Exploring Maudie's Menu
When Maudie's is discussed, it is usually in the context of their enchiladas -- the classic gringo Tex-Mex, gloopy-cheesed, covered in chili con carne and sprinkled with raw, diced onions. Opinions vary about this sort of cuisine, but even fans of it tend to agree that Maudie's doesn't put up Austin's best attempt. One is more likely to be directed to any number of places for these sorts of enchiladas: Enchiladas Y Mas, Dart Bowl, Jorge's, El Gallo, La Reyna, El Patio, possibly even Tamale House, among many others. Even amongst Austin or Texan Tex-Mex chains, like Chuy's, Trudy's, and Pappasito's, it cannot be said that Maudie's is winning the hound's war.
Then I had a realization: what if we're doing this wrong? What if what Maudie's is good at something outside of what we all consider their traditional wheelhouse? My favorite items at Chuy's aren't Mexican. Same with Trudy's. And I never need to eat at Pappasito's again, except I (embarrassedly) confess that I adore their fajitas.
With this bolt from the blue, I decided to test Maudie's more traditional offerings: tacos. One Tex-Mex crispy beef taco as a control of sorts, and then three traditional tacos. Here is what I found.
* Crispy beef taco
Accompanied by fresh lettuce, tomato, adorned with shredded american cheese, heavily loaded with a spiced beef cooked very nicely -- definitely not overcooked, juicy but not too wet. I was surprised that this spiced beef wasn't insipid; I suppose my expectations were low. The taco shell was crisp and not slightly stale (impressive, given its origin, see below). Frankly, if you like this sort of taco, this is close to the ideal of american gringo crispy beef tacos. This is what Taco Bell, Del Taco, Taco Villa, et al are advertising and never deliver.
I don't usually eat crispy beef tacos, but in my limited experience, I have to admit that Maudie's variant is above average. If you have to eat at Maudie's and you're a fan of the cuisine, I think this taco won't piss you off.
* Tacos al pastor (corn tortilla)
I doubt the pastor is made on a trompo, but I wouldn't doubt that it is marinated for a couple days before being fry chopped. One or two pieces tough or stringy, most moist and tender. Decent flavor but far from Austin al pastor superstars (Rosita's, El Meson), vaguely reminiscent of Curra's forgettable al pastor. Cilantro and diced onion on the side, very fresh; lime slice on the side as well. They went heavy on the diced pineapple; too much for me, requiring minor taco surgery. I suppose the opposite problem (too little) is worse.
The taco came double-wrapped in corn tortillas as is the norm and the serving is generous: there was enough pork y pineapple that one could take the outer corn tortilla off and easily make a second taco, and the pork isn't greasy enough to disintegrate the inner tortilla.
I was taken aback by the corn tortilla, as it was surprisingly unoffensive. It won't be confused with El Meson anytime soon, but not bad for what I was at that point assuming store-bought.
In the final score, better than average for Austin Mexican restaurants, although far below a handful of revered locations, and firmly behind a couple dozen more non-deific joints. About tied with Curra's, and admittedly better than my beloved Mi Ranchito. (Their pastor is surprisingly weak, as is their chorizo.)
* Carnitas (corn tortilla)
This was a good mix of chewy and crispy, texture was good. Maybe not my ideal, but it might be yours, carnitas consistency preferences are intensely personal. The porky-ness of the carnitas is there, and enjoyably subtle. Somehow, the pork is not as succulent as it should be. There is some greasiness, but overall this is less greasy than the average carnitas trailer taco. It came with the side of cilantro, diced onion, and lime slice. These were all fresh. Like the pastor, it came double-wrapped, same corn tortilla, which meant it was better than I was expecting.
The carnitas was decent. I was surprised. Certainly miles away from Mi Ranchito and Angie's, but a little better than numerous trailers that inexplicably half-ass this staple. That being said, at least a dozen places in Austin do a much better job.
* Carne guisada (flour tortilla)
Can a carne guisada be dry? There was plenty of stew, but the beef broke apart to reveal soft, dry beef. The carne guisasa itself is composed of stewed beef, green peppers, trace onions, black pepper, and stew broth.
How can beef be tender-yet-dry-yet-soaking-in-stew? I don't know what sort of molecular gastronomy is required -- some El Bulli wizard is probably in the back of Maudie's right now with Richard Blais, diabolically microwaving liquid nitrogen while shooting it with a laser, wringing their hands together and cackling something about finally making something that is simultaneously wet and dry.
However they did it, they did it. They shouldn't have. Additionally, the tortilla was dry. Now, I've had many worse packaged flour tortillas; this hadn't achieved leathery status as of yet, but it was definitely heading into that toughness that flour tortillas inexorably migrate towards every moment of their lives after they're made. It came with diced onions and tomatoes on the side, as well as cilantro. Again, the veggies were fresh.
Final assessment: I wouldn't want to be the one to tell the cooks, but i've had much better at Taco Cabana. If you're a fan of this dish, avoid.
* Tortilla origins
After I was done eating, I grilled a waiter about the tortilla suppliers. The corn tortillas are shipped from a lady (or a company named after a lady) in San Antonio, every other day, but he didn't remember her name. Sysco delivers the flour and crispy taco shells.
