Last night we were going to go out and try this Vietnamese restaurant that was recommended to us, but I read online that it is in a strip mall and there is no atmosphere/bad service, although the food is by all reviewed accounts, excellent.
Since we both wanted to enjoy the really nice evening weather outside, and I was craving spicy food, we tried another tex-mex restaurant: Matt’s Famous El Rancho’s on South Lamar. It has been recommended to me by sooooo many people and I was very excited.
I just don’t get it. I am tempted to stop eating Tex-Mex (or Mexican) in Austin completely. I have yet to order an enchilada that tastes remotely like they did at the tiny joints we ate at every summer in Odessa. Granted, we are not in West Texas here. However, I counted down the months to “Ben’s Little Mexico” in Odessa, every year. Here I still haven’t found one that I would go to for a second time. The enchilada search continues. Everytime I order this dish it is completely different than at the previous location so I remain mystified, and disappointed. Last night they were covered in what, for all the world, seemed to be tomato sauce that you would put on spaghetti.
Jon and I really want to know what the difference between a Taco, a Burrito and an Enchilda is. According to our server, all three come in soft flour tortillas. The three descend in size: Burrito, Taco, Enchilda. They are all filled with either cheese, pork, beek, shrimp or chicken. The burritos and the enchiladas are covered in sauces (same choice of sauces), the taco is not. They generally all come with a side of guacamole.
Our enchiladas were miserable. The Tacos al Carbon turned out to be flour tortillas with chunks of meat. I am not complaining about that – since that appears to be what they are, and both the tortilal and meat were great (They did come with a scoop of guacamole on the side. I hate how this is served in the mound that shows that they use an ice cream scooper. It just looks disgusting like that, no matter how practical.) but this left the question, what is the difference between a Taco al Carbon and a Fajita meal, which is flour tortillas, beef (if you choose it), and guacamole on the side. Except that the fajitas also have veggies, and are more fun to make yourself?
Jon made the point that all of this food feels redundant, but that this is “comfort food” for a lot of folks, and that is what they want. It’s refried beans, rice, flour tortilla, a meat and guac on the side. They just package it twenty different ways and call it something different at these places. We really want to eat Mexican and feel that we have eaten something new, surprising, authentic, and well, good…and we keep being disappointed at these local restaurants that everyone says we “have to go to.” We made a pact to start driving into areas where we’ve noticed it is clearly hispanic, and/or places that no one has ever mentioned.
On the other hand, I may just need to go to only places where this guy recommends. He knows his stuff. And I should do some heavy research before the next time we step out to try Tex-Mex, or Austin Tex-Mex. I don’t want to be ignorantly complaining. I don’t want to be complaining period. I am going to learn what the real differences are, and what, if any, difference there is between Tex-Mex in Austin and elsewhere in Texas. Incidentally, when I searched Matt’s on his blog, he raves about it. He says that the ingredients are fresh and high quality, and that the tortillas are made in-house. I have to agree wholeheartedly with him on one point: the chips were hot and crunchy, free and refilled the moment I reached for the last one. The salsa was great as well. I did get myself in trouble filling up on them. And Matt’s patio was so nice, I can see us going back for drinks and chips, and splitting some fajitas. So maybe, with those things combined, we might return.
Still, that doesn’t solve the mystery for me – what is the difference between these dishes??
(Something tells me that Rosa, my Swiss foodie friend, will probalby know the answer to this even having never set foot in either the United States or Mexico… )