The Austinot Tex-Mex Food Challenge: Maudie’s Tex-Mex

Maudie's Tex Mex Food in AustinSit down a moment and let me tell you a story — nay, an epic — of one blogger’s quest to find the best Tex Mex food in Austin. This harrowing journey began seven years ago when I, a young soon-to-be-Austinot, first moved to Texas.

Having been born and raised in Hawaii, I had never experienced the symphony of flavor contained within the humble enchilada or fajita plate. My world changed, however, when I first stepped across the border of the Lone Star State.

Imagine my excitement when I was given the chance to review the best food in Austin. This is the place where Tex Mex is born. Texas and Mexico have risen and collided like two cultural waves throughout the past couple hundred years, and luckily for us the falloff includes some of the most delicious food in this hemisphere. So I have taken it upon myself to rate and review the Tex Mex joints in Austin and unearth whatever gems I can find.

First up is Maudie’s Tex-Mex.

Maudie’s began in the ’50s as a traditional cafe. Owned and operated by “the” Maudie herself, the cafe was know for its home-style cooking and relaxed atmosphere. Maudie’s business model was simple and American through-and-through: make the best food possible and people will keep coming back for more. It worked well, and her cafe made a name for itself through the second half of the century.

Maudie handed the business over to Joe Draker in 1992. Having purchased a business known for quality, Joe made it his mission to continue making delicous food at affordable prices. He did change a few things though. Joe believed in Maudie’s love for seriously good food and turned the business toward Tex-Mex instead of home-style cooking. Since then, Maudie’s Tex-Mex Cafe has won numerous awards for its authentic food and drinks.

Maudie's Cafe dining room on Lamar in Austin

Maudie's Tex Mex still retains its relaxed and informal atmosphere.

So what does the Austinot think about Maudie’s?

I sat down to eat at Maudie’s 10205 N. Lamar location. Salsa is the first test I use when rating a Tex-Mex restaurant. The salsa is like the national anthem before a game starts. A poor rendition can sour the whole experience from the get-go. With so much hanging in the balance, I dipped my first chip into the bowl set before me.

It was really good! Making good salsa is a complex science involving many alchemeical components which I straight don’t understand. The cooks at Maudie’s, though, have near perfected it. They don’t add too much cilantro or anything. The salsa has just enough heat without compromising flavor. The servers were quick to refill my chips and salsa as well, so I never once stared at an empty bowl.

Maudie's Fajita Enchilada plate

Secondly, Tex-Mex is all about the classic dishes. There are only so many ways to reinvent the wheel, so a lot depends on how well a restaurant produces time-tested recipes. I’m talking about the tacos, quesadillas, tamales, etc. They are the foundation of any Tex-Mex restaurant, whether it is a mom-and-pop place or national chain.

With the cautionary, “Watch out; this plate’s hot,” my server slid a sizzling plate of fajita enchilada before me. God bless the genius who first cross-bred the fajita and the enchilada. By combining two simple Tex-Mex dishes, he successfully hybridized the perfect southwestern food. Its dominant traits of savory beef and grilled peppers are carried along by the recessive tortilla and onions.

Maudie’s Tex-Mex certainly does the fajita echilada justice. The peppers and onions did not dominate the spices cooked into the meat. Overall, it was tender and complex.

I finished my meal with one of Maudie’s Austin-famous frozen margaritas. Personally, I am not a big margarita guy, but I had to try one anyway because of the hype. Restaurants often neglect the quality of the margaritas by simply blending tequila with sour mix with some reconstituted lime juice, but even I could tell that my bartender didn’t skimp on any ingredients. Maudie’s used seriously-good sour mix with squeezed limes. They threw a little agave nectar with some tequila and served me a margarita done right.

Blended margarita at Maudie's in Austin

Though I prefer my margaritas blended, you can order them on the rocks as well.

The only beef I had with my meal (get it?) was that my ecnhiladas were heavy on the veggies and a bit light on the meat. That was probably a singular occurance, though, because everybody around me seemed wholly engaged in Tex-Mex ecstasy. I ate every bite and will certainly return to Maudie’s for lunch again.

This encounter with Austin Tex-Mex has given me hope. Now I set my sails toward unknown and spicy horizons. Click HERE to keep up-to-date with my search for the perfect Tex-Mex food.

 

Austinot Dusty says:
What Austin Tex-Mex restaurants should I explore next?

 

(Photos property of Chelsea Oakes and Haleigh Burger, respectively.)

 
 
Maudie's Cafe on Urbanspoon

  • http://www.twocannoli.com/ kristin

    My favorite Tex-Mex is Trudy’s – GREAT migas.  Maudie’s is right by my house and so convenient, and their margaritas are the best, but I tip my hat to the food at Trudy’s.  Best Mexican, classic, is Fonda San Miguel.  

