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[Austin] Tex-Mex


Kent Wang
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Tex-Mex is a very wide genre, perhaps that is best divided into Gringo-Mex and Tejano-Mex.

Gringo-Mex restaurants cater to the general population. They can be bad (Taco Cabana, Chuy's, Trudy's) or good (El Chile).

Tejano-Mex is eaten mostly by tejanos and features such dishes as menudo (tripe), lengua (tongue) and chicharrones (pork skin) that would not appeal to most gringos. It is not actually Mex-Mex (aka interior Mexican, i.e. what's actually eaten in Mexican) as it is a cuisine that is native to Texas.

On Chowhound there is a lot of discussion about authentic Tex-Mex, especially from the users MPH and scrumptiouschef. I have been following their posts but the format there is rather disorganized, so I'd like to document my own experiences here. A good start is MPH's best list.

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La Regiomontona

1510 Town Creek Dr

Austin, TX 78741

Located in the same lot on East Riverside as El Pollo Regio (and presumably owned by the same people) and Janitizio, La Regiomontana has both take-out and dine-in.

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Tacos al pastor, lengua. Doubled-up store-bought corn tortillas are pretty good. Al pastor is great, very boldly flavored. Lengua is a little different from most places and is sliced into large pieces; I dig it.

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Chicharrones taco, Tostada Siberia.

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Tostada Siberia. The chicken is the charcoal-grilled chicken from El Pollo Regio next door. Delicious, huge amount of food for the money.

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Tex-Mex is a very wide genre, perhaps that is best divided into Gringo-Mex and Tejano-Mex.

I LIKE THIS DIVISION, KENT. MAY I SUGGEST THE FOLLOWING AXIS (AND FOR THE PURPOSES OF THIS DISCUSSION I'D LIKE TO SET NEW MEXICO-, CALIFORNIA- AND COLORADO-MEX ASIDE)? GRINGO-MEX & TEJANO MEX. AFTER LIVING A COUPLE OF YEARS ON THE RIO GRANDE/RIO BRAVO BORDER, AND GETTING A SENSE THAT A COUPLE OF HUNDRED MILES NORTH AND SOUTH OF THE BORDER CONSTITUTES A KIND OF DMZ OR NO-MAN'S-LAND: IT ISN'T REALLY TEXAS AND IT ISN'T REALLY MEXICO. SO THE SECOND AXIS BECOMES TEX-MEX AND MEX-TEX.

TEX-MEX IS PRETTY TRADITIONAL NORTENA-RANCHO FOOD AT ITS ROOTS, BUT UTILIZES BLINDINGLY YELLOW PLASTIC CHEESE, AND PLATED ASSORTMENTS OF A LITTLE OF EVERYTHING - WHAT DK CALLS "MIXED MESSES" - IT IS GENERALLY AND ULTIMATELY AIMED AT A GRINGO AUDIENCE OF AFICIONADOS.

THE MEX-TEX IS WHAT YOU FIND IN LITTLE RESTAURANTS, SOME TAQUERIAS, AND MOST CERTAINLY IN HOMES THROUGHOUT THIS DMZ ALONG THE FRONTERA - 'TRADITIONAL' FOODS WITH THE MISSING 'TRADITIONAL' INGREDIENTS FILLED IN EITHER BY WHAT IS AT HAND OR THE CLOSEST SUBSITUTE AVAILABLE.

Gringo-Mex restaurants cater to the general population. They can be bad (Taco Cabana, Chuy's, Trudy's) or good (El Chile).

THE HIGH TEMPLE OF GRINGO-MEX IS THE CHAIN 'PANCHO'S', AND ITS ILK.

Tejano-Mex is eaten mostly by tejanos and features such dishes as menudo (tripe), lengua (tongue) and chicharrones (pork skin) that would not appeal to most gringos. It is not actually Mex-Mex (aka interior Mexican, i.e. what's actually eaten in Mexican) as it is a cuisine that is native to Texas.

