Favorite Finds

Restaurants You Shouldn't Miss

Acapulco Video

2009 E. Seventh, 482-0215

Mon-Thu, 8am-10pm;

Fri-Sun, 8am-11pm

For 14 years, this little restaurant has been a haven for the fresh-seafood loving residents of East Austin. It is in an old building that also houses shops for clothes, videos, and music cassettes. Two big-screen TVs show soccer games, and the place can get very crowded during big games. As you work your way to the counter to make your order, the only hint of what is available comes from the Spanish-language, handwritten posters taped to the wall. A few people in the store speak English, but a working knowledge of Spanish names for food comes in handy (see box).

The dish that keeps me coming back for more is the campechana. First, they fill a huge beer glass, the stemmed type that weighs about a pound by itself, to overflowing with the freshest squid, shrimp, oysters, and octopus. Then, they cover this concoction with a sauce made from tomato juice, onion, avocado, cilantro, jalapeños, Tabasco sauce, cucumber, and some fish stock. Once the seafood is gone, I drink the liquid left over. This is one of the great recipes of Mexican cuisine, and the version at Acapulco Video is excellent. They don't serve liquor, but if you can figure out how to get a jigger of tequila poured over the food, you might just think you have gone to heaven.

My dining partner opts for the caldo de pescado, a bowl of soup heaped with fish, whole shrimp, mussels, and carrots. The broth is rich with fresh seafood taste and aroma and a spicy kick that only hits after a few minutes. We share a taco with carnitas and a taco with barbaoca de cabeza. The carnitas are made from a whole pig that they have rendered in a vat, then sliced into delectable pieces and spread on a homemade corn tortilla and served with a pickled pepper sauce. This can sometimes be fatty, but the Acapulco version is just right. Despite the colorful name, most of the meat in barbacoa de cabeza (barbecued cow head) is from the jowls and is delicious.

I should warn you that Acapulco Video is not a typical Tex-Mex place. It is very much like restaurants in Central Mexico. The emphasis is on what is important to their regular customers -- good food and a place to congregate. If you prefer chain-style, spotless surroundings, this is not your place. If you like your Mexican restaurants to have the ambience of Mexico, you'll feel right at home with the típico atmosphere and the excellent food.

The Best of Austin: Restaurants ballot is here! Nominations can be made now through Monday, August 22, at midnight. Vote now at vote.austinchronicle.com.

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