This is a divergence from my regular posts to participate in the Austin Food Bloggers Alliance City Guide 2012. My extremely knowledgeable friend Hector Finis, an expert on Mexican food, kindly contributed these recommendations below:
When looking for Mexican food in Austin, you could go terribly wrong- hitting Taco Bell to try their latest Tex-Mex item (which is as Mexican as poutine), or try one of the many strip mall restaurants where you can find the classic, yet tired, tamal, enchilada, and rice & beans combo.
Rosita’s Al Pastor
1911 E Riverside Dr, Austin, TX 78798
There is a King of Tacos and that is the Taco Al Pastor (yes, capitalized). It all starts with pork steaks deliciously marinated in achiote and bitter oranges, then masterfully arranged in a shawarma (aka Meat Tornado) and roasted vertically to perfection. The taquero shaves some of that meaty goodness and tops it with onions, cilantro and pineapple. Add your favorite salsa and a few drops of lemon juice and you’re in for a treat.
Mariscos Los Jarochos
9200 N Lamar Blvd # 100, Austin, TX 78753
If your idea of Mexican seafood is fish tacos and a Corona, allow me to blow your mind. Mariscos Los Jarochos serves a great assortment of traditional seafood dishes. Camarones a la Diabla (deviled shrimp) pack enough heat to make you sweat, but it is so good that you’ll keep eating. The seafood empanadas are crunchy, yet the contents are tender and tasty. Explore their menu and have a Michelada or two.
El Naranjo Food Truck
85 Rainey St, Austin, TX 78701
Few places in Mexico evoke as great a culinary heritage as Oaxaca, and El Naranjo is a rightful ambassador of those traditions. If you visit this place, no matter what, try the mole, a concoction made with chile peppers, peanuts, spices and chocolate. It is sweet, yet spicy. The shredded chicken rests in this delightful preparation, delivering an explosion of flavor at every bite.
El Pollo Rico
1928 East Riverside Dr, Austin, TX 78741
If you’re looking for something you can eat in your car, try El Pollo Rico, aka Life Changing Chicken. This charcoal grilled chicken is as close as you’ll get to the franchise portrayed in Breaking Bad (sans the meth cartel behind it). The chicken is flavorful and tender, the beans are tasty, and their rice is fresh. You might relocate to Austin after trying it.