NOW, MENUDO IS CLASSIC, HARD CORE, INTERIOR MEXICAN. WE KNOW IT MOSTLY AS A FIERY RED STEW OF UNSPEAKABLE (TO US) BOVINE & PORCINE BODY PARTS. yOU WILL FIND IT ALL OVER MEXICO - SOME PLACES ONLY USE TRIPE, OTHER USE TRIPE AND PATAS, SOME PLACES IT IS DEEP RED, SOME PLACES IT IS WHITE, WITH THE SALSA SERVED ON THE SIDE. IT IS THE CLASSIC FOOD OF THE RURAL, REMOTE FARMER, PEASANT, AND POOR, WASTE NOT WANT NOT, UTILIZING EVERYTHING BUT THE MOO AND THE OINK.

LENGUA, TOO, IS FOUND ALL OVER MEXICO - IN RURAL AREAS, SMALL TOWNS, MARKET STALLS, AND FOOD STALLS AROUND THE PLAZA. AND THE SAME IS TRUE FOR CHICHARRONES.

THE THING WHICH TO ME AT LEAST MOST IDENTIFIES THE MEX-MEX, TEX-MEX, AXIS-MEX ASPECT IS HOW IT IS PREPARED AND SERVED: GUISO, TACOS, TAMAL MASA, SOPES, ETC. AS IT MIGRATES FROM VERY TRADITIONAL TOWARDS THE BORDER AND BEYOND, IT APPEARS LESS AND LESS FREQUENTLY ON THE MENU. A TACO TRUCK OR TAQUERIA SERVING CHICHARRONES GUISADOS AND LENGUA ENCEBOLLADA, ARE SERVING AN AUDIENCE STILL QUITE CLOSE TO ITS ROOTS, SEEKING THE COMFORT FOODS OF HOME.

IT IS A COMMON SIGHT IN SMALL PUEBLITOS IN MEXICO TO SEE, FROM ONE DAY TO THE NEXT, A TARPAULIN PUT UP OUTSIDE A HOUSE'S DOORWAY, AND A LARGE TIN WASHTUB BALANCED PRECARIOUSLY ON A CHARCOAL BRAZIER ON SPINDLY METER HIGH LEGS, FILLED WITH RENDERING PORK FAT, CHUNKS OF A RECENTLY DEMISED HOG, AND PEOPLE LINING UP TO BUY FRESHLY MADE CHICHARRONES, CARNITAS (CONFIT DE PORC, ACTUALLY), FRESH LARD, AND ASIENTO - THE HEAVENLY BROWN GLOP AT THE BOTTOM OF THE PAN WITH CRISPY BITS OF CHICHARRON AND PORK, TO BE SLATHERED ON FRESH CORN TORTILLAS OR USED IN MASA FOR TAMALES DE FRIJOL. ONE HOG TOO MANY, SAVE ON HOG FEED, MAKE A LITTLE MONEY, HAVE SOME PORK AND CHICHARRON FOR YOU AND YOUR FAMILY FOR A COUPLE OF WEEKS. THIS IS HOW IT IS DONE.

On Chowhound there is a lot of discussion about authentic Tex-Mex, especially from the users MPH and scrumptiouschef. I have been following their posts but the format there is rather disorganized, so I'd like to document my own experiences here. A good start is MPH's best list.

I HAVE LOVED "MEXICAN" FOOD SINCE MY MOM OPENED A CAN OF GEBHARDT'S TAMALES AND FED THEM TO ME WHEN I WAS ABOUT 4. I FEEL I HAVE BEEN GREATLY PRIVILEGED IN MY LIFE TO HAVE HAD A SUCCESSION OF "MEXICAN" FOODS PUT IN FRONT OF ME, EACH A LITTLE MORE "AUTHENTIC" THAN THE PREVIOUS. UNTIL FINALLY, I JUST SURRENDERED TO IT.

