb 8, 2011 10:04 AM

            I will heartily second Enchiladas Y Mas. Their old fashioned cheese enchiladas (with onions) can't be beat!

            1. re: danny_w
              NWLarry Feb 9, 2011 06:43 AM

              The fajitas at enchiladas y mas are a revelation. They are somehow even more delicious after a night in the fridge. Sublime in fact.

              1. re: NWLarry
                d
                danny_w Feb 9, 2011 08:03 AM

                I have a coworker that thinks their fajitas are the best! I have never tried them myself, the cheese enchiladas always win out for me. I have also tried their migas and they are very good too.

                1. re: NWLarry
                  TheBadWolf Feb 10, 2011 08:35 AM

                  It amazes me that people rave about this place. It has some of the worst food, and particularly worst enchiladas I've ever had. Gristly and chewy pieces of meat in the sauce, a minimal amount of cheese in the enchilada, overly chili powdered sauce, and flavorless beans. I'm not criticizing, to each his own, I just find it interesting.

                  1. re: TheBadWolf
                    m
                    Madcap Feb 10, 2011 01:10 PM

                    "a minimal amount of cheese in the enchilada"

                    Surely you can't be talking about the same place. There is an artery clogging amount of cheese.

                    1. re: Madcap
                      d
                      danny_w Feb 10, 2011 02:09 PM

                      Exactly what I was thinking. Madcap must be thinking of someplace else entirely.

                      1. re: danny_w
                        dinaofdoom Feb 10, 2011 02:18 PM

                        you mean thebadwolf... :-)

                      2. re: Madcap
                        TheBadWolf Feb 10, 2011 02:28 PM

                        One and the same. My wife, prior to us meeting, has a similar story about EyM. I have similar enchilada complaints about Maudie's, El Mercado, and that horrible "Jorge Arredondo's" restaurant that was on 26th and I-35. I remember cutting through the enchilada with my fork only to be quickly greeted with the other side of the tortilla followed by plate. The "iffy" meat the used in their sauce was similar at each of these places too.

                        The only places in Austin that get it right (for me) are Amaya's, Vivo, Casa Chapala, Dart Bowl, and homemade.

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                        Vivo
                        2015 Manor Rd, Austin, TX 78722

                        Casa Chapala
                        3010 W Anderson Ln Ste D, Austin, TX 78757

                        El Mercado
                        1302 S 1st St, Austin, TX 78704

                        1. re: TheBadWolf
                          v
                          verily Feb 10, 2011 04:10 PM

                          Vivo makes good cheese enchiladas? I may have to give them a shot. I always go for the puffy tacos, which are ok, but not great. I guess that's B-grade...

                          Jorge's is my favorite B-grade Mexican joint. Kinda classic greasy Tex-Mex...nothing that will blow your mind, but falling into that comfort food niche.

                          1. re: TheBadWolf
                            d
                            danny_w Feb 10, 2011 07:24 PM

                            I agree totally about El Mercado, but I don't know how anyone could ever say that the cheese enchiladas at Enchiladas Y Mas have anything even close to "a minimal amount of cheese". They are stuffed full to overflowing and with a mound of cheese on top!

                            -----
                            El Mercado
                            1302 S 1st St, Austin, TX 78704

                            1. re: danny_w
                              c
                              cstrombe Feb 11, 2011 05:59 AM

                              There is no shortage of cheese *on* the enchiladas (pix of cheese enchilada plate here: http://auslunch.com/restaurants/Enchi...), but I agree with badwolf's assessment--the cheese enchilada plate at EyM is just not very good in my opinion. Too sloppy, too much glop, not enough flavor.

                2. c
                  chrisdds98 Feb 7, 2011 01:04 PM

                  a fast cheap and decent meal can always be had at taco cabana. I believe the tortillas are fresh and they have the best processed tres leches I've ever had (scoop out the top half of the cake and the whip cream and enjoy the cake saturated with condensed milk).

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: chrisdds98
                    s
                    scrumptiouschef Feb 7, 2011 01:35 PM

                    I think Taco Cabana is better than a lot of celebrated mom n pop restaurants around town.

                    It'd been a coon's age since I'd been in one til a few weeks ago and I thought the carne guisada was top notch plus they served it on a homemade tortilla.

                    Another B-grade that's good is Taqueria Arandas [multiple locations]

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

                  2. amysuehere Feb 7, 2011 11:29 AM

                    My favorite B-grade right now is Mi Casa on Research and Ohlen Mill. Weekday lunch prices can't be beat, food (for the price) is always good, and service is friendly and fast. I'm going to miss not being right next door.

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: amysuehere
                      d
                      danny_w Feb 8, 2011 10:03 AM

                      I had heard good things about Mi Casa, so I ate there today and it was OK but nothing special. I used "nab the deal" coupon and got the combo #2 (cheese enchilada, crispy taco, and guacamole). The best thing about the meal was the grated cheese on the taco and the $5.27 price after the coupon. I may go back for the lunch specials but Mi Casa will not be my first choice.

                      1. re: danny_w
                        amysuehere Feb 9, 2011 09:54 AM

                        Again, he asked for "B grade", which I think Mi Casa fits the bill.

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