Recipe File: National Nacho Day Edition

How about a really slow golf clap for very long overdue Recipe File post? Don’t get too excited as this is not going to be any Top Chef-esque masterpiece but instead a simple ode to my favorite Tex-Mex appa-teaser in honor of National Nacho Day. Sure, I could go the distance and fry my own beans and chips, but frankly when these crowd pleasers show up on one of my menus, its because I am usually searching for a simple starter to warm up for a more complicated main course. And, since it is also Election Day, I will confess if I were casting my ballot for the best nacho in town, it would be the bean and cheese nachos from Matt’s El Rancho. Enjoy!

Nachos

Bean and Cheese Nachos w/Peppers & Onions Continue reading Recipe File: National Nacho Day Edition

Bomb Taco Truck

Keeping with this week’s Cinco de Mayo theme, it is only fitting to share about a recently acquired addiction to Bomb Taco Truck. Although I’ll admit to sampling a late night taco or two from the truck prior, my true appreciation for these tacos didn’t form until I acted on the advice of a fellow customer and ordered out of my comfort zone. While patronizing the fantastic White Horse Bar on Austin’s East Side, my friends and I joined fellow revelers in line to order a late dinner off the truck’s laundry list of options. It was there I noticed a woman braving the Saturday night bar scene solely for the purpose of Bomb Tacos to go. Considering Austin has no shortage of decent tacos in much easier to manage locations, I had to ask what drew her to the stand. Clearly she must live a stone’s throw away, but no she actually braved the hoop jumping of parking, cover charges, and crowds. We pressed for recommendations of her favorites and ordered accordingly. Acting on her advice, we ordered a few beef and vegetarian tacos along with a mini taco sampler plate. What we received were high quality tacos far surpassing their $3 price tag. The veggie tacos were fresh and flavorful enough to please herbivores and carnivores alike. My Campenchana taco was filled with tender beef, sweet pineapple, grilled onions, and generously topped with cheese. The mini taco plate wasn’t exactly a plate of tiny tacos, but instead a hearty plate of Al Pastor, cheese, and avocado big enough to fill five tacos. Confusion aside, it still did the trick. Overall, Bomb Tacos was, well, the bomb. 

 

Bomb Taco - $3

Bomb Taco Truck has two location:

White Horse Bar. 500 Comal Street, Austin, Texas 78702.

Lustre Pearl Bar. Rainey Street, Austin, Texas 78701.

Continue reading Bomb Taco Truck

Dish of the Day: La Condesa

In honor of this weekend’s Cinco de Mayo Fiesta, today’s featured dish of the day is Mexican Street Corn from La Condesa.

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Indulgent and approachable, La Condesa’s version of the much loved classic Mexican street food is pitch perfect. For only $4 a pop, this dish is also budget-friendly bright spot on the Mexican restaurant’s otherwise high-end menu. Each fresh ear of corn is grilled until charred and tender before being painted with mayo. The corn is then rolled in a generous layer of salty queso cojito and dusted with dried chili arbol powder for a kick of spice. Once drenched in lime juice, it is hard to beat. Between the mayo and cheese, this dish is certainly more filling than an average corn on the cob, making it an even bigger bang for the buck. Both messy and addictive, this is one dish I’d skip on a first date or business lunch to avoid an inevitable dining disaster. It is one menu item best enjoyed with friends on La Condesa’s relaxing patio, house specialty cocktail in hand.

As for what to drink….

Continue reading Dish of the Day: La Condesa

Saturday Brunch @ Papi Tino’s

Saturdays are now significantly more delicious as Papi Tino’s has added an extra day of brunch. Nurse yourself back to feeling like a weekend warrior with $2 tacos and $5 drink specials from 11am- 4pm this Saturday, January 14. Naturally, Papi Tino’s doesn’t just serve an old plain Jane taco combination. Choose from options such as Fish Pastor, Pollo Pibil, Alambre con Queso, and Papas con Chorizo. As noted here, Papi Tino’s is one of the best new additions to Austin’s dining scene from its well executed dishes to its charming atmosphere. Enchiladas topped with sauces such as verde . . . → Read More: Saturday Brunch @ Papi Tino’s

El Meson Brunch

Persuading a group of girls to branch out from the usual list of Mexican brunch spots is no easy feat. There are few meals which evoke strong opinions like Mexican recovery brunches among my friends, and in general, my quest to try somewhere new usually fails. When recovering and reviving after a night on the town, it seems people want a queso they trust. However, after pleading my case and putting my foodie credibility on the table, I managed to convince my friends to try out El Meson. Immediately following a feeling of gratification came overwhelming fretfulness that lunch wouldn’t live up to the hype, but thankfully this trip to El Meson proved to be as satisfying as the first foray.

