Guest article by Laurie Engle
Matt Martinez was a boxer and winner of the Cross Country Olympics in Kodiak, Alaska in 1952 before he opened his now iconic restaurant. Once open, Martinez took special care of his customers while his wife, Janie, worked in the kitchen cooking everything from scratch. Here are some other things you may not know about Matt’s El Rancho in Austin.
Location, Location, Location
The original location was a small space in downtown Austin. But today you will find the restaurant on South Lamar Boulevard, with seating for over 500 people, including a huge outdoor patio and bar.
According to the eatery’s website, a few celebrities have enjoyed the occasional chile relleno over the years, including former President Lyndon Johnson. If you’re a fan of the Travel Channel, you may have been tempted by the Bob Armstrong Dip’s cheesy goodness, featured on “Bizarre Foods.”
Indoor and Outdoor Options
The exterior of Matt’s El Rancho features traditional Mexican architecture, with marvelously carved wooden doors that beckon you inside. Once you’re there, the interior is warm and inviting. I personally love the glow from the light fixtures shaped like lanterns.
There is plenty of free parking at the restaurant (which can be a rarity in Austin). But don’t visit on a Tuesday! I learned that one the hard way. As I approached, the parking lot was suspiciously empty. One glance at the sign clearly informed me they are closed on Tuesdays. Fortunately for all of us, it’s the one day of the week they’re closed.
Appetite and thirst still firmly in place, I showed up again on Margarita Monday. The place was busy, but there was still ample seating, and the service was friendly and quick. I started with a house margarita made from fresh limes. You will want to pace yourself with the margaritas–they pack a punch!
Next on my agenda was queso. You can’t go to a Tex-Mex restaurant in Austin and not order queso, and Matt’s El Rancho has some of the best in town. The chips and salsa are delicious, as well. But have water on hand, since the salsa is on the spicy side.
Endless Food Options at Matt’s El Rancho
The menu is extensive. Everyone in your group should find something they can enjoy, from chicken fried steak to surprising choices like fried frog legs. My choice was the No. 1 dinner, which includes a beef taco, beef enchilada, pork tamale, Spanish rice and refried beans. I enjoyed the freshness of the taco and the enchilada was tasty, but the tamale was a bit bland and dry.
All in all, a visit to Matt’s El Rancho should be on your list of locally-owned restaurants to try in Austin. With a wonderful tradition of delicious fresh food, cold drinks and an amazing patio to enjoy them on, you can’t go wrong.
2613 S. Lamar Blvd. – Website
@theAustinot wants to know:
What is your favorite menu item at Matt’s El Rancho?
Laurie Engle LOVES Austin, its many fantastic neighborhoods, laid-back sophistication and never-ending supply of things to experience. Her work is selling homes in this amazing city, while making new friends along the way. You can follow Laurie on her Facebook page.
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