Two Western outposts on the gateway to the Hill Country
Reviewed by Kate Thornberry, Fri., July 26, 2013
Señor Buddy's8600 Hwy. 290 W., 512/288-0437
Mon.-Fri., 7am-10pm; Sat., 8am-10pm; Sun., 9am-10pm
Buddy's convenience store on 290 was purchased a few years ago by the Garcia family, who own and operate the legendary Curra's Grill on Oltorf. Rechristened Señor Buddy's, the store added a lunch counter and began selling breakfast tacos, lunch tacos, and hamburgers. But the ultimate vision for the store was to gradually turn it into a destination with a full menu. Finally, the physical structure is complete: Señor Buddy's has a huge bar with 20 different beers on tap, an outdoor amphitheater overlooking a commodious stage and dance floor, strings of lights draped between gigantic live oaks, and a huge patio filled with picnic tables, covered by a tremendous wooden roof. Although Señor Buddy's is only a little bit west of town, it is significantly drier, cooler, and breezier – absolutely perfect for a patio restaurant.
Curra's consistently delivers some of the best Interior Mexican food available in Austin, and Señor Buddy's has much of the same on their menu: tender, mouthwatering carne guisada, Julieta's mole sauce, Curra's award-wining borracho sauce, exceptional Mexican breakfasts and breakfast tacos, critically acclaimed tamales, freshly made tortillas, incredible tres leches cake ($6.29), and even Curra's Oaxacan coffee ($1.95). The menu differs mainly in that Señor Buddy's also offers hamburgers, salads, sandwiches, and some popular American appetizers like chicken wings and pork ribs. The hamburgers are terrific: grilled 1/2- or 1/3-pound Angus patties served on soft, fresh buns, acompanied by fabulous housemade fries, onion rings, or sweet potato fries. The Hatch Chile Burger ($8.99) and Buddy's Oaxacan Burger ($8.99) are particular standouts.
Because the transition from convenience store to full-service restaurant has been gradual, Señor Buddy's still has a few issues to iron out. Inclement weather can close the outdoor restaurant without warning. Lunch business is reliable and well-staffed, but dinner is still unpredictable, causing the dual trials of either being busy and hopelessly understaffed (and giving terrible service with lengthy wait times) or not having enough business to justify keeping the patio open. Señor Buddy's is bound to become consistently bustling; The Garcias would be wise to overstaff now, and establish a reputation for excellent service as they prepare for the onslaught.