    • Austinot Dustin

      Trudy’s? I have heard plenty of good things about that restaurant. I should head there next! What should I order?

  • http://twitter.com/lifebypixels Mark Heaps

    Curra’s on Oltorf down by SoCo, sooooo ridiculously good. Margaritas and food. Never ever been disappointed with an item.

    • Austinot Dustin

      Sweet! Thanks, Mark. I will put that down on the list. Any specific dishes you would recommend? 

  • Haleigh Burger

    I want a margarita now. Want to go get Medican food for lunch? I have always wanted to try Chuy’s and Trudy’s. However, El Patio was really good!

    • Austinot Dustin

      It was! Maybe we can go get Mexican food later this week. We should try some of the places people are listing here.

      • Haleigh Burger

        YES PLEASE.  I need some enchiladas and margaritas!

  • Homero

    For Tex Mex, I go to Amaya’s Taco Village,but I also like Angie’s, but
    honestly,  you are going to find better Tex Mex in San Antonio.  That
    said, there is a lot of really authentic Mexican (not Tex Mex) to be
    found in Austin which I find I prefer to Tex Mex.

    • Austinot Dustin

      Thanks, Homero! Being a non-native Texan, my taste buds are still adapting to Hispanic food. I like eating Tex-Mex as a bridge to Mexican food. Next time I am in SA I will stop by a few Tex-Mex joints. Where do you recommend?

    • Haleigh Burger

      I LOVE Amaya’s!

  • http://twitter.com/wonderousATX WonderousATX

    You can make this list way to long.  Maudie’s is a good choice.  Best breakfast tacos in the city.  Amaya’s Taco Village for Puffy Tacos.  Trudys for excellent fajitas.  Curras on Oltorf for quality enchiladas.  Habanero’s on W Oltorf, tiny place but great flavor!  Juan in a Million & Las Cazuelas for east side mexican food.  You also got Serranos, El Arroyo, Chuys, & Matt’s El Rancho to name some other local Austin places.  Some places do breakfast better than lunch and vice versa.  

    • Austinot Dustin

      That makes sense. I didn’t try Maudie’s breakfast menu, but I’ve heard that it is delicious. Definitely going to go there again. 

      Wow! Thanks for the list. I am going to have to schedule my days around Tex-Mex restaurants so I can get the best food at the best time. So far Trudy’s has gotten the most attention from readers (both positive and negative) so I will probably try that next.

    • Haleigh Burger

      I love El Arroyo.  I like El Mercado, too.  Have you ever been there?

  • Patrick Doyle

    Slight correction – before Maudie sold the joint to Joe, she brought in Jorge Arrendondo to revamp her greazy-spoon, he of Austin’s legendary Casita Jorge’s, which went out of business in the late 1980s.  Jorge’s was widely popular with the West Austin/collegiate crowd, so bringing him and his menu over to Lake Austin Blvd was a no-brainer.  Nothing too special except for his enchiladas (three sauces – chili beef, ranchero, and spicy cheese,) and the frozen margaritas (double-shot of tequila and raw egg-white suspension that created the fluffiest frozen drink on the planet.)  Rumor is Maudie came in one day to find all the tables and fixtures gone and a seizure notice on the window, which was the way Jorge tended to operate back then.  And it appears Joe never changed much except for the margaritas when he came in.  He changed the names but those three enchilada sauces are still on the menu, along with a few other legacy items, but no more raw egg whites. 
     

    • Austinot Dustin

      Oh wow. I hadn’t known that history. Thanks for the info, Patrick! So many legacy items on that menu…

    • pdinds

      I moved to Austin in 1980 and discovered Jorge’s soon after. Went there several times a week to feed a new tex-mex addiction. Fast forward to 2009 and Maudie’s Hill Country. I tried the enchiladas and was instantly transported back to my youth and Jorge’s. It was exactly the same flavor! Remember Jorge’s margarita warning? “Only the strong survive.”

  • Patrick Doyle

    Maudie’s vegetarian (Spanish) enchilada sauce is another Jorge’s legacy item. 

  • Csledge89

    Cisco’s on E 6th, or Z’Tejas on W 6th. Z’s can run a bit steep (as you know) but the menu is always changing and it’s great. And Cisco’s was shown to me by a Wisconsin-transplant, but we’ll accept him as an Austinite. :) Because I don’t live in Austin, it’s hard to suggest any others. But those two are great.

    • Austinot Dustin

      Z’Tejas sounds exciting. What would you recommend trying?

  • TexSho

    Wars started by lesser questions! I really dig the El Paso style cuisine of The Texican Cafe.

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