By Hayden Walker
Let’s face it, there’s A LOT of Mexican food in Austin. You literally cannot drive a mile without seeing a Mexican, Tex-Mex, Cantina, Taqueria, or a modern day taco joint in Austin. Some of it’s good, some of it’s mediocre and some is mind-blowingly fantastic. But what do you expect? We’re in Texas, and the only thing we do better than smoking barbecue is Tex-Mex!
Despite the many styles of Mexican food we have to chose from in this city, I don’t believe there’s a clear front runner most Austinites tend to point to. Everyone has their favorites and in my opinion this is a good thing! After all, cultural cuisine deserves a little variety, other wise it becomes boring. Mexican food can be simple and inexpensive, or it can beautifully crafted and styled to perfection in a fine dinning restaurant.
Authentic Tex-Mex lovers will rejoice in the reopening of VIVO Tex-Mex, in North Austin. Formerly located on Manor Rd., closed back in March 2014, but has fortunately found a new home at The Linc at 6406 N IH 35, next to the old Highland Mall. A new location can do a lot of good in most cases. VIVO’s new location isn’t as hip and trendy as the old east side location, but the new digs is bright and colorful with with a pleasing atmosphere, mixed with a mid-1990’s strip-mall charm.
Atmosphere counts for something, but what most of us really care about is the food! First and foremost, you absolutely cannot start any Mexican or Tex-Mex meal with out the chips and salsa. The chips are delicious, but don’t be like me and fill up on them right away because you’ll want to stuff your face with items from the amazing menu.
Calabacitas – I’m a meat lover, but vegetarians will thoroughly enjoy the Calabacitas, which is loaded with squash, poblano, corn, onion, epazote, creme fraiche, and queso fresco.
Puffy Tacos – One of the most delicious yet simple things you’ll enjoy and an absolute favorite of mine, with 2 homemade corn tortillas fried until puffy, filled with beef picadillo, lettuce, tomato, cheese, jalapeno, and onion. So delicious and so simple
Caldo de camaron – I felt like this is the Mexican version of gumbo. This delightful, hearty and loaded vibrant flavors. It comes filled with Gulf shrimp, potato, carrot and celery in a seafood broth, perfect for a cold winter day.
Don’t walk in here expecting a sub-par margarita from the local Chili’s. VIVO knocks it out of the park with these flavorful house-made margaritas. Do yourself a favor and try each one of these, but I would suggest hailing your local Uber driver and get home safely because these will blast you in to tipsy-ville if you sample all three, but it’s totally worth the ride.
Cucumber margarita – Herradura Silver, cucumber puree, Cointreau, fresh squeezed lime and simple syrup
Hibiscus margarita – hibiscus (jamaica in spanish) syrup, El Tesoro Reposado, fresh squeezed lime juice and simple syrup
Tamarind Margarita – Siembra Azul Reposado, tamarind nectar, Cointreau, honey syrup, fresh squeezed lime juice