I don’t usually do restaurant reviews here on this blog, but so many people come to town and ask me for advice on where to eat. Since most of my suggestions are Mexican and the Austin Food Blogger Alliance, a group I’ve been a part of since it started, is launching their 2015 city guide, I thought I’d jump in with my suggestions on where to eat in the Mexican realm. See the full 2015 list for all cuisines here.
I moved to Austin 11 years ago and learned about eating my way through our fine city from a couple of native Austinites. I feel strongly about the Mexican food we consume. In fact, I have sparred with and agreed to disagree with a friend (another native Austinite) on the merits of Tex Mex. (You won’t find the Tex Mex genre in my list below, with the exception of Maria’s.)
I’m sharing with you the top spots I send people who visit from out of town, and where we visit periodically for a Mexican fix. My friend Hector chimed in with his favorites to round out the list. You can also hop over to Lisa’s city guide post on breakfast tacos over at Full & Content.
1. Curra’s Grill
I love Curra’s for the following reasons: avocado margaritas, avocado margaritas, avocado margaritas, enchiladas Chiapas, brunch tacos with Oaxaca coffee (cinnamon and vanilla infused), oh, did I mention they have AVOCADO MARGARITAS? This beverage is one part milkshake, one part delicious grown up beverage and one part health drink. Address: 614 E Oltorf St. Austin, Texas 78704 | Hours: 7:00am-10:00pm every day
2. Taco More
This is my go-to for real Mex (like from Mexico mex). Get the quesadilla with cabrito, but get it dorada-style. I know, you scoff at quesadillas, but trust me. We usually order 3 and split between the two of us, which is just about perfect after you’ve consumed a basket of chips with the delicious (and spicy!) salsa menagerie at the salsa bar. Address: 2015 E Riverside #3, Austin, TX 78741 | Hours: 7:00am-11:00pm every day
3. Julio’s Cafe
Friendly, family-owned and run. I always get nachos with chicken (it’s rotisserie cooked in house), and I think these are the best nachos in town. I used to love the beef chalupa before flour tortillas left my diet. | Address: 4230 Duval St., Austin, TX 78751 | Hours: Mon-Sat 8:30am-9:00pm, Sun 8:30am-2:00pm
I could bathe in the roasted salsa at the salsa bar (YOU GUYS, it’s so good) and the fresh red salsa is also tasty. My mainstays, enchiladas Dona Clara or the flautas, and, well portions in general, here are big and oozy, which edges this restaurant closer to Tex than Mex in my book, but the salsa makes up for any heaviness you probably shouldn’t have eaten. | Address: 2004 S 1st St, Austin, TX 78704 | Hours: 7:00am-11:00pm every day
There’s a whole other city guide post about tacos (see link to Full & Content above), but I can’t not put Tacodeli on my list. They do a lot more than tacos, but I rarely get anything but tacos when we go. I’m a frontera fundido girl plus usually another 3-ingredient assemblage of taco. Do not let a breakfast go by that you have not consumed a taco containing their Mexican mashed potatoes. | Address: (multiple locations, see website) | Hours: Weekdays 7:00am-3:00pm (Breakfast 7–11am & Lunch 11am–3pm), Weekends 7:00am-3:00pm (Breakfast all day & Lunch 11am–3pm)
Another layer of opportunity for your chances of authentic Mexican fare in Austin has been made possible by my friend Hector. He’s legit (actually from Mexico City). Check out his recs below!
6. Rosita’s Al Pastor
Real Tacos al Pastor (capitalized) are hard to find in Austin, as they should ALWAYS be made with a tromp, which is like a shawarma but with achiote and pineapple marinated pork. Rosita’s has you covered. Order 5 tacos and enjoy with a good horchata. They have other traditional dishes like gringas, gorditas and tortas, which I recommend also. Don’t get fooled by the food truck in the street, the good Tacos al Pastor are inside the strip mall. | Address: 1911 E. Riverside Dr, Austin TX 78798 | Hours: 8:00am-5:00pm every day
7. La Fruta Feliz
This translates to “The Happy Fruit” and I’m not entirely certain if fruits have feelings but you’ll certainly be pleased when coming here. They have a good assortment of jugos (juices) freshly made that will make your taste buds dance with joy. Their tortillas are housemade and their salsas are really good. They have tacos with odd cuts (tripa, lengua) in case you want to explore. Their weekend menu includes delicious menudo and barbacoa de chivo, which are a must. This is a good place to cure a hangover. There. I said it! | Address: 3124 Manor Rd, Austin TX 78723 | Hours: Mon-Fri 7:00am-8:00pm, Sat 6:30am-8pm, Sun 6:30am-6:00pm
8. El Naranjo
If you want to get something a bit more fancy and raise your pinky while eating, this is your place. Chef Iliana de la Vega cooks interior Oaxacan food with great quality and attention to detail. Her chiles rellenos are one of my favorites in the city and her mole selection is definitely something you must try. I might have a crush on her cooking abilities. | Address: 85 Rainey Street, Austin TX, 78701 | Hours: Tue-Sat 5:30-10:00pm, Sun 11:00am-2:00pm
About Hector: Hector Octavio is a nice guy that misses at times the traditional Mexican dishes he grew up with back in Mexico City. A self-professed recovering taco snob, he tries to find places where he can refill his Mexicanity.
Other honorable mentions (from Kate):
- Fonda San Miguel: Interior Mexican cuisine, pricier for entrees, but an Austin Mexican food scene stronghold no doubt | Address: 2330 W. North Loop, Austin TX | Hours: Mon-Thurs 5:30-9:30pm, Fri-Sat 5:30-10:30pm, Sun 11:00am-2:00pm
- Maria’s Taco Express: MIGAS (tacos or just a plate) and Sunday hippie church (gospel brunch) are the exception to the Tex Mex ban in my book | Address: 2529 South Lamar Boulevard, Austin, TX 78704 | Hours: Mon 7:00am–3:00pm, Tues–Fri 7:00am–9:00pm, Sat 8:00am–9:00pm, Sun 9:00am–4:00pm
p.s. I’m still lamenting the loss of Las Manitas in 2008.