Best Tex-Mex Restaurants in Austin TX


Hello, food-loving adventurers! You're in for a treat. Imagine you're cruising down the colorful streets of Austin, Texas — the live music capital of the world and a culinary paradise. The city's vibrant murals are as tantalizing as the scents wafting from its bustling eateries. And among the kaleidoscope of cuisines, one star shines brighter than the rest: Tex-Mex.

Close your eyes and picture this: Melt-in-your-mouth tortillas, smoky beef fajitas sizzling on a hot skillet, gooey queso laced with jalapeño, and a mighty margarita to wash it all down. You're not dreaming, honey; you're in Tex-Mex heaven!

In the heart of Texas, where the heat is high and the food is bold, Tex-Mex has created a sensation and become a way of life. Each dish tells a story — a blend of traditional Mexican cuisine, touched with Texan charm and robust flavors.

Stick around as we take you on a virtual food tour around Austin, showcasing the crème de la crème of Tex-Mex joints. Tighten your seatbelts and loosen your waistbands. This is going to be a foodie ride to remember!

What Is Tex-Mex? The Ultimate Comfort Food

Tex-Mex, short for Texan-Mexican, is a beautiful medley of Mexican restaurant vibes with a Texan twist. It's a delightful gastronomic love child born in the borderlands of Texas and Mexico. Now, don't you go thinking it's just Mexican food with a cowboy hat on. Oh, no, honey! It's a cuisine with a unique identity.

Key ingredients of Tex-Mex include beef (a staple in Texas), yellow cheese (like cheddar), canned vegetables (for that convenience factor), and a whole lot of cumin — it's like the Beyoncé of Tex-Mex spices.

A lot of the flavor combos you find in Tex-Mex come from folks of Mexican origin living in Texas and the United States, and so needing to adapt their grocery lists and flavor profiles to what was available in the area.

Iconic dishes? We're talking chili con carne, brisket nachos, fajitas, and queso, which is considered a major food group here.

In fact, if you’re not from a region that’s rich in Mexican food, a lot of foods you think of as being Mexican might already be Tex-Mex fare. There's also a generous pour of sauces, from mild to tongue-on-fire hot, to jazz up your dishes.

The Flavorful History of Tex-Mex

The name itself goes back to the 1800s and was initially used to refer to the Texas and Mexican Railroad, but that Tex-Mex abbreviation quickly became adopted for other purposes.

The local Tejanos — Texans of Mexican descent — started blending their traditional Mexican cooking with the influence of their European neighbors. The result? An all-new, taste-bud-tickling cuisine.

The first wave of Tex-Mex restaurants served comfort dishes like chili and tamales to working-class folks. It wasn't until the late 20th century that our beloved nachos, fajitas, and chimichangas took the stage, transforming Tex-Mex into a culinary superstar.

Downtown Austin holds a special place in this scrumptious story. The city not only embraced Tex-Mex cuisine but also helped it evolve. With Austin's diverse population, innovative chefs, and lively food scene, the city added its flair to Tex-Mex, keeping it vibrant, evolving, and oh-so-yummy!

So, there you have it: a cuisine born out of cultural fusion and loved by all. It's more than just a meal. It's a history lesson on a plate, seasoned with charm and served with a side of nostalgia.

To help guide your adventure into the world of Tex-Mex in Austin, let’s talk about some of our favorite spots to go on a flavor adventure — from jazzed-up quesadillas to fresh agua frescas and ceviche.

1. Chuy's

Our first stop in this Tex-Mex bonanza is Chuy's, an institution as iconic as Austin itself. Popping up in the 80s with its Elvis-themed decor and vibrant atmosphere, this place was Tex-Mex before Tex-Mex was cool.

Nestled on Barton Springs Road, Chuy's flaunts an eclectic vibe that pairs oh-so-well with their legendary menu. And the food? Honey, it's nothing short of spectacular! Their tortillas are handmade and rolled out fresh from the kitchen every day. You can practically taste the love and dedication in each bite.

Chuy's Enchilladas

We can't talk about Chuy's without gushing over their famous "Big As Yo' Face" burritos. As the name suggests, these burritos are massive, packed to the brim with your choice of filling, and smothered in their dreamy sauces. Served with green chile rice and refried beans, they're a heavenly meal that'll make you want to roll up your sleeves and dive in.