I CAN TELL YOU THAT IT IS A VAST SUBJECT, WHILE REALIZING THAT I HAVE NO GOOD IDEA JUST HOW VAST IT REALLY IS. I ONLY REGRET THREE THINGS: ONE, THOSE WHO WOULD TELL US THAT THEY KNOW ALL OF THE ANSWERS TO THAT WHICH IS LO MEXICANO, AND THAT WHICH IS NOT; TWO, PEOPLE WHO BELIEVE THEM; AND THREE, THAT I DO NOT HAVE THE GIFT OF A METABOLISM THAT WILL KEEP UP WITH MY CURIOSITY.

IN THE U.S. WE SEEM TO HAVE AN INCREDIBLE SENSE OF FAUX-FASTIDIOUSNESS WHICH PREVENTS US FROM ENCOURAGING AND ENJOYING STREET AND MARKET FOOD. NOT SO IN MOST OF THE REST OF THE WORLD, MOST ESPECIALLY MEXICO. I THINK THAT THE RESPONSE TO THAT DEFICIENT SENSE OF PLEASURE AND ENJOYMENT IS THE TACO TRUCK - NONE OF US WOULD PATRONIZE A ROACH COACH - I SUBMIT THE SAME CONTEXT - BUT WE'D ROCK A TACO TRUCK IN A SECOND. SO MEXICAN STREET FOOD COURTESY OF GOODYEAR TIRES, WITH ROOTS DEEP IN THE HEART OF MEXICO, BUT WITH THE FLEXIBILITY AND CREATIVITY REQUIRED TO MAKE DO HERE AMONG THE GRINGOS.

REGARDS,

THEABROMS

Sharon Peters aka "theabroma"

The lunatics have overtaken the asylum

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Sharon, could you name some dishes that are unique to Tejano-Mex but are not so common in Mexico itself? I suppose fajitas are a good example, though that is popular with gringos as well.

Kent, you'll have to give me a bit of guidance here to ensure that your notion and my notion and the list's notion of tejano-mex are the same. I'll throw out the thoughts and we'll debate from there. Ok?

Taco salads - and here I'm thinking of the "taco meat" and salad ingredients, and not the fried shell. Ground beef bound with a kind of chile gravy.

U-shaped fried corn tortilla taco shells

Black olives (green are used in picadillo - more traditional and my guess is the precursor of the ground beef fillings)

Chile con queso - the Rotel plant is (used to be) between Weslaco and San Juan, Tx. And absent queso Chihuahua (menonita) or quesillo de Oaxaca, the only common, and cheap smoothly melting cheese is ... Velveeta.

And your are right: fajitas, with all the trimmings: sour cream, guacamole, pico de gallo (actually, salsa fresca - 'real' pico de gallo involves chiles, jicamas, red onions, and orange sections)

The 'fajitization' of the animal and fish kingdom: fajitas are the rib adductor muscles of a cow - chickens don't , to speak of, have them. Shrimp sure as hell don't. So fajitas, once a cheap cut of meat for the working and field picking poor, became a more luxury cut, with a greatly enhanced per pound price. And the word 'fajita' which once referred to that long, skinny cut of beef, was extrapolated to anything that was grilled or cooked on a flat top and served with sour cream, guacamole, and pico de gallo (salsa fresca), with flour tortillas.

Fajitas, per se, are Met-Tex or Northern Mex-Mex, and not Tejano. What is Tejano is the way they are served here with all the trimmings, and the numerous animal and fish "sources" of fajitas (I have actually seen "vegetable fajitas" on a menu - this is past Tejano, and in need of pharmaceutical help). It is puro Tejano to eat them with flour tortillas. It is definitely Mex-Mex to eat them with corn tortillas.

The ubiquity of flour tortillas is very Tejano.

The continued use of Monterrey Jack or Pepper Jack cheese, especially now that fairly decent quesillo and Chihuahua are available, is very Tejano

Enchiladas buried under chile con carne. Enchiladas or tamales with a sauce poured over them.

Thin, norteno style tamales, filled with beef, and with chile powder and cumin in the masa

The continuing use of pinto beans for refrieds instead of flor de mayo, bayos, etc.

