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One of Austin's Premier Mexican Restaurants

One of Austin's Premier Mexican Restaurants


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When one steps through the hand-carved wooden doors that serve as the entrance to Fonda San Miguel it almost feels as if they have been transported to a beautiful Mexican courtyard. Opened in 1975, it was one of the first restaurants to serve exclusively Mexican food, drawing from all of the country's regions instead of just focusing on one area. Owner Tom Gilliland and executive chef Miguel Ravago, have worked to hone the food and décor of Fonda San Miguel so as to create the illusion of being transported to another place and time. With all of this in mind, we sat down at a copper-adorned table and began our tour of Mexican cuisine.

After sitting down we were informed that the public relations firm of the restaurant had told our waiter to bring out an assortment of food at a decent pace, so that left us with the first question of the night, "What would we like to drink?" We asked what the house special is, which turns out to be the "Silver Coin". This margarita made with watermelon-infused tequila, Cointreau, and fresh lime juice is refreshing and light, which hides the fact that most of the drink is straight tequila. Matt ordered a Manhattan, which was also tasty and served in a cool metal martini glass. David ordered a Pisco sour, which is a wonderfully tart lemon-based drink from South America.

I hadn’t even noticed that the waiter had walked back up when I started hearing wonderful words like wild Canadian lobster and blue corn quesadillas. Before I could even get the camera ready people started to dive into the food. The wild Canadian lobster was served ceviche-style, which kept the meat wonderfully tender and sweet with just a hint of citrus. And the blue corn tortillas were stuffed with Muenster cheese.

Next was the Plato de Miguel, which is made up of lamb lollipops, adobo-crusted shrimp, blue corn quesadillas, and tacos Al Pastor — every bite was amazing. What really stood out was that the flavors in every dish were simple, yet flavorful and rich. The lamb, for example, was very simply seasoned with salt, pepper, and pasilla chile. The main focus was the lamb, but the flavor was raised and enriched by the seasonings that were used. Chef Ravago crafted the profile of each dish so that each component is unique, yet they work harmoniously together. Likewise, the shrimp was sweet and worked wonderfully with the spiciness from the adobo seasoning.

My favorite though, is the Al Pastor. The pork is cut into small pieces and is then slow cooked with a mixture of spices and pineapple. The way that the flavors come together truly creates a dish that is more than the sum of its parts and is why I had to make this my favorite dish of the night. The sweet tanginess of the pineapple comes through ever so delicately so that it doesn’t taste fruity, yet you know that it's there. The pork is tender without being greasy, and the smoky flavors from the chiles came through with each wonderful bite. The blue corn quesadillas were stuffed with Muenster cheese and either rajas (a sauté of chiles and onions), shredded chicken, or mushrooms.

Around this time I ordered my second drink of the night — the Plantation. This refreshing cocktail is made with Plymouth gin, basil, Cointreau, agave, and grapefruit. Next we were greeted by a tower of food, literally. The Torre de Botanas arrived with three levels of Tostadas Compuestas and Sopecitos. The tostadas were served three ways, one with the same shredded chicken that was used in the quesadillas, one with house-smashed guacamole, and one with their cochinita pibil.

The cochinita pibil was the standout of the three. This traditional pork dish from the Yucatan Peninsula is slow cooked with achiote, garlic, onion, and cumin, and is then served with pickled onion. The pork did not disappoint; it was tender and flavorful with the citrusy marinade coming through and the pickled onions popping off like exploding flavor crystals. The Sopecitos were also served three ways; one with the house-made guacamole, one with a wonderful topping of black drum, and another with the adobo-crusted shrimp. All three varieties were served on top of tender pillows made from fried masa.

Sadly our dinner began winding down at this point, but we still had two dishes left — the tres leches cake and the crepas de cajeta. The tres leches was the best that I have had, I’m typically not a big fan, but this was excellent — the cake was firm, with a good texture, and was served with fruit topping on it. But the real star was the crepas de cajeta. Cajeta is a rich and luxurious caramel sauce made from goat’s milk. The crepes were a bit thicker than I was used to but they served perfectly to sop up the amazing caramel sauce, and just when you thought it couldn’t get any better, the dessert is served with a scoop of cajeta ice cream.

