Chefs at Casa Alde start sautéing before sunrise in order to have their Tex-Mex eats ready for breakfast and lunch. End overnight hunger strikes by tearing into one of the Mexican breakfast plates, which come loaded with chorizo, eggs, beans, and other meats and veggies ($4.65¬–$6.95). Breakfast plates call for backup from tacos such as the Fattie, which swaddles potatoes, bacon, eggs, sausage, and cheese inside a soft-shell tortilla ($2.90). The lunch menu teems with sandwiches ($3.05–$4.50) and lunch plates including chicken enchiladas ($5.95) and beef fajitas ($7.75). Midday diners can also feast on chicken fried steak with regularly fried fries, and unfried salad and toast ($6.60). Casa Alde is owned by much-beloved Helen Alcala, who at 87 years old can still be seen working six days a week, reserving the seventh day of each week for tutoring at-risk lions.
Coastal seafood meets traditional Mexican recipes and American favorites at Tres Hermanas Restaurant & Cantina. Diners take their pick of a wide range of spice-laden dishes, from beef tips cooked in Mexican stew to pork fajita enchiladas in a choice of sauce. Steak takes a few forms at Tres Hermanas—new york strip and rib eye come paired with jumbo shrimp, and grilled salmon and tuna steaks arrive to tables with grilled veggies on the side. Enchilada platters make a name for themselves here, with offerings like beef fajita and seasoned shrimp, as well as house specials such as chile relleno and southwestern chicken lettuce wraps. The home cooking also extends to seven burgers, including fish and chicken options, which diners can enjoy inside near the full bar or atop an expansive outdoor patio.
In 2002, when asked about his role as sous-chef at the wildly successful Castle Hill Cafe, Michael Taddeo told the Austin Chronicle, “We have lots of fun doing what we do”. Yet, following executive chef David Dailey’s retirement, Caste Hill’s co-owner, Cathe Dailey, decided to temporarily close the café’s doors and focus on a rebirth of sorts, refurbishing everything from the eatery’s menu and 110-year-old home to its very name.
Today, Chef Taddeo has taken the reins in the kitchen at the resurrected café—Corazon at Castle Hill—where he and much of the old staff continue to churn out upscale Mexican cuisine tweaked with a few changes. Today’s menu adapts to the seasons, with the chef using products that are fresh and locally available; when the Austin Chronicle's Mick Vann visited during the winter months, he sampled warm comforting plates of flautas carnitas and arrachera beef, calling them a “huge winner” and “wonderful.” Yet, in the summer, the chef’s menu consists of lighter tastes, including shrimp enchiladas, potato-corn sope, and pork tenderloin roasted over a boy scout’s campfire.
Red-clothed tables set with white napkins and small vases of fresh flowers give diners a visual clue to the eatery’s elegant-yet-comfortable vibe. Customers’ eyes also wander to the dining room’s vibrant orange walls, which house Cathe’s personal touches including Mexican folk art culled from her personal collection.
Chef David Garrido has been creating a buzz in the Austin dining scene for years. And people have taken notice. The former chef at the popular fine-dining establishment Jeffrey's was invited to the James Beard House in New York City and to open a Jeffrey's at the Watergate in Washington DC. He has also appeared on the Food Network show Chopped and did Dancing with Stars Austin.
At Garrido's Patio Dining, he combines fresh, local, and organic ingredients into his New World Latino cuisine—his playful twist on traditional Mexican recipes. Garrido whips up lamb chops coated in a chile-honey demiglaze and topped with mango-cilantro yogurt, and he stuffs tacos with creative ingredients such as coffee-rubbed steak and gulf snapper. He also fries oysters and piles them atop yucca root chips, and then sends the dish out with habanero honey aioli.
Diners enjoy these dishes outside on the patio, which overlooks picturesque Shoal Creek and cools patrons off with misters and fans. They can also dine inside, where live music and refreshing cocktails—including watermelon-jalapeño margaritas and mojitos made with fresh mint—inspire dance competitions to determine who takes home leftovers. The restaurant is open for dinner seven days a week and brunch Saturday and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Owners Chris Courtney, Kelly Chappell, and Jay Bunda designed Zocalo Cafe to be directly rooted in service to their community, even going so far as to name the restaurant after the Spanish word for "meeting place." This goal is evident in their participation in a locally run recycling program and use of compostable, eco-friendly to-go packaging, as well as their dedication to displaying work by local artists. Furthermore, their eatery boasts high vaulted ceilings, enormous floor-to-ceiling windows, and a bright garden patio, all of which create a space as open and inviting as their community mission.
Zocalo Cafe's chefs craft a Mexican menu as deliberately light and fresh as the restaurant's minimalist decor. The selection of classic, yet updated, interior Mexican cuisine includes crispy stacked enchiladas as well as turkey, beef, and mahi mahi tacos prepared using housemade tortillas and salsas. The weekend brunch menu unleashes modern twists on traditional breakfasts, such as eggs benedict with sweet potato biscuits and chilaquiles.
From the exterior, it doesn't look as if much has changed about Buddy's Convenience Store, a 30-year-old stalwart of supplies and Texaco gas. The shop still sports its modest, ranch-style frame and functioning pumps, but inside it's another story. Jorge and Julie Garcia, scions of the family that spawned Curra's Grill Restaurant in South Austin, purchased the old filling station and slowly transformed it into a bastion of fresh, authentic Mexican cuisine called Señor Buddy's.
Now, in addition to the fuel that still flows from the pumps, 20 foam-flecked taps gush with draft beers to accompany a full menu of seafood enchiladas, breakfast tacos, tender cuts of pork and steak, and Curra's exclusive Oaxacan coffee. Out back, majestic trees cast cool shadows and misguided fishing lines over an expansive outdoor patio, where patrons can enjoy the soothing sounds of live music every Friday and Saturday beneath strings of twinkling lights.