The use of jalapeno peppers instead of serranos in pico de gallo, and the high proportion of white onion and jalapeno peppers to very little tomato and cilantro in the pico.

Thick tortilla soups - the "real" thing is a brothy, consomme like clear soup with shredded chicken, crisp, hair-thin tortilla srips, chile ancho/mulato strips fried crisps, and sometimes cubes of queso fresco. The tortilla soup that was served at the Mansion on Turtle Creek was High Church Tejano.

Chile gravy - really - chile powder or pureed guajillos, thickened with flour.

While it may seem a ramble, this list addresses the themes or currents of Tejano mixing with Mexicano in so much of the food. The question does not lend itself to a tidy, neat answer ... through no fault of the question. Food and cuisine, much less 'authentic' cuisine as a topic is a bundle of twisted threads which take some time and thought and .... goody! ... eating, chewing, and discussing to sort out. I see this as a start.

Sharon Peters aka "theabroma"

The lunatics have overtaken the asylum

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This has been a very timely questioin from Kent ... I am just now really reading Walsh's Tex-Mex Cookbook .... and so far so good. Give me a bit, though. I do have some questions.

That tostada de Siberia really looks wonderful. I'll be down to Austin for awhile, and I will have to give that one a try.

There used to be a place of up here, Casa Dominguez, that claimed it had "Austin-style Tex-Mex". Now, how would you describe Austin-style Tex-Mex"?

Ostin-tejano?

Theabroma

Sharon Peters aka "theabroma"

The lunatics have overtaken the asylum

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Janitzio

1422 Town Creek Dr

Austin, TX 78741

(512) 442-6275

6am - 11pm (?) everyday

Located in the same lot as La Regiomontana and El Pollo Regio, Janitzio is more of a proper sit-down restaurant that serves free chips and salsa. The menu states open from 6am everyday but doesn't mention when they close; though I've been there fairly late around 11pm.

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Coctel campechano. Shrimp, oysters, octopus unfortunately drowned in store-bought over-sweet cocktail sauce. Pretty good, if you can get over the cocktail sauce. I'm not the type that's scared of raw seafood from a Mexican restaurant.

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Caldo de mariscos. Packed to the gills with jumbo crab legs, imitation crab, catfish, shrimp, squid, canned mussels. I can't help but compare this to the seafood gumbo from Quality Seafood, which is a little better because they have fresher ingredients, but this must be the second best seafood soup in town.

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Molcajete. A whiteboard special, not on the menu. The molcajete is the mortar and pestle typically used for grinding spices. Here, the molcajete is placed in an oven and serves as a sizzling platter for steak, sausage (unfortunately tastes more like a American/German style than a Mexican chorizo), nopal and a nice white cheese. Superb.

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Carne asada con nopales. I like the bigger chunks of nopal in the molcajete, but this is pretty good.

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Barbacoa, al pastor

Overall, an excellent Tejano-Mex restaurant and is second only to Quality Seafood in the seafood department.

There used to be a place of up here, Casa Dominguez, that claimed it had "Austin-style Tex-Mex".  Now, how would you describe Austin-style Tex-Mex"?

Sounds like they're trying to copy Chuy's or Trudy's, two popular local Gringo-Mex chains.

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Janitzio
There used to be a place of up here, Casa Dominguez, that claimed it had "Austin-style Tex-Mex".  Now, how would you describe Austin-style Tex-Mex"?

Sounds like they're trying to copy Chuy's or Trudy's, two popular local Gringo-Mex chains.

Yes, it does. Only thing is, it predated Chuys & Trudys by 20+ years.

Janitzio looks interesting ... I'll have to put it on my list for my next trip down ... if I can sandwich it in between the taco trucks!

