Dining Beyond the Chains

Good food moves to the 'burbs

Dining Beyond the Chains
Photo by John Anderson

El Monumento

205 W. Second, Georgetown, 512/591-7866
Sun.-Thu., 11am-9pm; Fri.-Sat., 11am-10pm
www.elmonumentogeorgetown.com

As someone who has been reviewing restaurants for 20 years, it is all too rare that I am totally captivated by a restaurant, impressed by the decor, the ambience, the food, and the service as a complete package. I experienced this unique phenomenon recently at Georgetown's El Monumento and my only possible complaint is that this exemplary restaurant isn't in Austin. The setting on a bluff overlooking the San Gabriel River, the limestone walls, and native plant landscaping create the impression of a gracious hacienda from bygone days. Once inside the stone enclosure, shaded and misted seating areas beckon; an interior courtyard with a fountain and easy access to the very attractive bar, and the other, a fully landscaped patio with a view of the river. The large and comfortable dining room offers a full view of the gleaming open kitchen and managers work the room, greeting regular customers like family and making newcomers feel welcome.

The menu here is based on both Tex-Mex and Interior Mexican dishes but the kitchen has put their own distinctive farm-to-table spin on things. There's a Tex-Mex Queso El Mon ($8) made with white cheese sauce or a hot skillet of Queso Flameado ($7) with roasted poblano rajas, caramelized onions, and homemade corn or flour tortillas. The shrimp relleno ($15) offers grilled shrimp and a filling of cheese, nuts, and raisins arranged on a roasted poblano pepper in a pool of fresh tomato salsa. Beef short rib enchiladas ($11) in a smoky red chile sauce are first-rate, and the creamy green chile pork stew ($12) provides warmth, rich flavor, and satisfying comfort. The drinkers in our party pronounced the Bloody Maria ($8) and the El Mon margarita ($10) beyond reproach, and the cinnamon sugar-encrusted churros ($6) with a rich chocolate dipping sauce were the perfect ending to a delightful meal.

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