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New Latin American Bistro in my north central hood - Al Sur

This little joint just opened a few months ago and has gotten 5 star reviews on yelp, so we gave it a shot. We had the nicest empanadas (flaky-fest light crust), hot, melt in your mouth ground beef filled deliciousness to start. These are probably the best in town. The papas are half moon shaped and thin, also light, and are 75 cents, WHAT? delicious with a chipotle dip. Then come the entrees. I ordered the beef filet, and she the shrimp scampi. My 8 or so ounce 14 dollar steak was cooked perfectly med well, and was laden with an herby lovely sauce that was light and perfect. As good a steak as I've had for over twice that price in this town. The lady's shrimp were in a garlicky sauce of awesomeness and accompanied with a beautiful side of cilantro rice, as another reviewer (yelp) wrote (WIN). we also both had grilled squash that hit the spot as sides. This place is brilliant, economical, and I'm hopeful people will frequent it. The several other 5 stars on yelp are legit. The owner, Boris, is Honduran and was obviously interested and succeeded in selling us a home cooked latin american meal. 12 others reviewed on yelp.

Next to Cap City Comedy Club, Southbound Research Blvd after Ohlen, before Lamar.

Highly recommended. Surprised there's no chow post yet.

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  1. Thanks for the review, slowcooked. This has been on my to-try list for a while. Are they opened for weekday lunch? This is the old Drakulas location, right?

    The 183/Lamar intersection is becoming awesome with Al Sur, Tam's, and Southern Hospitality so close (we won't subtract points for Kim Phung)

    1 Reply
    1. re: Carter B.

      Yep Carter, lunch and dinner 11 am to 10 pm every day except Sunday, the old Drakula location. And yes let's hope the excitement translates to longevity for these fine new restaurants. Since I took it home to share, i didn't report, but the caramel crepe was also a great dish. A quite nice and light crepe with a not too overly heavy caramel and pecan sauce. + ice cream.

      -----
      Drakula
      8120 Research Blvd Ste 104, Austin, TX 78758

    2. cant wait to try as i work near there

      1. On Slowcooked'd rec, my wife and I tried Al Sur this Saturday. Overall, it was a good experience, but I can't give it the full endorsement.

        It was pretty clear that they were short staffed that night, but to their credit, the staff on hand hustled to take care of their customers. I think they even had a friend come in to help out. The chef himself even came out to take our order and explain some menu items. You can tell they really care.

        The ambiance of the place is somehow less than an elementary school cafeteria. The fluourescent lights flicker on and off, the walls are mostly bare white, the tile is loud, and the tables and chairs are probably school surplus. It's not the place for a romantic night out.

        But the food was mostly a success. Oddly, though, the lunch menu had several intriguing options that are absent from the dinner menu, which is limited to (I believe) 5 entree options. We also didn't see the 75 cent papas that slowcooked mentioned listed anywhere.

        We had chicken empanadas (they were out of the beef) which were light, flaky, and came with a nice chimchurri sauce. My wife had the shrimp in butter garlic sauce which was a little basic for her tastes - literally, a few shrimp swimming in a large bowl of melted garlic and butter. The shrimp could have stood for searing or seasoning. The rice side dish was indeed tasty.

        I had the chipotle quarter-chicken Al Sur. Like rotisserie chicken but with a nice, smokey chipotle seared in. And served with the absolutely richest, creamiest whipped potatoes I've ever had. The various comfort food places in town should take note of this dish, because Al Sur has them beat. The problem with this dish is it's served floating in almost a quarter inch of au jus. Combined with the butter knife offered on the table, it was nearly impossible to eat this meal in a dignified, non-sloppy manner. Even with a steak knife it would not have been possible.

        Half-liter bottles of mexican coke for $1.50 is a nice touch, too.

        Overall, a good meal, with things to work on, but worth a try if you like general central american cuisine.

