Austinot Tex-Mex Food Challenge: Trudy’s Tex-Mex and Bar

Today marks another leg of my journey to discover the best Austin Tex-Mex. When I first wrote about Maudie’s, I asked you to recommend restaurants that I should check out. Instantly, you blew up The Austinot’s Facebook, Twitter, and email accounts.

Thanks for all the suggestions. Hopefully you can see that I’m doing my best to make it to your favorite places in Austin. Due to popular demand, I most recently checked out Trudy’s Tex-Mex and Bar.

Trudy’s may be the most controversial Tex-Mex restaurant on my list. Small verbal skirmishes erupted whenever  somebody mentioned its name. Our readers either praised it or condemned it for various reasons.

A business doesn’t attain that level of controversy without reason, so I had to settle the matter once and for all.

Trudy has a few restaurants across Austin, but I headed to its original location on 30th Street, right off of Guadalupe. You may have to do a bit of searching if you don’t know where it is.

The restaurant was created in 1977 and made a name for itself as Austin boomed over the next thirty years. By now, Trudy’s has found its way into every Austin Tex-Mex restaurant magazine and website.

The restaurant is split in half and hidden behind some bushes. The bar/patio area is located on the lower half of the property with the main restaurant area above it. The weird layout took a second for me to figure out, but overall it added a bit of secrecy and seclusion to the location. My photographer Haleigh and I were greeted as soon as we opened the door. The hostess brought us to our tables and our server was right behind her. Overall, the staff at Trudy’s was welcoming and prompt.

Our server, Phil!

The atmosphere at Trudy’s caught me off guard. Normally, a Tex-Mex restaurant will strive for authenticity, but Trudy’s goes the opposite direction with their restaurant. You won’t find any soccer game commentated by loud Spanish men on the TV. You won’t find any pictures of the Lady of Guadalupe or other Mexian cultural trademarks either.

Instead, the restaurant obviously caters to the university crowd. Pictures of Marvel comic book characters hang on the walls, while UT sports teams play on the televisions. I didn’t hear one mariachi band, but I did hear a lot of Death Cab for Cutie, Coldplay and the Shins. Honestly, it turned me off a bit. I think the inauthenticity of Trudy’s is largely responsible for its controversial reputation. I walked in expecting a down-to-earth Austin Tex-Mex joint and found a college hangout instead.

The interior of Trudy's definitely appeals to the college crowd.

I can’t really hold that against the restaurant, since they are located a block and a half from a campus with more than 50,000 students. It’s business.

How about their food, though? That is the end-all test of a Tex-Mex joint. Atmosphere and service can only go so far if the food isn’t worth the money.

As per usual, we started off with the salsa. If you read my last Tex-Mex post, you remember that I judge a restaurant according to a certain criteria. The salsa test is my first benchmark. Bad salsa can cripple a restaurant experience early, and the entree has to compensate in deliciousness. The salsa at Trudy’s isn’t mind-blowing, but it is good. I really liked how they offered both traditional salsa and salsa verde along with their chips. I don’t have enough salsa verde in my life, and it’s easy to forget how good it can be.

Overall, the menu is affordable. My carnitas tacos cost around nine dollars and Haleigh’s shrimp enchiladas cost around ten. Both dishes were well-prepared with quality ingredients. Much like our salsa, though, our main courses did not blow us away. My carnitas were tender, but they squirted grease and marinade across my plate with every bite I took. My dish came with a side of beans and Mexican rice.

Trudy’s goes out of its way to promote its drinks, and for good reason. They make ’em strong. Everybody around me (including our server, Phil) had tons of suggestions for different drinks. Trudy’s offers a Mexican Martini that is supposedly world-famous.

I opted for a frozen margarita, so I could compare it with the other restaurants I review for the Austinot Tex-Mex Food Challenge. The first sip of my margarita at Trudy’s caught me off guard, and I spent a few seconds coughing and catching my breath before stirring in some more lime juice. I am not big on margaritas, so take my opinion with some salt (pun intended). I really enjoyed their margaritas. The sweet/sour was smooth and complimented the lime and tequila well.

My bottom-line breakdown: Trudy’s Tex-Mex and Bar serves O.K. Tex-Mex and impressive drinks. The atmosphere is very laid back and college-oriented, which can turn off people who prize authenticity above all else. Get ready for some indie rock and polo shirts. This is the place you go for drinks with your friends, not for down-home Tex-Mex.


Austinot Dusty asks:
Do you know the best Tex-Mex in Austin? Click HERE to tell me where to go next!

Trudy's on Urbanspoon

  • Austin TX Followers

    The location up north is really good. Much less of a college feel!

    • Austinot Dustin

      Perhaps that was my mistake! Next time I’ll have to check out another location. What’s your favorite dish?

    • kristin

       I totally agree – we like the one up north.  The lemonade is delicious, too.  Queso excellent.  And the Migas, IMHO, best in town. 

  • David L

    Good drinks and queso will get you pretty far.

    • Austinot Dustin

      This is true, David. Those two things do a lot of good for Trudy’s. It’s a good place to grab some after-work food with your friends. Have you ever been?

      • David L

        Yeah two or three times, last time just for a drink after work as you say.

  • Jose

    I would like to see reviews where staff DOESN’T know you are reviewing the place. That said, Trudy’s is great food with Mexican flair.

    • Austinot Dustin

      Hi Jose! The staff had no clue that we were reviewing them until the food had already come by. They still were very nice and professional.

  • Melissa Skorpil

    Hi Dusty.  Thanks for the honest review.  The Trudy’s North on Burnet has a very different feel, almost like a hotel lobby from the 70s.  Same OK food, pretty good drinks.  Altogether forgettable, unfortunately.

    • Austinot Dustin

      Hey there, Melissa. Thanks for the suggestion. I will have to dedicate another post to a different Trudy’s so we can compare the difference. Any dish you would recommend?

  • WonderousATX

    Trudys has some great unique dishes along with TexMex worth trying.  The Mixed Grill, Southern style chicken, & Chorizo stuffed chicken to name a few.  The size of each entree is huge, and fill up anyone.  Plus the kitchen is open very late.  You are correct in the review, they serve TexMex food but hardly in a TexMex atmosphere.  

    • Austinot Dustin

      I will definitely go back for their Chrorizo stuffed chicken. I was torn between that plate and my beloved carnitas tacos. Thanks for the heads up!

  • Lacy vegas

    Good post Dusty! Can’t go wrong with Mexican food and margaritas!!

    • Austinot Dustin

      Thanks, Lace! I need to get you in on one of these reviews sometime.

  • Guest

    Hi, I think I’ve seen your posts on reddit.  Anyways the North location has a different vibe, but the food and drinks are going to be about the same.  If I had to eat at Trudy’s I’d limit my selections to their queso and the enchiladas, being essentially peasant/make-use-of-leftover food, are pretty hard to fuck up.

    I would suggest you do margaritas comparisons on the rocks, as mixing frozen margaritas takes less art than mixing concrete.  That said Trudy’s use a terrible mixer (so do many places, but if Trudy’s makes their mixer in-house, it’s goddamn terrible, as it tastes like the cheap mixers you buy at the liquor store), so the Trudy’s mystique largely develops from: (A) lots of college student (not known for discriminating palates) patronage and (B) they originated, as far as I know, the mexican martini, which seems one of the cheaper ways to get a strong buzz for $15-20 when eating out.