Dining Beyond the Chains

Good food moves to the 'burbs

La Cocina Bar & Grill

602 McNeil Rd. #112, Round Rock, 512/716-1703
Lunch: Mon.-Thu., 11am-3pm; Fri.-Sat., 11am-3pm; dinner: Mon.-Thu., 5-9pm; Fri.-Sat., 5pm-close
www.lacocinadediaz.com

Solving the age-old dilemma between Mexican or Italian cuisine, La Cocina owners Ismael and Amelia Diaz offer a menu featuring the best of both worlds and a few mash-ups. Since 2007, this little jewel has thrived in an obscure location just west of I-35, in a commercial strip center anchored by a 7-11. Step inside, however, and the small restaurant – with its blackout window decor – transforms into an Old World cafe, complete with throne-sized wooden booths and enormous painted murals. Our standard Tex-Mex starters were on point: warm tortilla chips and just-right house salsa, plus an order of chile con queso ($5.99). The kid's menu offers several hearty options for $4.99, and the robust marinara sauce atop the eggplant parmigiana ($12.50) was a hit. My enchiladas suizas con pollo ($8.99), served with rice and beans, were creamy and tender. As a personal favorite that I often use for comparison, they stacked up. In keeping with the double dose of culture, the Italian dish paired nicely with a margarita ($5.50), while a bottle of Italian Peroni ($3.75) beer washed down the Tex-Mex. Timed just right to avoid a traffic nightmare, I'd certainly return to try the Italian enchiladas.

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