The meal was now finished. The last bite of dessert fought over, the last sip of coffee drunk (you get your own French press), and the conversation dying down into a quiet satiated moment of reflection on the wonderful meal consumed. Fonda San Miguel is a special place, a place where you go for more than just a meal, a place where you can take a tour of Mexico one amazingly delicious bite at a time. Hasta luego mis amigos.


Carrie Baird

Chef Carrie Baird is the owner at the wildly popular, Bar Dough, in Denver, CO named one of the Top 25 Restaurants in Denver, three years in a row. Born in Idaho, but trained in Colorado with classic Mediterranean, Italian and French techniques, Carrie believes great food comes from cooking from your heart. Baird's signature style fuses locally sourced ingredients with healthy twists on both classic and innovative new dishes. She studied culinary arts at Le Cordon Bleu and cites Top Chef alum Jennifer Jasinski as her greatest mentor. She has also received acclaim for her work at Denver hot spot Rioja, Euclid Hall. Focusing on sustainable and responsible food, she loves working with local farmers and ranchers to develop her menus. Carrie will also launch a new restaurant venture in early 2019, Sofia in New Orleans.

Padma Lakshmi

Padma Lakshmi

Padma Lakshmi is an Emmy-nominated food expert, television host, producer and The New York Times best-selling author.

She is the creator, host, and executive producer of the critically acclaimed Hulu series Taste the Nation, which received a 2021 Gotham Award for Breakthrough Series. The series has just been greenlit for a second season.

Lakshmi also serves as host and executive producer of Bravo’s two-time Emmy-winning series Top Chef, which has been nominated for 32 Emmys, including her two-time nomination for Outstanding Host for A Reality-Competition Program. Its new season will be premiering in spring 2021.

Lakshmi is co-founder of the Endometriosis Foundation of America (EFA) and an American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) Artist Ambassador for immigrants' rights and women's rights. Lakshmi was also appointed a Goodwill Ambassador for the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

Born in India, she grew up in the United States, graduating from Clark University with a Bachelor’s Degree in Theatre Arts and American Literature. Known as India’s first supermodel, she began her career as a fashion model and actress working in Europe and the United States.

Laskhmi established herself as a food expert early in her career hosting Padma’s Passport, where she cooked diverse cuisine from around the world and Planet Food, a documentary series, both on the Food Network domestically and worldwide on the Discovery Channel. She also co-hosted Rai Television's Domenica In, Italy’s highest-rated variety show.

She’s a prolific author, writing the best-selling Easy Exotic, which won the “Best First Book” award at the Gourmand World Cookbook Awards. Lakshmi followed this with the publication of her second cookbook, Tangy, Tart, Hot & Sweet and her memoir The New York Times best-selling Love, Loss and What We Ate. She later published The Encyclopedia of Spices & Herbs. In August of 2021 she will publish her first children’s book Tomatoes for Neela.

In addition to her food writing, Lakshmi has also contributed to Vogue, Gourmet, both British and American Harper's Bazaar, as well as penning a syndicated column on fashion and food for The New York Times.

Lakshmi created a fine jewerly line The Padma Collection, which sold at Bergdorf Goodman, Neiman Marcus and Nordstrom. She also designed a home décor line under the same name featuring tabletop dishware, stemware and hand-blown glass décor pieces, was sold nationwide in Bloomingdale’s. In addition, Lakshmi created Padma’s Easy Exotic, a collection of culinary products ranging from frozen organic foods, fine teas, natural spice blends and home goods. In 2018, Lakshmi collaborated with MAC Cosmetics for a worldwide capsule collection called MAC Padma which quickly sold out in both India and the United States.

After unknowingly suffering from endometrisis for decades, in 2009 she co-founded the Endometriosis Foundation of America (EFA) alongside Advanced Gynecological Surgeon Tamer Seckin, MD. The EFA launched the first interdisciplinary research facility in the country for Gynepathology, as a joint project between Harvard Medical School and MIT and Lakshmi gave the keynote address at the Center’s opening in December 2009.

