Texicalli Grill

534 E. Oltorf, 442-2799
7am-4pm daily (Fri til 9pm); closed Sun.

Ease into a booth at Texicalli Grill, a funky little south Austin institution, and after you've spent several minutes scanning the ceiling collage honoring Austin music history -- a work impressive enough to have received mention in Rolling Stone -- turn your attention to the handwritten menu. The story goes that Texicalli owner Danny Young set out to adapt the flavors found in delicatessens on the Eastern seaboard to Texas tastes. The result is Texicalli's straightforward menu loaded with unique takes on traditional deli sandwiches, salads, burgers, and plate dinners. Attention! If you're craving a greasy spoon, go elsewhere. Despite its roadhouse appearance, Texicalli pays attention to its ingredients, admirably using vegetables that haven't suffered canning. Take the cheese fries for example. A dish that often exits kitchens at other eateries as a sticky mass of processed cheese hiding sodden strips of potatoes turns out, at Texicalli, to be a more finely-tuned (if still gooey and comforting) affair. My favorite version features the restaurant's crisp waffle fries blanketed with cheese sauce and studded with bits of fresh green onion, red bell pepper, and real bacon. ($7.25 full order/$4.85 small order) Paired with the Greggie sandwich ($8.45 large/$6.35 small), a hoagie bun layered with lean Canadian bacon, Swiss cheese, avocado, leaf lettuce, and a mound of sprouts, you've got yourself a hearty, but not entirely unhealthy meal to tackle. Another notable Texicalli offering, one that has developed a cult following over the years, is the Dixie Red Hot sandwich ($6.75 large/$5.10 small), a boneless breast of chicken marinated in Tabasco, grilled, and topped with a slice of Monterey jack, strips of red bell pepper, and leaf lettuce. The best part about the Dixie just might be its accompanying side order -- a pile of earthy, dense, sweet potato home fries. If sandwiches aren't your thing, the restaurant's salads are full meal deals and Texicalli does a mean business in burgers and plate specials. In fact, Texicalli does a mean business, period. The unassuming place recently celebrated its 15th anniversary. Stop in and help them celebrate.

-- Rebecca Chastenet de Géry

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