Sit 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.
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.
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.
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.)