Her efforts were recognized on the floor of the New York State Senate, where she succeeded in passing a bill related to teen health initiatives. The organization’s ENPOWR program has currently educated over 32,000 students about endometriosis in high schools across the state of New York.

Lakshmi is a visiting scholar at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and has received the 2018 Karma Award from Variety, as well as the 2016 NECO Ellis Island Medal of Honor.


Where to Eat in Austin: 27 Top Texas Restaurants

Everyone knows Austin’s reputation as a music town, but these days the Texas capital is just as renowned for its food, which features both traditional Texan flavors and dishes that confound stereotypical expectations. Here are 27 of the restaurants and bars that make the city worth devouring.

Related To:

Photo By: Buff Strickland ©Buff Strickland Photography, 2014

Photo By: Spencer Morehead

Franklin Barbecue

Brisket is the king of Texas barbecue, and Aaron Franklin is the king of brisket. In the hotly debated and constantly shifting landscape of Austin barbecue, there's one constant, and that is the excellence that happens in the smokers at Franklin Barbecue on East 11th Street. Jaded Austinites bemoan the long lines (arrive by 7:30 a.m. to be safe), but the four-hour wait is just part of the experience, and once you step up to the counter and are handed a sample morsel of brisket, those hours melt away in a rush of fatty, oak-smoked perfection.

Dai Due

The Texan obsession with meat extends beyond just barbecue at Dai Due, a butcher shop-slash-restaurant that focuses on consciously sourced and underappreciated proteins. The stars of the show are their butchers, who break down whole animals behind the counter. Picking up a grassfed steak or venison sausage to cook at home makes for a fantastic meal, but dine in and let Dai Due's chefs wow you with everything from grilled wagyu baby back ribs to a brunch-only wild boar patty melt. They also haven't forgotten their pop-up restaurant origins and offer a nightly three-course supper club featuring Gulf seafood or some of their rarer wild game. Also not to be missed: the Sunday night tallow-fried chicken.

Matt's El Rancho

Austin's taste buds were raised on gooey enchiladas and bowls of thick, creamy queso. Matt's El Rancho is the godfather of those Tex-Mex comforts, dating back to an East 1st Street location in 1952 (and further back to a tamale cart in 1923!). Nowadays it's on South 1st, inside a massive hacienda-style restaurant that seats 500. Matt's army of regulars all have their favorites, but walk through the airy dining room and you'll see on nearly every table an order of the restaurant's all-time classic, the Bob Armstrong Dip, named after a former Texas Land Commissioner who asked the kitchen for "something different" and thus inspired the creation of this iconic mix of queso, guacamole and ground taco meat.

Olamaie

When Olamaie opened, all anyone wanted to talk about was the biscuits. A secret off-menu favorite, they're now available to order in bulk to go. Their rabid following shows the respect Olamaie pays to even the humblest Southern foods, which the chefs here elevate to fine-dining levels of quality. From riffs on shrimp and grits to hush puppies to boiled peanuts, they re-envision comfort food without forgetting its roots. And although some of the ingredients might confuse old-school diners, there's no denying the beauty of their hulking pork chop or wagyu rib eye.

Kemuri Tatsu-ya

From the chef who brought the ramen craze to Austin, Kemuri Tatsu-ya blends the concept of a Japanese izakaya with that of a Texas barbecue joint. Of course the menu features ramen (with beef broth and brisket), but there's so much more than just noodles. You'll want to order plenty from the Smoked section of the menu, which features a buttery fish collar, BBQ eel, and spicy pork ribs rubbed with gochujang pepper. The mix of Texas technique and Japanese flavors makes this the most-exciting part of the menu, but it's also a good idea to order some skewers (beef tongue, chicken hearts) and the classic chicken karaage. And if chicken heart isn't wild enough for you, dare to order off the Exotic menu &mdash we recommend trying the squid guts (once).