* Maudie's aggregate GPA
I sort of wish I hadn't done this. Frankly, I wasted a glorious Sunday morning dining opportunity by eating four tacos at Maudie's and received no great insight. Unless I want to take a Roman approach, I can't get that back, and none of the tacos blew my hair back. Most of the taco joints I patronize aren't open on Sunday, and it was better than McDonald's or Taco Cabana. I score Maudie's below Chuy's, Trudy's, and Pappasito's. I like it more than local chains El Mercado and Serrano's, whatever that means. Final score: not worth it.
9911 Brodie Ln, Austin, TX 78748
When I first moved to austin 10 years ago I used to go to maudies with some other folks who really liked it. I always got migas, and I think that is the only thing I have eaten there. I would agree that chuy's and trudy's are 'better', depending on what you get. Never been to El Mercado, and Serrano's is forgettable.
Also, I assume when you mention El Meson, you are talking about the oriignal location, not the S Lamar, correct?
5808 Burleson Rd, Austin, TX 78744
1302 S 1st St, Austin, TX 78704
The only thing at Maudie's I can stomach is their Strait Plate with no sides. 3 beef enchiladas, chili gravy, and 2 eggs on top. It's probably the best thing on the menu. I used to really like their fish tacos which were grilled fillets in a chipotle cream sauce until I realized the sauce is to cover up the stanky old fish.
Maudie's chicken fajitas have been my favorite in town for a while. I love that they give you a generous serving of the sauteed onions, peppers (green bell and jalapeno), and tomatoes. Sometimes I nix the chicken and go veggie all the way, it's that good. But when I'm in the mood for chicken, it's always juicy and flavorful--not just a grilled and sliced chicken breast. I've never gotten a tobacco-y batch, so I can't help out with identifying what seasoning (or other item) caused that experience.
And I love their queso. It's totally the melted mix of who knows what tex-mex cheese(s), but it's perfectly garlicy and delicious. I don't stray from those two items (except to get a margarita), and I always go home happy.
To mangle Billy S, I come here not to bury Maudie's but to praise Habanero Cafe. I have no problem with Maudie's - I like the Josie plate. But for the best fajitas in town, give Habanero Cafe on Oltorf (near S 1st) a try. They cook them over a real mesquite flame - spicy, smoky & tender.
Mmmm... I don't care what anyone says, I love me some Maudie's. Of course, I was also raised to appreciate El Chico and On the Boarder restaurants haha. But in all seriousness, I do consider myself a "foodie" and I'd like to think that my standards for food are a notch above the majority. What exactly is it about Maudie's enchilada's that you find so offensive? I suppose if you just don't like the typical Tex-Mex style of enchilada rather than authentic Mexican recipes then I could see why you'd be disappointed. However, I do have to agree with you about the carne guisada - how the heck can stewed meat be dry?! Well, it is - reminded me of gourmet dog food to be honest. But seriously, everything else I've ever eaten there has been divine. I understand that American yellow cheese is an atrocity in almost all other applications, but it does have its place in the world of Tex-Mex and its place is at Maudies... I won't touch queso anywhere else, for real. To be fair, I've only ever eaten at the N. Lamar location, so I'm not sure how the other locations measure up. I would highly recommend Rockin' Ruthann's tender pulled chicken burritos covered in chile con carne sauce. But no, don't go looking for authentic Mexican fare here. That's what Cheko's or Aranda's is for. However, comparing Maudie's to El Mercado or Serrano's (both of which are downright inedible in my opinion)? Well, that's just a travesty.
El Chico Restaurant
1701 E Central Texas Expy, Killeen, TX 76541
2129 E 7th St, Austin, TX 78702
1302 S 1st St, Austin, TX 78704
1304 W Koenig Ln, Austin, TX 78756
I'm a fan of all forms of deliciousness, including gloopy gringo Tex-Mex enchiladas. I'm sorry if I gave an impression otherwise. My comments were a reference to a recent series of posts in an enchilada thread trashing Maudie's. Still, I don't find Maudie's to be the best in class for that cuisine, more middle-of-the-pack. I do put it above Serrano's and El Mercado.
I've never been to the location you're touting; Clarksville, S. Lamar, and Brodie are the spots I've hit. Perhaps you've found the real Maudie's secret: go to the N. Lamar location!
re: tom in austin
I have always enjoyed Maudie's and wondered why it was so disliked in general. But I go to the N. Lamar location only, so maybe this is the reason. I stick to the green chilaquiles, with two fried eggs over medium, the pete's tacos, cheese enchiladas, tamales el jefe plate and rockin' ruthann's. The flour tortillas leave much to be desired. The garlicky salsa and thin crispy chips also float my boat. To each his own, which is the beauty of the whole thing.
I had a terrible experience a few years ago with their fajitas. We ordered them takeout, and I bit into a wad of something that tasted for all the world like chewing tobacco. Does anyone who eats from Maudie's semi-regularly know of any seasoning they might use that could account for this? I haven't been brave enough to try them since then.
Nice post. I think your ranking lines up pretty well with my experience. My office's lunch crew insists on going there every so often and I've learned to stick with the fajitas or the migas. I like that they give you a lot peppers with the fajitas. The migas are basic but the chorizo and queso give them a nice flavor.
Ha nice post. "...diabolically microwaving liquid nitrogen while shooting it with a laser..." that's priceless. Still haven't made it to Maudie's. I really don't like El Mercado for what that's worth. Can't get over the carnitas tacos at Angie's they are still getting all my TexMex calories, with the fresh thick chips and a quart or so of their salsa, sigh.