Food Set

Ruben Rodriguez
Ruben Rodriguez (Photo By John Anderson)

Evita's Botanitas

Ruben Rodriguez is the chef/owner and hot sauce maker at this popular little South Austin family restaurant. A native of Guanajuato, Mexico, Rodriguez has worked in restaurants most of his adult life and he's been his own boss at Botanitas for more than nine years. In the front window of his joint, Ruben proudly displays all the awards his hard work and creativity have garnered: multiple wins in the Chronicle Hot Sauce Festival; both Readers and Critics poll choices in the annual Best of Austin and Restaurant Poll voting; a designation as one of the 75 Best Mexican Restaurants in Texas by Texas Monthly. Not bad for a little family neighborhood restaurant.

Legions of loyal Botanitas fans will tell you they go back time after time for the stellar variety of table salsas Ruben Rodriguez creates fresh every day. The first thing to arrive at your table will be a wooden carrier loaded with a basket of crisp, hot chips and six small bowls of Ruben's excellent signature salsas. Some swear by the salsa verde, tangy with tomatillo, onion, and cilantro, while others dip immediately into the luxuriantly creamy black bean puréed with peppers and sour cream. My personal favorite is the utterly addictive roasted-pepper variety, thick with roasted poblanos, tomato, and onion. Each bowl features sauce with a distinct personality and flavor profile and they're all wonderful.

This time of year, Ruben is hard at work in his steamy kitchen, surrounded by fresh peppers, tomatoes, onions, herbs, and other comestibles, testing the best red and green concoctions for his annual festival entries. "I enter two reds and two greens, just to see how they'll do. One year, the black bean placed in special variety and the roasted pepper has done okay, too," he recalls with a smile. This year, as almost every year since the festival's inception, Botanitas will be a contestant in the restaurant category and the Rodriguez family will be busy in a food booth, selling some delicious items from their menu to the hungry hordes of hot sauce revelers.

Sign up for the Chronicle Cooking newsletter

New recipes and food news delivered Mondays

If you want to submit a recipe, send it to food@austinchronicle.com

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for almost 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

READ MORE
More by Virginia B. Wood
Top 10 Savory Bites
Top 10 Savory Bites

Jan. 1, 2016

Open Secret
Open Secret
The not-so-hidden pleasures of dine

Dec. 25, 2015

MORE IN THE ARCHIVES
NEWSLETTERS
One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Can't keep up with happenings around town? We can help.

Austin's queerest news and events

New recipes and food news delivered Mondays

Eric Goodman's Austin FC column, other soccer news

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle