The Austinot Tex-Mex Food Challenge #4: Taqueria Arandas

Hi, everybody! Thanks for keeping up with my Austinot Tex-Mex Food Challenge series. Though the Austinot is more than an Austin food blog, we do love to feature good food!  We’ve made a lot of progress on the hunt for the best Tex-Mex in Austin, and I’m grateful for all of the advice you’ve sent my way.  There have been a few specific suggestions I will focus on from here on out:

 

  1. Branch out food-wise.  Since I’m relatively new to Tex-Mex, I’ve been sticking to traditional Tex-Mex entrees. You’ve given me so many different food suggestions that I don’t know where to start! From now on, I will branch out and order plates that include more that one type of food. If nothing else, I’ll order different styles of food wherever I go.
  2. Eat less gringo-ey. I had no clue that every Texan is a self-proclaimed Tex-Mex connoisseur. Now I know. I have been directed toward multiple restaurants where “true” Tex-Mex can be found by readers who live and die by their Tex-Mex.

The single thread running through your suggestions, though, is that my blog posts have centered around large Tex-Mex chains, ones that generally attract Caucasians. There’s nothing wrong with attracting white people (as a white guy I even encourage it!), but you have a point. Being from Hawaii, I can tell you that the best Hawaiian food is found where the locals eat. The same probably holds true for Tex-Mex restaurants, so now I’m focusing on authenticity.

Let’s get started. This week, the Austinot grabbed lunch at Taqueria Arandas on Burnet Road.

Taqueria Arandas represented a major gear shift after my blog post about Chuy’s. Though Taqueria Arandas is also a chain restaurant, it looked nowhere near as flamboyant as Chuy’s. Instead, it gave off the vibe of a small diner that survives through its repeat customers. I’ve found that low-key restaurants go one of two ways: either the food is delicious because they stick to their guns, or the food is mediocre so they can’t afford to grow their business. Fortunately, Taqueria Arandas is definitely the former.

My photographer and I walked into Taqueria Arandas on a sunny afternoon.  As soon as the doors closed behind us, we felt instantly comfortable and welcome.  The interior of the restaurant is dominated by black and white tiles and small booths that line the walls. A couple of servers and chefs chatted to one another as soccer played on the TV. Our server was a kind lady who quickly brought us to a corner booth.

Nothing says casual Tex-Mex dining like painted windows.

We got comfortable as our server grabbed our menus.  The selection was limited, so we didn’t take long deciding what to eat. We wanted a chance to relax while we ate our chips and salsa, though, so we asked for a couple of margaritas and grabbed a chip each.

Sadly, however, Taqueria Arandas doesn’t have margaritas. We were bummed out at first because margaritas are one of the standards I use to compare Tex-Mex restaurants across Austin. Though I’m not particularly passionate about them, a lot of people enjoy margaritas with their meals, so it’s something to note. As an alternative, we ordered a couple of Dos Equis to enjoy while we watched the soccer game.

The salsa at Taqueria Arandas is in-your-face and spicy. And it’s delicious. Heavy on the onions and peppers and not so much on the cilantro, this salsa has a kick that will remain in your mouth long after the bowl is empty. I feel that my salsa pallet has matured exponentially since I began these Austin Tex-Mex blog posts. Prior, salsa fell on one spectrum: spicy or not spicy. Now I can taste the different types, textures and tastes of salsa. The salsa at Taqueria Arandas is one that you can enjoy without having to physically fan your mouth to cool down.

Our food came quickly enough. Due to the limited menu, we ordered three different types of enchiladas and Barbacoa tacos. As per your reader suggestions, we ordered corn tortillas for the tacos and flour for the enchiladas. The Barbacoa tacos were pretty standard; they came with salsa and a wedge of lime. The onions were cooked thoroughly and piled high, and the meat was tender.

The enchiladas, on the other hand, were something to behold. The flour tortillas were exceptionally soft and contained a monterrey cheese blend. Both the cheese and the meat were fresh. We ordered one cheese, one chicken and one beef, and Taqueria Aranda smothered all three in a delicious verde sauce that complimented the cheese and fresh meat in the way a beautiful melody compliments a symphony.

