Austin’s food scene has exploded in the past decade, but for all our culinary advances, no precious small plate appetizer satisfies quite like a steaming bowl of queso.
Tex-Mex, the most delicious rhyme in all of gastronomy, forms a pillar of eating out in Austin. Barbecue fans may protest, but even the most adamant brisket lovers will admit that smoked meat is a rare treat, whereas breakfast tacos are a daily ritual.
Born in the Rio Grande Valley and ubiquitous by the ‘70s when cookbook writer Diana Kennedy famously denigrated it as “so-called Mexican food,” Tex-Mex isn’t a trend, it’s a lifestyle. Tacos comprise roughly one third of the average Austinite’s diet (an unscientific, but personally accurate estimate), so naturally you can get fantastic Mexican food everywhere, but cheese enchiladas aren’t the only thing on the menu.
More traditional forms of Mexican food abound, from taco stands that would fit right in on a Mexico City street corner to simmering moles that smell like a Oaxacan grandmother’s kitchen. Such a wealth of flavor requires a roadmap, so we’ve compiled a primer on the city’s abundance of puffy tacos, fajitas, and margaritas, along with some tips on restaurants that are more Mex than Tex. Read on, and pass the salsa.