The molcajete serving format is fairly common in Mexico - deeper down. It usually contains a surtido, selection, of grilled/roasted items, guac, beans, if dry cooked, although the brothier ones are served on the side in a bowl, a bit like a soup. They can be quite elaborate, and are usually quite tasty. There will be areas on large highways throughout central Mexico - the one from the DF to Puebla comes to mind - just about the area where you pass by Don Gregorio and Ixtaccihuatl, in the midst of pine groves, there are several restaurants on either side of the highway, along the frontage roads, which serve highway food - they are truck and traveler stops of a sort, but they tend to specialize in molcajetes. Nice lunch, cold beer, pine aroma in the thinning air. Beats the hell out of Subway en route.

Theabroma

Sharon Peters aka "theabroma"

The lunatics have overtaken the asylum

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Janitzio
There used to be a place of up here, Casa Dominguez, that claimed it had "Austin-style Tex-Mex".  Now, how would you describe Austin-style Tex-Mex"?

Sounds like they're trying to copy Chuy's or Trudy's, two popular local Gringo-Mex chains.

Yes, it does. Only thing is, it predated Chuys & Trudys by 20+ years.

Maybe they're referring to Matt's El Rancho when they say "Austin-style Tex-Mex".

Gear nerd and hash slinger

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You know, that could be. I assume that Matt's is still doing gangbusters business there. The place up here in East Dallas has been chugging along, but Matt was always better known in Dallas for No Place. Sadly, that closed a few yrs ago.

I think the "real" Austin-style Mx food place was Jaime's Spanish Village on Red River ... haven't been there in ages. But in the day, it was the gold standard for 'real' Mexican food.

Then, there was Cisco's on East 6th ... which was an odd mix - solid Mex-Tex (which made it the REAL thing, of course) breakfasts, the then not widely available pan dulce, and the cachet of being a hangout for politicos and former UT coach Darrell Royal and his entourage. Then, there was The Man himself - Rudy Cisco, no mean politico himself, huge cigar permanently clamped in his mouth.

But the one place that seemed to blend most of this together fairly seamlessly was Matt's on First St. Mobbed for its cheese enchiladas, guacamole, chiles rellenos, and totally wicked margaritas (again, in the day and well before they had become the official beverage of the State of Texas).

Now, these were certainly not the only good, 'authentic' Mexican food outlets in Austin ... there were dozens of little places in the less explored East and near South parts of town ... but Matt's became the pre-eminent place. And I think it is fair to say that it became the gold standard for many as a source of 'real' Mexican food. It put Austin as a Mexican food capital on the map. And, I believe that Matt's was, indeed, the 'template' for Casa Dominguez "Austin-style Mexican food" soriquet.

I must say, however, that Matt's, like Cisco's had the additional advantage of being presided over by a personality, albeit in the case of Matt's a very genial host, working the room like a good host ensuring that his guests were comfortable.

[after that, don't know whether to feel ancient, or to take comfort in having a great (food) memory!!!!]

Man, I want some guac and chips NOW!

Theabroma

Sharon Peters aka "theabroma"

The lunatics have overtaken the asylum

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Matt's is to Tex Mex as Salt Lick is to BBQ. Something like that.

Trying to categorize all of this is a slippery slope, I really hate that term 'authentic', and I'm usually dragged kicking and screaming to places like Matt's or Maudies (unless tequila is involved at some level)... all that said, my two favorite places in town for Mexican-inspired fare are:

Curra's Grill, Oltorf just west of I-35 (think there's a north location as well, but have never been) is a favorite lunch place, modestly priced, but with a really good selection of moles, and more variety and surprises than you might find at your typical cheesy enchilada & taco shack.

Fonda San Miguel, up on North Loop and a little higher-end, is one of my favorite restaurants in the city, and also one that I think sits well outside the classification of Tex-Mex (though it is definitely Mexican, more Diane Kennedy than Rob Walsh). Their menus are up online at http://www.fondasanmiguel.com.

What I'd really like to find in Austin is a 'new mexico-mex' place, with the sorts of great chili sauces that you find throughout that state...

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Matt's is to Tex Mex as Salt Lick is to BBQ. Something like that.