Veggie Heaven

Austin's always been a health-conscious city full of vegetarian options. One of the most beloved is Veggie Heaven, a Taiwanese comfort-food restaurant that opened in 1998 on Guadalupe Street across from the University of Texas. It was a student favorite, thanks to cheap lunch specials with an appeal that extended beyond just vegetarians, and has now relocated to West 6th Street, where it continues to stay true to its roots with a broad menu of nonmeat dishes under $10. The most iconic is the Protein 2000, fried and battered tofu nuggets in a sweet and savory brown sauce that are as healthy as they are filling.

Bufalina

Austin has a surprisingly deep pizza scene. Arguments abound about who serves the best slice, but as an all-around restaurant, Bufalina wins hands down. Few spaces in town capture the same understated cool it strikes a perfect balance between date spot and place to bro-out on some 'za. The oven is right there in the dining room, constantly cranking out bubbly crusted Neapolitan pies from open to close. The hippest servers in town dance between the packed tables, attentive and friendly but never overbearing. The pizza is the main course, but with apps like ricotta gnocchi in cactus pesto and snapper crudo with prickly pears, you could easily skip the pies altogether.

Launderette

Like many areas in East Austin, Holly Street and Cesar Chavez have seen a recent revitalization that's brought a wealth of new neighborhood restaurants. Launderette was one of the first, opened by James Beard nominees Rene Ortiz and Laura Sawicki. Their irreverent approach to small plates refuses to be categorized by genre. The menu is organized into snack-y bits like striped bass crudo and Burrata, wood-fired specialties like octopus in brown butter, and vegetables for the table, which include grilled broccoli with compressed pear. Dishes are best shared, but there's one that should be ordered solo: the Plancha Burger, a simple patty topped with American cheese and special sauce that's a strong contender for best in town. Also, don't forget dessert &mdash the birthday-cake ice cream sandwich is a must-order, no matter how full you are.

Jester King Brewery

Austin's beer rep is on the rise nationally, with much credit due to Jester King. As its name suggests, it has an irreverence for traditionalism, but with a royal execution. The farmhouse brewery a short drive outside Austin is a requisite pilgrimage for beer lovers with a curious streak. Spontaneous fermentation, barrel aging and head-scratching ingredients are the norm. An excellent example is the Aurastone, an ale aged in Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc barrels, refermented with spent peaches and apricots, then finished with lime leaf and pink sea salt. In addition to insanely creative brews, the Jester King compound is home to some of the best Neapolitan pizza in town, served by Stanley's Farmhouse Pizza.

Nickel City

Everyone loves a neighborhood bar, but with Austin's development boom they're becoming harder to find. East Austinites mourned the loss of Longbranch Inn, one of the neighborhood's longest-running watering holes, on 11th Street when it closed in 2016. Thankfully, new owners stepped up and kept the bar's original spirit while carefully changing with the times, adding an affordable but serious cocktail menu and a food trailer serving Detroit-style coneys, and taking down the horrendous artwork. The atmosphere at Nickel City is still dive-y, but you can tell the guts are as professional as it gets, which earned this spot a nomination for Best New American Cocktail Bar from Tales of the Cocktail.

Barley Swine

Cooking is in Bryce Gilmore's blood. His father leveled up Mexican cooking in Austin with Z'Tejas, his uncle Ralph raised the bar on fish tacos at Turf N' Surf, and Bryce has evolved Texas-style cuisine into more than just meat plus fire. Although those are still two of his primary ingredients at Barley Swine and no one will be disappointed by classics like aged pork chops, the vegetables are just as important, and the kitchen staff maintains regular communication with farmers to understand each season's harvest. The menu changes daily, but the one dish that has never left the menu is the shiitake dumplings: ravioli-like pockets of dough stuffed with a mouthwatering mushroom broth on a fluffy bed of tender scrambled eggs, topped with whatever's fresh from the farm.

