Second Helpings: Interior Mexican

Tasty, bite-sized restaurant listings compiled this week by Rachel Feit.

Tasty, bite-sized restaurant listings compiled from new and previous reviews, guides, and poll results. This week's entries were compiled by Rachel Feit. When you need quick, reliable information about Austin eateries, check here.

Curra's Grill

614 E. Oltorf, 444-0012

Daily, 7am-10pm

Hip style and affordable prices make a meal at this popular South Austin joint a satisfying and fun way to spend those hard-earned pesos. The menu features original, interior-style dishes such as marinated chicken cooked in banana leaves, lamb cooked with maguey leaves and ancho chile sauce, or shrimp sauteed with peppers and goat cheese. Annual Dia de los Muertos and Las Posadas celebrations showcase traditional Mexican foods. Don't miss the live music served with their Sunday brunch!

Polvo's

2004 S. First, 441-5446

Daily, 7am-10pm

Located in the building once inhabited by Jalapeño Charlie's and later Seis Salsas, Polvo's has managed to absorb some of the good cooking karma left by these two legendary restaurants. Rumor has it this busy (and somewhat disorganized) restaurant serves terrific tacos. In particular, their al pastor earns rave reviews from a loyal clientele.

Jalisco Bar & Grill

414 Barton Springs Road, 476-4838

Sun-Tue, 11am-10pm; Wed-Sat, 11am-10pm

The white stucco walls, Saltillo tile floors, and high ceilings invoke the feel of a Mexican hacienda. Jalisco serves a reliable selection of basic Mexican dishes such as ceviche, carnitas, carne adobada, and grilled meats. The rice and beans here are first-rate, although sometimes the food can be a little greasy. The bar here has earned a reputation for its happy hour tequila slammers and lively mariachi music.

Las Palomas

3201 Bee Caves Road #122, 327-9889

Tue-Sat, 11am-2pm, 5-9:30pm

Strip-mall Mexican for the West Lake crowd. Here even the mariachis sing a few decibels lower, due no doubt to the strict noise ordinances for which West Lake is famous. Las Palomas offers an excellent shrimp a la Veracruzana and some of the best poblano mole in town.

Fonda San Miguel
Fonda San Miguel (Photo By John Anderson)

Fonda San Miguel

2330 W. North Loop, 459-4121

Mon-Thu, 5pm-9pm; Fri-Sat, 5:30-10:30pm; Sun, 11am-2pm

Chef Roberto Santibanez combines classical Cordon Bleu training with the foods of his homeland to create colorful and imaginative haute Mexican cuisine. Specials such as pork with pumpkin seed relish in avocado cream sauce or chicken in mole with fresh berries are simply stunning. Regular menu items include a superior pork pibil, fish in Veracruz sauce, fried calamares with chipotle salsa, ceviche, and enchiladas. Relax among the lush foliage of their hacienda-style building, and you'll understand why Fonda San Miguel enjoys a reputation as one of the pre-eminent Mexican restaurants in the country.

Ay Chiwawa

1014 N. Lamar, 236-8924

Mon-Thu, 9am-10pm; Fri-Sat, 9am-11pm

This quaint, baby-blue-hued restaurant inhabits the space that once housed El Rinconcito. Lunches offer basic Mexican fare such as enchiladas, tacos, and burritos at reasonable prices. Dinners strike out into bolder territory with dishes that include chiles en nogada (a meat-stuffed poblano pepper with pecan cream sauce), cuitlacoche enchiladas, and creative stuffed shrimp with chipotle sauce. Daily specials add additional spice to an already original menu.

Al Pastor

1911-A E. Riverside, 442-8402

Tues-Sun, 7am-10pm

Serving basic Norteño-style Mexican cuisine at low prices, this tiny storefront on Riverside does a steady business among Austin's Eastside residents. As the name suggests, the restaurant specializes in carne al pastor. Whether in nachos, tacos quesadillas, or enchiladas, you can't go wrong with these delicious morsels of marinated, spiced pork. Also featured are beef fajitas, tortilla soup, and chicken in mole. Low prices and a relaxed setting make this a great place for a quick, no-hassle meal.

Evita's Botanitas

6400 S. First, 441-2424

Mon-Sat, 9am-9:30pm; Sun, 9am-9pm

How can you go wrong with a place that serves six different salsas on the table with the chips? For 10 years, this far South Austin restaurant has been satisfying adventurous diners who crave something other than the standard Tex-Mex fare served at most affordably priced Austin eateries. Try the broiled lamb chops in arbol sauce or go for their traditional chicken in mole. They also offer a variety of delicious enchilada plates served with your choice of Spanish or lime-cilantro rice and borracho, refried, or black beans.

Manuel's Downtown

310 Congress, 472-7555

Sun-Thu, 10am-10pm; Fri-Sat, 10am-11pm

Manuel's Great Hills

10201 Jollyville Road, 345-1042

Sun-Thu, 11am-10pm; Fri-Sat, 11am-11pm

Decidedly the place to be for that five o'clock hunger, both locations offer royal happy hour deals consisting of half-price appetizers and dollar-off margaritas. This long-time denizen of the Austin dining scene offers a reliable assortment of standard Mexican fare, plus a number of interior specialties. Their chiles en nogada, grilled beef in chile pasilla sauce, and pork loin with pumpkin seed salsa helped introduce Austin to the complexity of interior Mexican cuisine. The north location has a great scene, but the downtown site still has better cuisine.

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