Austin Mexican Restaurants 1985

This list is a transcription of notes I took about the city’s Mexican restaurants when I lived in Austin, Texas.  The full list includes restaurants I copied from the telephone directory (and which were listed as “Mexican restaurants” in the yellow pages).  Star ratings are for the ones I visited (and in the process verified that they were in business at that time).

Many of the restaurants rated with three or four stars are ones to which I made return visits, so really the desire to enjoy good food was the purpose for making the list.  Today it may also be of some historical value, or it may be of some interest for nostalgia.  Only a few of these restaurants are still open today, and I think this is to be expected.

At the time most of the restaurants in the city were Tex-Mex.  I made some notes about places that were New Mexico style, but this mostly means that the enchiladas had red or green chile (and were not Tex-Mex).

Fonda San Miguel was a restaurant that I visited later and discovered that it was a very good interior style Mexican restaurant.  This was one of the city’s earliest non-Tex-Mex four star restaurants, and I believe was one of the earliest of its kind in the United States.

All of the restaurants rated four stars were excellent, but I particularly thought Carmen’s La Tapatia and Mexico Tipico were among the best Tex-Mex restaurants I ever tried (both of these were east of IH-35).

South Austin was pretty much the center of authentic Mexican food, and for this my favorite place was La Reyna (at least it was the place I visited most often).  Now I think there are probably several hundred taquerias and similar interior style Mexican restaurants, taco stands, food trucks, etc. in the city.

My favorite place for tacos was not at any of the restaurants listed, but it was at the food counter in Whole Foods on N. Lamar.  This was part of another trend which is quite popular today, but which was relatively rare in 1985.

In 1985 El Chico seems to have closed all its Austin location (at least this is what I think from reading my notes).  Other chains such as Pancho’s and Monterey House were also pretty close to their ultimate closing in Austin and other cities at this time.

In 1985 Chuy’s (which is now a chain) was operating its original location on Bee Caves Rd. in Austin.  I was never a big fan of it, but I went there because it was close to my house.

For a city of its size, Austin had a very good choice of Mexican restaurants, and more of them were “real Mexican” than in most other cities.  I believe today Austin is one of the foremost cities for Mexican restaurants in the United States, and even in 1985 it was building up to this position.

Acuñas 511 E. 1st
Casita Jorge’s 1507 Lavaca
Chimichanga 121 W. 5th
El Arroyo 1624 W. 5th
JC Garcia’s 1402 N. IH-35
star 3 Jaime’s Spanish Village 802 Red River Exp Hot sauce is terrible
Julio’s 1005 West Lynn
Las Mañitas 211 Congress
star 2 Manuel’s 310 Congress Very Exp Food is OK, but not Mexican
star 3 Matt’s El Rancho
301 E. 1st Exp Very good, but too expensive
Pinch-a-Pollo 605 Sabine
Santiago’s 604 Neches
Texas Chili Parlor 1409 Lavaca
Abuelita’s 2323 San Antonio
Austin’s Tamale House 2825 Guadalupe
Chef Lupe’s 2804 N. IH-35
star 4 El Patio
2938 Guadalupe Cheap Best bargain in town
star 2 Fajita Flats
2830 Rio Grande Mod Just fajitas
Las Casas Hancock Shopping Ctr. Formerly El Chico
star 4 Los Tres Bobos 1206 W. 38th Exp Fajitas are excellent
star 2 Trudy’s Texas Star
409 W. 30th Mod New Mexico style
Tula 608 W. 24th
Alejandro’s 3701 Airport
star 3 Amaya’s Taco Village 4821 E. 7th Mod
Austin’s Tamale House 3518 E. 7th
star 4 Carmen’s La Tapatia 1501 E. 6th Exp Good, but expensive
Cisco’s 1511 E. 6th
Danny’s Mexico Garden 1402 E. 6th
Don Juan’s 2300 E. 1st
star 3 El Azteca
2600 E. 7th Mod
star 3 Gilberto’s 1500 E. 1st Exp  Excellent enchiladas
Hernandez Cafe 1300 E. 6th
star 3 La Cabana
2101 E. 1st Exp  Good food, but expensive
star 4 Mexico Tipico
1707 E. 6th Mod Caldo is good
Nuevo Leon 1209 E. 7th
Peak of Tacos 1132 Airport
Su Casa 2201 Manor
Tio Tito’s 105 Tillery
Chef Lupe’s 7100 Hwy. 290 East
El Menudito 7213 Cameron Rd.
El Taquito 5849 Berkman
star 3 El Torito
6134 Hwy. 290 East Exp Some dishes are very good
La Palapa 6640 Hwy. 290 East
star 2 Tres Amigos
7535 Hwy. 290 East Exp Okie style
Austin’s Tamale House 5003 Airport
Casa Daniel 11835 Jollyville Rd.
Casita Sanchez 834 E. Rundberg
Cecilia’s Tacos 9614B N. Lamar
Chi Chi’s 8833 Burnet Rd.
El Matador 5343 Burnet Rd.
El Rio 4800 N. IH-35
Fonda San Miguel 2330 W. North Loop
La Fiesta 2190 North Loop
La Fiesta 7032 Woodhollow
Lala’s 2207 Justin Ln.
La Mesa 11606 N. IH-35
La Morada 13450 Research
star 2 La Ronda
Research & Fairfield Mod- Exp
La Talavera 6505 N. IH-35
Lupita’s 8127 Mesa
star 3 Mario’s 7113 Burnet Rd. Mod More NM than Tex-Mex
Mexicali Rose 2113 W. Anderson
Mi Burrito 9428 Parkfield
Monterey House 8600 Burnet Rd.
Pancho’s 5800 Burnet Rd.
star 2 Pinch-a-Pollo
7915 Burnet Rd. Mod Chicken only thing on menu (is good)
San Miguel 2330 W. North Loop
star 3 Alberto’s Tapatia 1909 Wm. Cannon Exp Not worth the price
BB Mexican Food 2210A S. 1st
star 4 Casa Ramirez 3632 S. Congress Mod Good food– good prices
star 2 Chuy’s
1728 Barton Spgs. Mod
star 4 El Gallo 2910 S. Congress Exp
star 4 El Sombrero 3116 S. Congress Mod
Jalisco Bar 414 Barton Spgs.
star 2 La Fuentes
6507 Circle S Rd. Exp
star 4 La Reyna 1816 S. 1st Mod
Las Casas 2610 S. IH-35 Formerly El Chico
Las Palomas 3219 Bee Caves Exp Too expensive to try
Mi Tierra 6863 Hwy. 290 West
star 2 Monterey House
1202 E. Ben White Mod Better than the one in OKC
Noemi’s Taco House 5607 S. Congress
Pancho’s 102 E. Oltorf
star 2 Salsa’s
4308 Manchaca
Tamales by Bargas 2448 S. 1st
Tres Amigos 1811 Capital of Texas
Casa Acapulco 1705A S. Lakeshore
Casita Jorge’s 2538 Elmont
star 3 El Corral 336 Bastrop Hwy. Mod
El Sombrero 3502 Burleson Rd.
La Reyna 2205 E. Riverside
Montopolis Taco Inn 901 Vargas Rd.
El Matador 111 W. Main