Titaya's

When Titaya's temporarily closed in 2013, there were near riots among Austin's pad Thai fiends. It's hard to top the homestyle nature of a family-run Thai restaurant, especially when the level of care elevates the food beyond strip-mall expectations. The generous heap of pad Thai noodles is the perfect antidote to basic Thai cravings, and the signature wings, marinated in garlic, peppercorns and fried lemongrass, are a must. It's hard to go wrong with any of the staples, from curries to stir-fries to regional noodle dishes like khao soi, but for the best experience, turn to the Titaya's Classic Dishes section of the menu, where you'll find more-unusual entrees like Pad Cha (fried catfish in a spicy herb-garlic sauce).

Small Victory

Austin's craft-cocktail renaissance means there are a dozen places to find a perfect old fashioned, but it can be tough to find the right balance between vibe, menu and hospitality. Small Victory isn't easy to locate &mdash the long, shotgun-style one-room bar sits at the top of a spiral staircase over a nondescript parking garage &mdash but once you're there it's like entering a Prohibition-era haunt without the pretension of most speakeasy-style bars. Snack on one of the city's best meat and cheese plates while you enjoy signature drinks like the Artists' Special, a smoky variation on the whiskey sour with Scotch, sherry, lemon juice and grenadine. And if you feel like keeping it classic, just refer to the build-your-own-martini chart on the menu, which walks customers through ordering their preferred spirit, level of dryness and garnish.

Fleet Coffee

Austin's coffee scene has exploded over the last decade, with influential roasters like Cuvée and local institutions like Caffe Medici training a community of baristas so tight-knit that they hold monthly latte-art competitions. One of the most-recent and tastiest additions to the scene is Fleet, a tiny cafe that's an alternative to the computer-lab environment at most of the city's other coffee shops. Founded by a pair of Cuvée and Medici alums, the shop serves pour-overs, flash-brewed iced coffee and a perfect shot of espresso, as well as a menu of creative specialty drinks like an iced coffee tonic.

Contigo

Inspired by the owners' ranch of the same name, Contigo cooks Texas-style comfort foods in one of the city's most-beloved patios. The restaurant opened in 2011 and immediately redefined alfresco dining, especially when it comes to lazy weekend brunches. The menu leans meaty, with fantastic burgers, steaks, sausages and fried chicken (only on Thursdays!), but also includes fresh seasonal Texas vegetables like okra and cucumbers. The menu won't offend any traditionalists, but where Contigo really excels is when it breaks from the mold with twists on classics like the roasted tomato kolaches and the must-order ox tongue hash.

Veracruz All Natural

Taco trucks and trailers in Austin come and go (literally), but one that isn't moving anytime soon is Veracruz All Natural. People constantly argue about the best breakfast taco in town, but it's hard to dispute the greatness of Veracruz's migas. Strips of tortilla give a snappy crunch to the mix of scrambled eggs, onions and peppers. A handful of cheese glues the eggs to the tortilla, and neon-green slices of fresh avocado top it off with a touch of creaminess. Douse it in one of their several salsas for a breakfast you'll never forget.

Mr. Natural

Vegetarian cuisine is anything but bland at Mr. Natural, an old-school Mexican bakery slash vegetarian institution. The daily-changing lunch special has fueled plant-eaters since 1988. Just $8 buys a salad, sides like gorditas or potatoes au gratin, and flips on traditional Mexican dishes like potato flautas and picadillo de soyas. Order off the main menu and the move is the Burger Boss, a soy patty topped with sauteed mushrooms, onions and avocado. Housemade agua frescas pair nicely with the city&rsquos largest selection of vegan pastries for dessert.

Counter Cafe

Neighborhood cafes are all about providing the comforts of home cooked with just enough verve to make each dish unreproducible. There are dozens of places in Austin to score a heaping breakfast along those lines, but none feel quite as welcoming as Counter Cafe. Take a seat at the tiny diner for one of the best shows in town: a crew of short order wizards cooking with the precision of ballet dancers. The biscuits and gravy are eye-opening and the poached eggs with stone-ground grits keep things Southern, but lighter fare like the red quinoa porridge lets the quality of their locally sourced ingredients shine. Arrive later in the afternoon and the must-order is the burger, a hefty patty bursting with juices that have dribbled down the chins of thousands of Austinites.