              Continue reading about El Meson [expand title=Here] Initial quizzical glances received after pulling up into the parking lot shared with Horseshoe Lounge were squelched after walking into the brightly decorated space. Service started a bit slow, mostly because our extremely hard working and gracious waiter was working the entire restaurant while dually playing bartender. However, no one seemed to notice as soon as the first round of margaritas was delivered. As before, the margaritas were top notch, especially the mango margarita with chili lime salt. The first real test came with the queso gringo. El Meson’s winning interpretation of the Tex-Mex classic uses Monterrey jack cheese paired with freshly made chips.  

                Last visit I only scratched the surface of the Mex-Mex restaurant, and upon returning, I made sure to order a traditional dish to delve a bit deeper into El Meson’s kitchen. My chicken mole verde was perfection. The light and tender chicken topped with a creamy, savory mole sauce was full of depth and flavor from fresh herbs, ground pepitas and just a hint of tomatillo spice. It was a superb translation of the classic interior Mexican plate. A huge portion size allowed me to leave with leftovers, and the mole sauce only got better as the flavors melded together further. Most of my friends ordered a variety of brunch items, and seemingly everyone appeared satisfied with their orders. Of those I sampled, the nopalitos con huevos (cactus with eggs) was a standout, followed by a huevos ranchero plate featuring a ranchero sauce which tasted as if it had been made to order. The only low note was the botanas plate, which one friend ordered accidently after confusing it for a different type of dish. She still enjoyed it, but most likely not enough to order again. After paying our very reasonable bill, I left with my credibility intact and a table full of El Meson converts. Another meal in the win category for El Meson! [/expand]

El Meson’s menu features mainly interior Mexican classics priced between $6-$8. There are several Tex-Mex options with a Mex-Mex twist available as well, but authentic, traditional dishes is where El Meson excels.

 

Chicken Mole Verde

I could eat this breakfast, lunch or dinner.

Mango Marg on the rocks

El Meson. 2038 South Lamar Boulevard, Austin – (512) 442-4441. www.elmeson.net

Continue reading El Meson Brunch

Papi Tino’s Mexican Cantina

                After stumbling upon Papi Tino’s, it was love at first sight. Diners visiting the restored east side home turned restaurant are greeted with a serene open lawn speckled with pink flower adorned tables under a canopy of trees. Even on the hottest of days it is hard not to be completely enamored with Papi Tino’s quaint, romantic outdoor setting. We took a walk up the staircase leading inside, past two musicians providing the perfect brunch soundtrack, and were greeted by a friendly host who delivered the bad news that the indoor seating was reserved for a private party. After being assured of ample misters and plenty of cold drink offerings, outside it was. Remarkably, the heat was never an issue throughout the entire meal, despite the 107 degree temperature, thanks in part to the aforementioned misters, drinks, and refreshing menu options. We were greeted by our waiter, who apparently is vying with Chris for Austin’s waiter of the year. He gave us a rundown of the restaurant and menu, taking time to acknowledge Papi Tino’s partnership with local food source Johnson’s Backyard Farm.  Continue Reading about Papi Tino’s [expand title=Here]                   As we were easing into the day, we started with daily selections of agua frescas. While we order our first round sans alcohol, Papi Tino’s offers the option to incorporate a variety of different liquors or sparkling wines with the refreshing juices. The watermelon version was refreshing with the right amount of sweetness balanced off with a hint of chili lime salt. My tablemate’s hibiscus fruit was different, in a very good way, but I was partial to the watermelon as a standalone juice. The hibiscus was so flavorful, but with such a powerful essence, it would have benefited from an addition of tequila or mezacal to make what would have been heaven in a cocktail. After we finished our revitalizing drinks, it was time for a bit more which meant mimosas. Papi Tino’s makes their mimosas with fresh squeezed orange juice, which was outstanding, but since I developed a quick addiction to my agua fresca I chose to mix my champagne with that.

                 Despite the small, well edited menu of Mexican favorites, when it came time to order our brunch selections both of us were overwhelmed with too many toothsome options to choose. Thankfully, our wonderful waiter was able to steer us through the menu. To say he was knowledgeable about the menu would be an understatement; he detailed to us what was best to order relative to morning kitchen happenings, gave ample breakdowns of menu items, and answered our questions in a meaningful, thoughtful way. While our waiter was great, his efficient service was seemingly common among every member of the Papi Tino’s team. There was an overlying cohesiveness about the restaurant staff; looking around, it appeared every person there was not just picking up a paycheck, but having fun. This is in no small part due to owner Alan who was omnipresent during brunch service, enjoying the music, greeting customers, and sharing laughter with his staff. Our waiter was not this knowledgeable about the food he was serving by accident. This is the product of Chef Lalo and Alan because they have taken the time to invite the faces of Papi Tino to be a part of the kitchen they are representing, and this egalitarianism translates very well to the customer.
                

