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:
- 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.
- 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.
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.