Tacodeli

Special-occasion restaurants are important to a city's dining culture, but more often it's the homegrown casual chains that define diners' diets. Few have as much of an impact as Tacodeli, whose footprint is far larger than just its five brick-and-mortar locations, thanks to a wholesale breakfast-taco business that makes the Jess Special (migas, Jack cheese and avocado) one of the most-ubiquitous tacos in town. Tacodeli is more than just breakfast, though. Its outposts along Barton Skyway and Burnet Road have become lunch landmarks to those who live and work nearby, with powerfully seasoned and sustainably sourced meats filling tacos like the Cowboy (dry-rubbed beef tenderloin, corn, onion, pepper, guac and queso fresco) as well as more inventive daily specials like the banh mi taco.

Fonda San Miguel

Austin's Tex-Mex reputation precedes it, but there's more to Mexican food than mounds of melted cheese. Fonda San Miguel was one of the trailblazers of regional Mexican cuisine, from the Yucatan (cochinita pibil) to Oaxaca (so many moles). It's one of Austin's most-cherished spaces, a distinguished but still casual dining room lined with art that feels distinctly Mexican but at home in Austin. It's an excellent place for dinner, but the best time to visit is brunch. Reservations are crucial &mdash after 40 years in business, the word is definitely out on the restaurant's impressive spread, which covers the full range of its menu plus a diet-destroying dessert buffet.

Emmer and Rye

If there's one restaurant in Austin that wins the eyes-bigger-than-your-stomach award, it's Emmer & Rye. The main menu, packed with heritage-grain pastas like White Sonora Tortellini and Blue Beard Durum Spaghetti, is indulgent enough already, but the kicker is the dim sum tray, a rolling temptation housing small bites like red snapper with peach and prickly pear agua chile, plus the famous Yellow Bolita Corn Johnny Cakes. Each dish is such an elegant composition that it's hard to say no, making eating here one of the most-fun (and filling) dining experiences in the city.

Jeffrey's

The lineage of Austin fine dining traces back to Jeffrey&rsquos. It opened in sleepy Clarksville, just west of downtown, in 1975 and for years served as the city&rsquos premier special-occasion restaurant. The bones are still the same, but the keys changed hands in 2013 with restaurateur wunderkind Larry McGuire now at the helm. Subtle changes give away that there&rsquos fresh ownership (like the Wes Anderson-inspired valet track suits), but the spirit stays the same. It&rsquos a place for celebrating with classic American cuisine, including grilled and braised short ribs and pork chops, all sourced from Texas ranches, but it wouldn&rsquot be a visit to Jeffrey&rsquos without a prime, dry-aged steak roasted over live oak.

Craft Pride

The Texas beer scene is booming, and there's no finer place for a taste of it than Craft Pride. The Craftsman-style bungalow feels like a remote cabin transported onto bustling Rainey Street, complete with an exhaustive tap list of all-Texan brews. Beers from legacy Austin breweries like Independence and (512) are always available, as well as new Austin classics like Pinthouse Pizza's Electric Jellyfish. Going hyperlocal is a strong move, but it'd be a shame to leave without tasting the rest of Texas, from Magnolia's Lone Pint to Dallas' Community Beer Co. Thankfully, Craft Pride makes it easy to sample the entire state with its 5-ounce small pours and generous samples.

Uchiko

Most people wouldn't associate Texas with sushi, but sister restaurants Uchi and Uchiko have been breaking that stereotype since 2003 and 2010. They import fish daily from Japan and break down whole fish each morning. The bites are immaculately constructed (no extra soy sauce required), but it's not just the nigiri that sets Uchiko apart from the city's other sushi restaurants. The rest of the menu is equally impressive. Experienced Austin diners have committed to heart the flavors of iconic dishes like the Hama Chili (yellowtail, ponzu, Thai chile and orange supreme) and Shag Roll (tempura, avocado, salmon and sun-dried tomato). But veterans also know to always check the specials menu for the freshest imports from the Tsukiji fish market, plus composed dishes that showcase the up-and-coming kitchen staff, who often go on to start fantastic restaurants of their own.