                      And the food, as it happens, translates very well to the customer as well. We started with an order of guacamole and freshly made tortilla chips. The hand hacked guacamole was just the way I like it; simple flavors and made to order. Instead of chips, Papi Tino’s supplies fresh fruit as its Mexican amusebouse, and may I say this is a very welcome custom when it is sweltering outside! My ceviche was almost too beautifully presented to eat. Thankfully, I got over the presentation because it was exactly as ceviche should be. The brightly flavored, abundantly portioned of pescado was my idea of ideal ceviche. Since opening, Papi Tino’s enchiladas have been getting rave reviews, and the chicken enchilada suizas did not disappoint. The green sauce tasted as if it had been made to order, and the chicken was tasty and tender. I sampled a neighboring friend’s cold beef salad, and I was shocked by how much I loved it. Normally it would not be something my eye would be drawn to, but it was light and unexpected. A must order on the next trip. I am not a dessert person at dinnertime, and certainly not at brunch, but the fruit starter left us craving more, so strawberries and cream for a final treat it was. Paired with our mimosas, it was the perfect finish to a perfect meal.   

                Papi Tino’s may be a neophyte in terms of how long it has been open, but it certainly is no novice from an operational standpoint. Good food combined with outstanding service give Papi Tino’s the right chemistry and momentum. Furthered by a whimsical, charming, and relaxing atmosphere make Papi Tino’s a quintessential Austin restaurant, and perhaps my new favorite brunch spot in town.  Right now Papi Tino’s is cash only, but this will change soon. There is an ATM in back as well. As far as prices, expect to pay a bit more than the typical Tex-Mex weekend lunch, but it is worth it! [/expand] Or With the Pictures Below!

Papi Tino’s. 1306 East 6th Street, Austin, Texas 78702. 512.479.1306. http://www.papitinos.com/

Live brunch music

 

Watermelon Agua Fresca – $4

  Continue reading Papi Tino’s Mexican Cantina

Julio’s Cafe

Today’s Dish of the Day is Julio’s Chicken and Vegetable Soup. Julio’s is one of my favorite Tex-Mex restaurants in Austin as the food is cheap, generously portioned and not as greasy as similar places. Located in Hyde Park, Julio’s is a casual, bright spot with nice sized patio and good weekend brunch. While the other standard Tex-Mex menu options are also solid orders, my go to favorite at Julio’s is the chicken and vegetable soup.  Julio’s soup starts with a chicken broth that tastes as though it has simmered for days. The broth alone makes this soup heavenly, . . . → Read More: Julio’s Cafe

La Condesa Brunch

A few weeks ago I stopped by La Condesa for brunch. 2nd Street’s upscale Mexican restaurant and the upstairs bar Malverde are arguably one of the most beautiful spaces in town. The building is completely green, with high open ceilings, natural colors, and modern, artistic details, making it as cool and trendy as the clientele. It was early enough to enjoy the beautiful day on La Condesa’s patio, which is a perfect venue for people watching and cocktail sipping. While I initially had my heart set on the cangrejo option on the lunch menu, Saturday’s offerings are off the brunch menu only, but there was still plenty to choose from.

                We started with the Vuelva a la Vida, which is very fittingly translated as ‘Come Back to Life.’ The Vuelva a la Vida combination of scallops, mussels, tuna and clams tossed in a bold smoked tomato sauce was certainly the highlight of the meal. [expand title=”Continue the La Condesa Rundown“] The shelfish were large, juicy and fresh, traits indicative of their high quality. The sauce was a perfect accompaniment to the seafood as it was slightly sweet, dually spiced with a slow burning habenero and a kick of sharp horseradish. My only comment about the Vuelva a la Vida was I wish the tuna was replaced with a softer flavored fish. While I love tuna, the strong fishiness at times over powered the otherwise perfect dish.

               For entrées, we ordered tacos and a cubanito sandwich. The tacos were good, with the star being the conchinita pibil. The chicken taco was nice, but there is only so far a chicken taco can go. The pork in the conchinita pibil was tender and sweet. It was fairly rich, so my stomach was thankful for only one. The cubanito sandwich was good, but way too spicy for my mild mouth. It was hard for me to taste the other elements of the sandwich beyond the spice, but it looked delicious! Thankfully, I was able to chug a delicious agua fresca down to calm my taste buds. All in all, brunch was delightful with moments of greatness, but not sure if it was special enough to be added to the normal recovery lunch rotation. Next time I wouldn’t pick the same entrées and head for the eggs instead![/expand]

The Vuelva de Vida - $12

  Continue reading La Condesa Brunch