The Austin Chronicle

Restaurant Review

Reviewed by Mick Vann, December 2, 2011, Food

La Fruta Feliz

3124 Manor Rd., 961-5013
Monday-Friday, 7am-7pm; Saturday, 6:30am-7pm; Sunday, 6:30am-6pm

What began as a small, unassuming aguas frescas and licuados joint one block east of Airport has gobbled up the space next door, expanded the menu, and blossomed into one of the premier taquerias in Austin, producing fresh, delicious, handmade, authentic foods of Mexico, created with care and attention.

We started the initial visit with a shrimp cocktail ($7.99/9.99) served in a massive goblet, packed with shrimp in a Mexico City-style sauce (made with a little Jarritos mandarin soda) and wearing an avocado sombrero. Then we couldn't pass up some chilaquiles ($4.99), made with Fruta's fresh, handmade corn tortillas: a good choice smothered in a very spicy green sauce and served with some rich, lardy beans. Tacos ($1.50-1.99; plates, $7.99-9.99) steal the show, however. Pork al pastor is wonderful: spicy and slightly sweet with caramelized onions and a fruity finish. The barbacoa is top notch, with a very rich, beefy flavor, while the picadillo is mind-numbingly good, made from minced – not ground – beef. What sucked us in originally was the promise of chivo (goat barbacoa), which melts in your mouth with intensely good flavor and isn't too gamey. The carne guisada is tender and bathing in a rich, beefy, comino-kissed sauce, while the pork carnitas are tender and unctuous. Fruta Feliz also has chicharrón, lengua, and tripas, which I can only assume are as good as all the rest.

You can get any of the meats in tostada, sope, or gordita form ($2.50), topped with lettuce, onion, tomato, and crema fresca, but why pass up those amazing corn tor­tillas? We had a really intensely flavored pineapple agua fresca ($2.50-2.99), and topped that off with a Sidral Mundet apple soda for some burps ($1.50). There's a section of seafood soups and a parrillada mixed grill with my name on it for the next visit, and the menu also offers a daily special ($5.99-7.99). When it all settles out, La Fruta Feliz has vaulted into rarified territory as one of the best taquerias in town, right up there with El Taco Rico and Mi Ranchito.

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