LeRoy and Lewis

With so many fantastic Texas barbecue joints in Austin, it's hard to open anything new that stands out from the pack. Evan LeRoy, the pitmaster behind LeRoy and Lewis, can cook a brisket with the best of them (he used to man the smokers at Freedmen's), but his new trailer operation tucked a block off South Congress Avenue refuses to be boxed in. You won't find a traditional three-meat combo plate here instead, expect smoked beef cheeks, a barbacoa torta or sliced porchetta, all sourced from local farms. The sides also extend beyond the typical beans and slaw, incorporating Asian flavors like kimchi and sambal. Texas traditionalists, fear not &mdash this spot is still serving brisket, albeit only a few days a week.

P. Terry's

Carpetbagging burger chains like In-N-Out and Shake Shack may have breached Austin's city limits, but locals know that the best quick burger in town comes from P. Terry's. With guilt-free meat, meticulously sourced potatoes and a staff as attentive as any in town, the owners have created an empire of 15 locations that all exemplify the same care that made the Barton Springs Road location such a hit. Pro tip: Ask for grilled onions, grilled jalapenos, and a treat for your dog.

Quality Seafood

Austin's proximity to the coast means that Gulf seafood isn't hard to find, but it's an open secret that many restaurants buy theirs from Quality Seafood. The fishmongers don't toss fish like footballs (a la Pike Place in Seattle), but a walk along their fish counter reveals a bounty of delicious seafood delivered fresh every day. It makes for an excellent pit-stop on the way home from work, but for those without a knack for shucking the monstrous Gulf oysters at home, Quality Seafood doubles as a restaurant that will fry, grill or bake up anything in the seafood case.


Menu Decoder

Ancho Pepper: A dried Poblano chile, ancho has a mild, sweet flavor rather than actual heat.

Carnitas: Literally “little meats,” carnitas refers to pulled pork, often used in traditional tacos as filling.

Chayote: This versatile, green Mexican fruit (similar to squash) can be cooked as a side, or found diced on salads or even as dessert.

Chipotle pepper: A dried, smoked jalapeño chili, this distinctive smoky pepper retains some of the jalapeño’s infamous heat.

Cotija: A hard cow’s-milk cheese, this hard, flavorful and salty cheese draws frequent comparisons to Parmesan.

Horchata: In the U.S., horcahata is usually a chilled drink made with rice and spice. It has a slight grainy texture, slight sweetness and a flavor reminiscent of rice pudding.

Huitlacoche: Sometimes referred to as the “Mexican truffle” (as in the mushroom) this fungus grows on corn plants and has an earthy, savory flavor that makes it a delicacy.

Jicama: This crunchy, refreshing root vegetable is often sliced and enjoyed raw. It adds crunch and flavor to salads, salsas and other dishes.

Mole: While it’s used synonymously with mole poblano, the red-brown sauce of chili peppers and chocolate, Mexican mole actually includes a family of sauces in colors of black, red and green.

Nopales: The flat leaves of the prickly pear cactus, these are prepared as nopalitos.

Pepitas: These roasted pumpkin seeds often appear as a flavor-and-texture enhancer on salads and other dishes.

Queso fresco: Literally “fresh cheese,” this delicate white cheese is a great choice, with only 3 SmartPoints values per ounce, compared to 4 for common north-of-the-border substitutions like Monterey Jack or cheddar.

Tamales: A popular staple, tamales are made from a mix of ground corn and shortening, and then cooked to a firm, doughy consistency in a corn husk. They are often filled with small bits of chicken or pork, and sauce.

Tomatillo: This tart, acidic fruit looks like a small tomato in a paper husk and forms the foundation for Mexican verdes, or green sauces.


Watch the video: How Texas Pitmaster Miguel Vidal Perfected the Brisket Taco Smoke Point (July 2022).


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