Claudia Alarcón's Top 10 Food and Drinks Keeping Austin (Real) Mexican
The best places to get a taste of Mexico deep in the heart of Central Texas
As always, in no particular order:
Oaxacan Cuisine at El Naranjo Heavenly moles, pipianes, and other seasonal Oaxacan specialties, including real tamales, have been attracting connoisseurs to this trailer, temporarily relocated to the Soular Food Garden on East 12th. I can't wait until the full-service restaurant opens on Rainey Street – at last – in February.
Amuse-Bouche at El Mesón Amuse-bouche at a Mexican restaurant? You bet. Chef Marisela Godinez welcomes every guest with a little something while they peruse the menu: a tiny bowl of fideo or lentil soup, street-style corn on the cob, homemade tamales, mango slices with lime and chile, or whatever seasonal whimsy seems fitting.
Backward Brunch at Sazón Can't get up in time for breakfast on Sunday mornings? No worries. Sazón's backward brunch from 3 to 6pm features huevos benedictos, Croque Madame à la Mexicana, and other loco specialties accompanied, of course, by micheladas, Bloody Marias, and Vampiros. Hells yeah.
Mexican Wine in Austin About time some of Mexico's affordable, well-crafted wines found distribution, and local retailers, restaurants, and wine bars willing to take a chance. Look for wines from Villa Montefiori, L.A. Cetto, and Casa Madero around town, and if you can't find them, ask for them; hopefully more labels will be available in the near future.
Wine Pairing Dinners at Fonda San Miguel Speaking of wine and Mexican food, nobody does it better than Fonda, whether through organized dinners with winemakers from various regions around the world or through its well-chosen wine list and a staff that can properly recommend what to drink with those mole enchiladas.
Lobster Taco Tuesdays at Zandunga One of my new favorite hangouts gets even better on Tuesdays with $3 lobster tacos and $3 frozen mojitos. Two of each and you're set. Alternately, try the guava-agave frozen margarita, and beg chef Edgar Torres to put his mole verde on the menu. Tell him I sent you.
Austin Tequila Society at Casa Chapala Lupe Barragan, owner of Casa Chapala and one of the most unpretentious, warm, and friendly folks I have ever met, is the founder of this long-overdue tequila appreciation group that hosts events, tastings, and contests. Its location across the street from the Four Seasons is as welcoming as Barragan's smile, and its selection of 100-plus tequilas is admirable.
Mole With Duck or Quail at El Alma Before there was chicken, pre-Hispanic Mexicans ate duck and quail in various preparations. While mole is definitely post-conquest, these tasty fowl are often found on the menus of some of Mexico City's best restaurants. Chef Alma Alcocer-Thomas' mole de pasilla is an ideal companion.
Antojitos at Panaderia Chuy The pastries, bolillos, and cakes are the main draws at this traditional bakery, but I keep coming back for the antojitos: ginormous tortas, Mexico City-style tacos, and authentic tlacoyos and quesadillas made with blue corn masa.
Paletas From Mom & Pops After splitting with their brief GoodPop partners, original owners Manuel and Laura Flores are still making the best, most traditional and deliciously weird (El Cucuy!) frozen pops and aguas frescas around. Small batch, family owned, real Austin. Give them your business!