Tex-Mex Catering: Matt's, Chuy's, Santa-Rita...Maudies?
Hey yal! Just returned from a great 4-day trip to your fair city to plan our Sept. wedding. Despite the chilly temps, the Austin vibe was intoxicating and we can't wait to return!
Sadly, we were unable to sample any of the tex-mex spots we're contemplating for our offsite "meet and greet" dinner for 100 or so of our guests. I've searched the boards and the 2007 Fearless Critic Austin Guide has been helpful but, as always, your thoughts would be much appreciated!
All of these are more or less in the $9-$13/person range, which makes them much more hard to nail down. There will be a couple foodies, but I'm looking for an overall crowd-pleaser that can handle being driven and set-up, etc. Thanks!
- Matt's El Rancho: Per reviews, seems to be an average spot. Their $/person is the highest on my list. Worth it?
- Chuy's: Pick-up only. I'm thinking I should eliminate this solely on the basis of what it will look like after sitting in a car for 15 minutes...any to-go Chuys experiences for large crowds?
- Santa-Rita: Seems a bit corporate. Who's had their enchiladas?
- Maudies: A much-debated spot, I had eliminated it after reading a couple bad reviews, but the ease of the Catering section on their site makes me think they know what they're doing. Are their enchiladas really the gooey mess they've been referred to here?
- Habernero: Awaiting a catering menu...I'll drool over talk of their fajitas 'til then.
I can't speak to the catering and logistical side, but with respect to food, Habanero is the best of the bunch. Fresher flavors, less of a reliance on melted, processed cheese, above average salsa, rice, and beans, and very good grilled items. The others are all pretty similar to one another.
Habanero is great. It's definitely more authentic than the others, as you stated.
I love Matt's El Rancho... sure, it's definitely not authentic in the Mexican sense, but to me it's authentically Tex-Mex. A lot of friends of mine think Maudie's is great, but I happen to find it gross. It's just my opinion though.
You've also got several options in town that serve some of the Tex-Mex classics but also serve some more authentic, interior, whatever you wanna call it Mexican food. Polvos, Sazon and Curra's come to mind. Maybe they're worth a look.
Given the type of Tex-Mex restaurant you're listing, my advice would be one of the following locations. Take w/ a major grain of salt, as obviously catering is not the same as dining in, and I've never catered from any of these locations. I've put them vaguely in order of my personal preference for their take on Tex-Mex. They are not in order of personal preference overall. For completeness sake, I've also included all the candidates you named. (Note: if you're wanting other Mexican styles, I'd order them differently.)
* Habanero Cafe
* El Meson on Burleson
* Rosita's Al Pastor
* El Chile
* Enchiladas Y Mas
* Matt's El Rancho
* Mi Madre's
* Santa Rita
* Taco Cabana
* El Mercado
* Tres Amigos
* El Arroyo
I'm sure I'm missing many, and I purposely left out trailers/tiny places that I don't think could accommodate an order like yours.
re: tom in austin
not trying tom muddy the water, but anyway/
Last week i tried Flores restaurant at the "Y" in Oak Hill for the first time. I had standard Tex-Mex fare, chicken enchiladas with chipotle sauce, rice and refried beans. But, i was pleasantly surprised. It tasted good, service was better than good. I think i'll go back and explore more of the menu.
Of course, i have no idea about the catering.
Second the vote for Habanero qualitatively.
In terms of logistics, have several times done the "catering" option with Chuy's and it travels and sits quite well. Good basic food- and a very solid option. If you want that little extra bit of greatness though, I say go with Habanero- whatever the logistics may be, which I do not know.
I like Matt's El Rancho and Maudie's too- but only for specific things and for the same kind of occasion that would bring me to Hula Hut. Hearty food- but if you look into details like the cuts of meat, you will not be happy.
The Pappasito's here in Austin is quite excellent. I have never figured out how all that worked- but after the passing of the founders the family split up the various chains and even specific restaurants within each chain. Some are great and some suck. The Pappasito's in Austin is one of the best remaining of the Tex-Mex line, along with Little Pappasito's on Richmond in Houston,
i would not recommend chuy's.
the past few years, it's become really chain-y and the quality took a nosedive.
a lot of the ingredients are pre-made (tortillas, shredded cheese, etc.).
matt's is kind of an old skool holdover type place, which some people could really like.
don't know enough about santa-rita.
maudie's is probably your runner up, with habanero as your top pick.