The four-star rating system was as follows:

star 4 Very Good.
star 3 Good.
star 2 Fair.
star 1 Poor.

11 thoughts on “Austin Mexican Restaurants 1985

  1. Carmen’s La Tapatia was the best, no doubt about it. I use to go there with my parents every Friday nite. Number 2 on my list of all time greats was La Fiesta on North Loop at Burnet Rd. Oh how I miss the hot sauce they both made, no one has ever recreated it.

    • There were a ton of good Tex-Mex restaurants back in the day but the ones that stick out in my mind as being the best were Carmen’s La Tapatia in Austin and Karam’s in San Antonio. They seemed to be particularly driven to provide the best quality food which showed how delicious this regional version of Mexican food could be. I think they went beyond just showing how much cheese they could put on everything and brought out the true flavors of the cuisine.

  2. What was the Mexican restaurant on Hancock across from the Americana theater, just West of Burnett Rd? It disappeared many years ago.

  3. My Carmen’s La Tapatia story: about 1980, returned to UT for the summer after transferring out of state, chances are I was higher than a kite and only AFTER I had eaten did I discover I had no money. Carmen, herself, told me, “that’s okay; you pay me next time.” I returned ASAP with what I owed. Carmen’s was THE BEST. ❤️

  4. This brought back some old memories of the Austin that welcomed me. Other great places of the era were Dario’s on east 6th, Joe’s Bakery on east 7th, Texican Cafe on Manchaca Road and El Gallo on south Congress – all great places to eat and fantastic memories.

    • I do not know why El Gallo was not on the list. It was one of my favorite restaurants in the 1970’s but apparently I did not make a visit there during the time period in which I collected this list (about 1985). Even so, it should have been part of my list of restaurants from the phone book and I do not know if this was a transcribing error on my part. In any case, the list was meant to be a means to start a discussion, and I am glad to see people’s comments about it. I am getting to the point that I do not fully trust my memory of past events, but I remember that El Gallo frequently had a very good live mariachi band (which is one of the reasons I thought it was a special treat).

      Edit: El Gallo was on my list after all. This was truly one of the great classic restaurants, and I am sorry to see that it is closed.

    • These restaurants were on a handwritten list I compiled from the telephone directory around 1984-85. I tried to include every Mexican restaurant in Austin, and ones with “El” in the name would have been very obvious and I’m sure I would have included them (thus I would guess that El Matate was not there in 1985). There is always the possibility for error, though, either on my part or in the phone book’s listings.

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