Don't forget to try their Creamy Jalapeno dip — it's a flavor fiesta that'll have your taste buds doing the salsa!

And if you’re feeling thirsty, Chuy's has you covered. From their classic margaritas to the Texas Martini — a margarita with a sophisticated twist — you're in for a refreshing treat.

2. Guero's Taco Bar

Next up, we're making a pit stop at Guero's Taco Bar. Nestled in the heart of South Congress, Guero's has been serving up some of the best Tex-Mex in town since 1986. Housed in a lovingly restored 19th-century building, this place has a unique vintage charm that makes you feel at home the minute you walk in.

And the food? It's pure Tex-Mex joy on a plate. Their menu boasts a wide array of hand-shaken margaritas, fresh handmade tortillas, and, of course, the best tacos. Whether you like them soft or crispy, this cantina has a taco for every palate.

Their Al Pastor taco — marinated pork served on handmade corn tortillas with a dollop of pineapple-cilantro salsa — is a must-try. The combination of fresh ingredients, savory pork, and tangy pineapple is a flavor tango you don't want to miss.

Looking to spice things up? Dive into their Caldo de Pollo, a spicy chicken and vegetable soup that's perfect for those unpredictable Austin weather days.

Guero's isn't just about the food, though. With live music performances in the Oak Garden and an artisan market right next door, it's a full-on South Austin experience. So, whether you're a local or just passing through, Guero's is a destination you don't want to miss.

3. Matt's El Rancho

Y'all ready for our next destination? We're heading to an Austin staple: Matt's El Rancho. This restaurant has been delivering mouthwatering Tex-Mex to the community since 1952. It's one of those old-school gems where the aroma of roasting chilies hits you the second you step in.

Located on South Lamar Boulevard, Matt's El Rancho is known for its sprawling hacienda-style space adorned with festive decorations. And the ambiance? As warm and inviting as a Texan smile.

Now, let's talk food. Their menu is a smorgasbord of Tex-Mex delights, from succulent steaks to their legendary tacos. But the dish that has Austin raving is the Bob Armstrong Dip, a heavenly concoction of queso, taco meat, and guacamole. This dip is a must-try. It's like a Tex-Mex hug for your taste buds!

Don't even get us started on their margaritas! Whether you're a purist who prefers the classic or a daredevil ready to try their jalapeno-infused option, Matt's El Rancho knows how to whip up a refreshing drink that'll leave you thirsty for more.

4. Trudy's

Last but definitely not least, we're hitting up Trudy's. This hip joint has been serving up Tex-Mex goodness since 1977. With its laid-back vibe and killer menu, it's no wonder Trudy's is a go-to spot for locals and visitors alike.

Nestled in the University District, Trudy's is perfect for a quick bite between classes or a leisurely dinner with friends. And the food? To-die-for! Their menu is packed with scrumptious options like enchiladas, tamales, and, of course, tacos.

Their Stuffed Avocado dish deserves a special mention. Picture this: a creamy avocado stuffed with spiced chicken and cheese, then deep-fried to perfection. Are you drooling yet? We sure are!

But let's not forget their drinks. Trudy's Mexican Martini is legendary — so much so that they have to limit them to two per person. It's a concoction of tequila, lime, and a secret ingredient that'll have you sipping with a smile.

So, whether you're in the mood for a hearty meal or a refreshing drink, Trudy's is the place to be. It's a fitting end to our tour, providing a fun, flavorful taste of Austin's Tex-Mex scene.

Honorable Mentions

  • Valentina’s Tex Mex BBQ
  • El Alma
  • Fonda San Miguel
  • Joe’s Bakery

Yeehaw, Y’all!

Well, there you have it, darlings — a drool-worthy list of Austin's best Tex-Mex spots, ready to spice up your life. So, put on those cowboy boots, practice your yee-haws, and prepare to embark on an unforgettable culinary journey. Each place we've listed has its unique flair and flavor that beckon you to take a bite — or a few!

Austin's vibrant Tex-Mex scene is more than just food. It's a cultural experience dipped in zesty salsa, wrapped in a warm tortilla, and served with a side of Southern hospitality. Go ahead, indulge. After all, isn't life too short for bad food? Happy dining, y'all!

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