Trying to categorize all of this is a slippery slope, I really hate that term 'authentic', and I'm usually dragged kicking and screaming to places like Matt's or Maudies (unless tequila is involved at some level)...

HEAR! HEAR! And Maudie's when Maudie had it. Now yellow cheez TxMx under those conditions, dipped in chili gravy, and I DO mean gravy, can be really wonderful. Hey, the first tamales I ever ate as a kid were Gebhardt's outta the can, and I thought they were just swell. Little did I know.

Fonda San Miguel, up on North Loop and a little higher-end, is one of my favorite restaurants in the city, and also one that I think sits well outside the classification of Tex-Mex (though it is definitely Mexican, more Diane Kennedy than Rob Walsh). Their menus are up online at http://www.fondasanmiguel.com

Diana was/is Tom's and Miguel's muse and consultant. I saw her nearly reduce Ravago to tears after she drill-sergeanted it around the Sunday brunch buffet table, poking, prodding, sniffing, turned and said to Ravago: "Mikey, I couldn't have done it better myself." I have never been as wild a fan of FSM's regular menu as I have wanted to be ... something fails to translate. But. That Sunday brunch - at least through the last time I was there - is the item - and I mean the food. The moles, the ensalada de nopales, all of it must have their visas and passports taped somewhere on the bottom of the cazuelas.

What I'd really like to find in Austin is a 'new mexico-mex' place, with the sorts of great chili sauces that you find throughout that state...

Can't help you there. I've never found it in Austin either. I have a hunch that its all that yellow cheese that acts as some kind of buffer somewhere out west of Austin, that the NewM can't seem to penetrate.

Theabroma

Sharon Peters aka "theabroma"

The lunatics have overtaken the asylum

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Curra's and F.S.M are great places in Austin, but you're right mcdowell, they both fall well outside the definition of "Tex-Mex".

We're talkin' the typical rolled cheese enchiladas (processed or cheddar, y.m.m.v), chili con carne, chili con queso, guacamole, fajitas, stuff they call fajitas (chicken, shrimp, veggies), crispy beef tacos, refritos that have been sitting in a warming pan all day, the obligatory "Spanish" rice and the bottomless bowl of tostadas. Of course, there are menu additions and subtractions depending on where you've walked into.

In Austin, when I want "Tex-Mex", I skip Matt's, Chuy's and Trudy's and head over to Amaya's . I've never had a bad experience there and the joint definitely falls into the "Tex-Mex" category.

Gear nerd and hash slinger

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Fonda San Miguel is not Tex-Mex but Mex-Mex (i.e. interior Mexican). This is how they self-identify and are widely recognized as being the case. The brunch is quite good there.

I understand this and have dined there many times, and yes, the brunch is great, but the original intent was to discuss "Tex-Mex", not Mex, which FSM is. Merely pointing that out is all.

Gear nerd and hash slinger

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Fonda San Miguel is not Tex-Mex but Mex-Mex (i.e. interior Mexican). This is how they self-identify and are widely recognized as being the case. The brunch is quite good there.

is it necessary to call it "mex-mex". shouldn't it just be mexican? hee this amuses me.

i just did a google search and omg people use this term.

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  • 2 months later...

La Michoacana

1917 E 7th St, Austin, TX

(512) 473-8487

There's a number of these all over town, but this is the closest to me. It's a great place to go for Mexican groceries. The marinated meats like the fajita, chorizo, al pastor are dirt cheap. Cheaper than if you were to buy the meat un-marinated from HEB! How do they do it, I dunno.

They also sell tacos and have a small dine-in area.

gallery_36558_3077_66640.jpg

The tacos are pretty good. They have borrego (lamb) which you don't see everywhere. I didn't get it this time because they were out.

is it necessary to call it "mex-mex". shouldn't it just be mexican? hee this amuses me.

i just did a google search and omg people use this term.

I know, weird, right?