All in all, I feel like I’m on the right track to finding the best Tex-Mex restaurant in Austin. I will definitely eat at Taqueria Arandas again. It is the type of place you want to go if you enjoy a low-key atmosphere with authentic and delicious food. Check it out at 6534 Burnet Road, Austin, TX 78757.

 

Austinot Dusty asks:
Am I on the right track? Name a few Tex-Mex restaurants you think I should review.

Taqueria Arandas on Urbanspoon

  • http://www.facebook.com/lisa.desbois.52 Lisa Desbois

    I am new to Tex Mex, I would like to try Taqueria Arandas, (however, I am also horrified by no margaritas!) Flores in Lakeway is quite good Tex Mex. However, first time I had a margarita, it was awesome! Second time- I sent it back. The food is consistently great though! The best margarita I have had yet.. along with brilliant Mexican is Santina Catarina, which also is in Lakeway. Although, I think Santina is authentic Mexican- not Tex Mex.

    • http://www.facebook.com/eric.highland Eric Highland

      Personally I love good traditional Mexican food even better than Tex-Mex.. thanks for the tip on Santina Catarina… I might just have to go and check that one out!

    • http://twitter.com/rafisha Rafael Osuna

      try a michelada

  • Amanda

    Luvianos for breakfast. Habanero for lunch. Al pastor tacos at Sazon are scrumptious. Love the salsa variety at Polvos.  Yummy enchiladas at Dario’s.

    You have so many places to try… It’s an ambitious task, but you can’t go wrong at most of the places in town. Good luck! Enjoying the reviews!

    • http://twitter.com/wonderousATX WonderousATX

      Habaneros has just 13 total tables but it is awesome.  

  • Texsno55

    You have to try the breakfast taco at Juan in a Million located on East Cesar Chavez. It takes two hands. Very good

    • Austinot Dusty

      Sweet. Maybe I should devote a whole series of posts to breakfast tacos. Austinites may be more passionate about those than they are about regular tacos! What’s your favorite taco there?

    • http://austincarnivore.com/ austincarnivore

      Juan in a Million is a must visit for all Austinites… Having said that I think it’s a bit overrated. 

  • Guest

    Try Los Altos and La Fruta Feliz (both near manor)

    • Shani S

      Los Altos is SO GOOD!  Definitely try that hole in the wall with amazing food!

    • Austinot Dusty

      I will! Thanks for the advice. There is a list of Tex Mex restaurants growing in my head right now. What would you suggest I order?

  • Shani S

    I would suggest Los Altos & La Fuente.  Both have great food!  

    • Austinot Dusty

      Cool! Thanks for the heads up. I will put those on the list. What should I order?

  • Erroneous

    Try Taqueria Arandinas (not to be confused with Arandas), Los Jalisciences (there are multiple locations) and, as another reader suggested, Polvos. Right across the street from Polvos, the taqueria located inside the La Mexicana bakery is damned good too.

  • Dampe

    Yeah, margaritas are not the best standard. That’s usually reserved for white people places. Salsa is a better standard imo, perhaps the best.

    Back home in Houston (TA came from htown, I think), there is a pretty good drink I see at the seafood places called a chelada. Basically, a bottle of beer is served with a cold mug with a little bit of the chelada ‘sauce’ at the bottom; they’re meant to be mixed and drank together. Now, each place has its own recipe for that, but it’s usually a mix of hot sauce and clamato. Keep your eye out for it, if you’re going to low-key tex-mex restaurants, especially seafood restaurants… The presence of that drink often means texicans actually eat there.

    I personally have grouped tex-mex restaurants into three categories, gringo tex-mex (like chuys and papsitos), norteno tex-mex (like taqueria arandas), and mexican (think taco trucks, like La carnaria at 51st and airport… simple tacos, meat/cilantro/onions, and the meat can be all kinds of cuts from the cow.. like cheek, tail, tongue, etc.).

  • d.v.

    Being an East Austin resident (78702) I’d have to say Las Cazuelas on Chavez is my favorite for all foods Mexican and Tex-Mex

  • http://twitter.com/blixco jason norman

    You may want to try some Mex Mex, too. Also, flour tortillas in enchiladas are a sin.

    Nuevo Mexico on Anderson and Lamar-ish is fantastic, has a liquor license, is family owned, and is filled with happy people. If you get a chance, try it out. Everything they make is great.

  • Guest

    You should do Las Casuelas.