        1. I agree with heyzeus212 about the rather spartan interior. This is not the joint you bring your significant other to for impress points on style. And as with other restaurants on the one way sides of texas highways, the necessity to be driving in one direction to eat here sadly I think cuts down on customer frequency. I've been here thrice, and the beef fillet has been great each time. I also had the chipotle chick - not bad, plenty delish, maybe 3.5 stars. Back to the beef, Is it Austin Land and Cattle Medium rare good? All-friggin' most when considering it's less than half the price. I give that fillet a 5 star for value / delish factor. That kitchen nailed that steak 2/2 times for me. I wonder how y'all are finding that dish??

          4 Replies
          1. re: slowcoooked

            I posted my review on Yelp, and the owner of Al Sur responded with a thoughtful note saying that the interior will soon be remodeled and that he was working with his chef on some of the things I mentioned. I'll need to go back there to try the fillet.

            1. re: heyzeus212

              I hope it's as good as mine (med rare) was. a real bargain. and I'll have to check on those papas next time I'm there. I'm sure I didn't dream them up, we ate them :--)

              1. re: slowcoooked

                We ate there tonight. Ceviche was very good. Three tostadas with a portion of nice white fish ceviche and lots of avocado. The chicken empanadas rocked. Shredded chicken red with I suppose adobo. The lady said they make a sandwich with the same chicken. Liked the steak too especially for 15 dollars. Not alot of customers at 545 although a few came in as we were leaving. Crepes were just okay. The strudel was actually more of an empanada, although round. Great apple flavor. Nice ice ceam too. Coffee disappointed.

                1. re: BTAustin

                  I fell in love with their cuban sandwich and wanted to return the next day to get it again. We also had an interesting potato/hominy dish with an amazing sauce. The salsa is also stellar. Come on Crestview neighbors, let's not lose this gem like we lost Fuego's!

          2. I've been to lunch at Al Sur twice in the last few weeks with a group of co-workers, and found it well worth the time and (very reasonable) money.

            Service was a little on the slow side both times, despite the restaurant being relatively empty, but nothing extreme. The sopa de camaron seemed very popular with my peers (tons of shrimp, I'm told), as did the empanadas; as a vegetarian, my options were quite limited, but the sandwich vegetariano managed the remarkable task of making eggplant not just palatable, but downright tasty. The fried plantains were the only real disappointment, without quite as much plantain flavor as I was hoping. Portion sizes were all generous.

            Definitely worth a shot if the menu appeals even slightly. Hope it lasts--good food and very friendly staff, and I'm looking forward to going back.

            (As an aside--can anyone speak to the quality of their horchatas? I found it tasty but definitely on the sweet side... but I have no idea how an horchata is SUPPOSED to taste, so as far as I know, it may have been perfect.)

            1. I consumed with vigor their large cuban sandwich last night and the crepe caramel (simple and great). The bread was great, the pickles thick, the ham better than mere oscar meyer lunchmeat, and the pork scrumptious. someone chime in if you've had this and disagree that it's the best cuban in town (and of course, then what is ??). I enjoy the version at Cuban Sandwich Cafe, but this blew that relatively miniscule sammie away.

              To be fair and temper my oft over the top enthusiasm for the NACA hood joints, wife and I got the steaks the other night again, and both were way undercooked. They fixed hers to medium, I got mostly thru my extra rare offering, but it wasn't spot on as the first time. There's this flavor beef can get that isn't exactly spoiled, but when it turns a tad gray on the outside and starts to have a bit of an off smell / taste. Mine had that dank flavor in several bites and I couldn't finish it. too bad, maybe an off night. Best part was the cook himself came out to apologize for the underdone meat even though the owner had just left. such good folk. the chicken empanadas were fantastic and flakey as could be.

              1. I got Yelp'd here pretty bad a couple of months ago. Looking to try someplace new, I came across rave reviews of what seemed like a promising Latin hole in the wall.

                What I found was myself and my companion being the only diners on a weekend night-not good. Empanada's were bland and oily, my churrasco steak was nearly inedible, and my friends fish dish merely rose to average. Which seemed great in the context of everything else.
                Avoid at all costs.

                2 Replies
                1. re: NWLarry

                  I think a lack of business has hurt the quality here. The empenadas were really really great a few months ago, as was the cuban. return visits have seen a decline in quality. bummer.

                  1. re: NWLarry

                    The one time I went I had a simular experience with the empanadas.