The Best 20 Tex-Mex & Mexican Restaurants in Austin

When people think of Texas they immediately think of chips and queso, taco trucks, BBQ, and lets face it, some people think we still ride horses to school! I feel that Austin started the breakfast taco revolution as that is not something that was popular when I grew up in Houston. That being said, there are so many new and old fantastic Mexico City style and interior Mexican restaurants in town. I’ve put together a list  (in no particular order) of my favorite Mexican restaurants and what you should get at each should you be craving Migas, Fajitas, Queso, Tacos, etc. Note- I didn’t include any taco-only joints or trucks, just restaurants. Should you want a list of the best taco trucks, make sure to check back for The Austin Playbook, an e-book guide to Austin I wrote that is launching this week!

  1. Maudie’s– An Austin classic that locals and high schoolers have been diving into for years. If you’re in the mood for classic Tex-Mex and want all the options with no frills (literally I don’t think there is one piece of art in the South Lamar location), then this a great option! Nachos, Tacos, Enchiladas, Fajitas. I like the tortilla soup, tamale breakfast taco, and shrimp tacos.
  2. Matt’s El Rancho – This is the godfather of Austin Tex-Mex. I’d say it’s the number one spot out-of-towners and both locals populate all days of the week. It’s the stereotypical giant Texas-sized restaurant and you’ll literally discover a new room every visit. This is an oil-welled machine and it honestly doesn’t matter what you order. However, if you’ve heard of Bob’s Armstrong dip, this is the place.
  3. Manuel’s – A place I never see written about but is close to my heart. We stumbled into this downtown spot my first week of college with 4 other girls I had just met from other parts of Texas. Mallory used a fake British accent to convince our waiter we had “left our passports” in the hotel and were 21. I’m sure I turned bright read, but I still got my first margarita. ANYWAY, these are the best nachos in the city. We ordered two plates the other week with lump crab meat. What a steal! The chips are also all individually dressed which is very important to me.
  4. Suerte – Another fun and award-winning spot with lots of attention to the fact that they make their own masa (corn flour). This is a fun weekend hang or good for big groups when you want to go out on East 6th after. I always prefer seafood over meat, but this place makes me crave meat for days after! Order Chips Con Refried Lentils & Yogurt, Ceviche Suerte, Quesadilla ( I can’t decide which is better between here and Comedor!), Suadero Tacos, Goat Barbacoa. 
  5. El Borrego de Oro – The biggest hole-in-the-wall on this list with Selena art work. You’ll never have a problem getting seated here during brunch or lunch. I get the tortilla soup with rice every time aka Caldo.
  6. Fonda San Miguel – Everyone has near and dear feelings about Fonda San Miguel. It’s 44 years old and feels like you are actually in a hacienda or someone’s home in Mexico. Go for the Enchiladas and Zucchini Relleno.
  7. Habanero Cafe – Authentic Tex-Mex only open for breakfast and lunch. It’s pretty small, so usually a wait. Cash only. Best chicken fajitas in town AND don’t miss the giant Horchata.
  8. El Alma – Interior Mexican located right on Barton Springs. Sit on the rooftop and stick to margaritas. Always go for the ceviche that is served with their warm, homemade tostada chips. Yes, you can ask for extra even though they might hesitate. 
  9. La Condesa – A downtown hot-spot with a beautiful bar ideal for happy hour. This restaurant started the 2nd street revolution of nicer restaurants 10 years ago as it used to be no man’s land.  They have my favorite Queso Fundido that I might be convinced this is better than regular queso, gasp! Add Tuna Tostada, Elotes, Cauliflower, and Carne Asada to your order.
  10. ATX Cocina – This is a pretty pricey Tex-Mex spot around the corner from La Condesa, and has a nice airy and square bar great for people watching and cocktail-ing. Order Crudos and Barbacoa Beef Short-Rib.
  11. Comedor – Now we are getting into the fancier Mexican genre. This is a modern style menu with nicely plated dishes, a stylish architect from Seattle, and you’d never find anything like queso or fajitas here. The dining room is exquisite, and they offer high-end cocktails. Order the Smoked Seafood Tostada, Quesadilla with Oaxacan Cheese, Bone Marrow Tacos, Halibut.
  12. Guero’s Taco Bar – This Tex-Mex spot is located on South Congress, but the real treat is to visit on the weekend when they have live music at the outdoor taco bar and you can order outside.
  13. Licha’s Cantina – A little house on East 6th Street with a creative interior Mexican menu and front and back yard with seating. There is always a wait here on weekends so beware. I like the Choriqueso, Sweet Potato Tacos, and Tlaycoyos which are black been filled blue corn masa cake.
  14. Iron Cactus – Even though I had my 21st birthday dinner here and it’s on Dirty Sixth Street, I still love this place. It’s an easy pick when going to a show downtown. Treat yourself to the blueish Frozen Cactus Juice.  
  15. Polvo’s on South 1st – This was the first Tex-Mex spot where I found fish fajitas. They are sizzling and incredible. Watch the tortillas being shaped and made from scratch inside, and help yourself to the DIY salsa and escabeche bar.
  16. Tamale House – This restaurant has also been around for quite a while and has a lovely garden with mosaic tables for outdoor seating which reminds me of San Antonio. Obviously, you have to go for the tamales here.
  17. Fresa’s Chicken al Carbon on South 1st – This is not your typical Mexican restaurant. It’s very “new” Mexican with a lot of salad and veggie-heavy power bowl options and named after their wood-grilled chicken meals. You won’t find a collection of vegetable side options such as brussels sprouts, cauliflower, or sweet potatoes like this anywhere else. It’s bright and colorful with picnic tables outside and a to-g0 window. I will say, most of my pick-up orders are for their pints of creamy and delicious ice cream by Pastry Chef Laura Sawicki.
  18. Cisco’s – Willie Nelson and Lyndon B. Johnson used to eat here, so you should probably, too. The back rooms are full of history, and the buttered biscuits and migas are my favorite.
  19. Chispas – The only full-service “taco” restaurant I’d say exists with a full bar. I love the corn tortillas and I’d say go for any taco here.
  20. Grizzelda’s – A pink, trendy restaurant by the owners of Jacoby’s. It’s pretty far east and you’ll see a lot of bachelorette parties populate over here.