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La Michoacana

1917 E 7th St, Austin, TX

(512) 473-8487

There's a number of these all over town, but this is the closest to me. It's a great place to go for Mexican groceries. The marinated meats like the fajita, chorizo, al pastor are dirt cheap. Cheaper than if you were to buy the meat un-marinated from HEB! How do they do it, I dunno.

They also sell tacos and have a small dine-in area.

gallery_36558_3077_66640.jpg

The tacos are pretty good. They have borrego (lamb) which you don't see everywhere. I didn't get it this time because they were out.

is it necessary to call it "mex-mex". shouldn't it just be mexican? hee this amuses me.

i just did a google search and omg people use this term.

I know, weird, right?

Volume? Nah, they couldn't have more locations than HEB, I guess, but they do have a lot state-wide, 50 listed here in the Houston/Galveston area, 5 in Austin:

La Michoacana

Platillos are a good bargain.

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Taqueria Chapala

2101 E Cesar Chavez St

Austin, TX 78702

(512) 320-0308

Taco Journalism review, though I found it a little under-informative.

gallery_36558_3077_42011.jpg

The Jalisco-style barbacoa (depicted at the top) (it's called that on the menu, they also have regular barbacoa) is a highly seasoned version that's interesting, though rather lean.

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  • 4 weeks later...

What do you guys think of places like Vivo and El Chile? They call themselves Tex-Mex, El Chile in particular is a bit higher end than, say, Maudie's, and the prices reflect the largely upper class clientel. However, I have had very good experiences at both.

Also, it's a bit easier to get my older relatives and less adventurous friends to eat at one of those places than at the more "authentic" old school east side venues.

-Sounds awfully rich!

-It is! That's why I serve it with ice cream to cut the sweetness!

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I've come to the conclusion that the sub-categorizations of "Gringo-Mex" or "Tejano-Mex" are unnecessary. I just don't think that there is a need for this. There are more interesting questions to explore.

One could do better just going through old menus to verify what was traditionally served in a Tex-Mex restaurant, beginning with the early "Original" Mexican restaurants that proliferated after the success of Otis Farnsworth's in San Antonio. Some dishes have disappeared over the years (example: 'fritoque'). With the closing of Felix's in Houston, doubtful you'll find spaghetti as a side dish on any Tex-Mex menu though at one time it was on most menus. So, let's take a trip back to the early 1900's and a menu that features a regular supper of tamales, chile con carne, enchilada, frijoles, tortillas de maiz and sopa de arroz. Or, the special supper that adds ensalada de aguacate and chile relleno (lost forever is whether this was a poblano chile or a bell pepper, we'll never know).

Gringo-Mex, defined as catering to the general population doesn't work for me. Nor does Tejano-Mex as the identifier of other restaurants catering to the Mexican population.

A more interesting study would involve setting up a spreadsheet with all of the dishes currently offered by all the Tex-Mex restaurants here in Texas and try to link each to a region. One could look at their geographical roots, and ask questions about whether, say a chalupa in Texas bears any resemblance a chalupa in Mexico and further, what area of Mexico. Or, how does the Tex-Mex combo compare to the traditional plato Tampiqueno of Tampico? How did spaghetti make its way up to Texas from the menus of Puebla? What dishes that became popular at Mexican resorts have made their way onto menus in Texas? Does chile con carne have its roots in the chilorio of Sonora? Is there a regional cuisine in Mexico that uses cumin as extensively as in Texas? How does the yellow corn used in Texas result in unique corn products (chips, puffy tacos, etc.) not seen in Mexico? Have guisados always been available at Tex-Mex restaurants? How did cheddar cheese enter the picture? Or Quick- Melt? When did green salsa start showing up in Tex-Mex restaurants? How did the ancho chile puree dipped tortilla ('enchilada') evolve into the red-dyed enchilada tortilla of San Antonio, or into the fried-in-oil-to-soften tortilla (with no chile puree) that is more typical of the Tex-Mex restaurants today? When did Tex-Mex restaurants shift to paprika instead of ancho chile purees? When did onions start being boiled rather than grilled for salsas? Etc. etc. etc.

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