Let me preface by saying that I don't live downtown. I'm not a fan of the pretentiousness condo living seems to bring. I try not to frequent large chains. I'm a snob like that. I'd prefer my dollar stay here when possible.
It wasn't that long ago that fine dining options in Austin were limited to Green Pastures, Jefferey's, the Driskill, Shorline, Fonda San Miguel and Hudson's if you felt like taking the drive.
Things have changed. Our city's taste palette has evolved for the better.
I never wanted to like the condo culture and was slow to accept the reality that is downtown Austin 2009. I have grown to be thankful that the bldgs and density are downtown and not by me and for the many new restaurants they have brought.
I think Fonda San Miguel is fine food, though the food and service seem to have slipped a bit in the last year or so. Even so, it is for me the standard barer for Mexican food in Austin. Interior style Mexican food is among my favorite genre's of cuisine. I like it fancy and i like it from a trailer.
I realize it isn't rocket science to prepare, and that most of the ingredients are readily available in Texas. Still, it is so often screwed up that I am hesitant to try new places that proclaim to serve "Nuevo" Mexican food. So often it is just a bland approximation of dishes we all know well. That said. Garrido's is great and Fonda better watch their back.
Tonight we tried only a few dishes- The Guacamole w/ crabmeat, Ribeye tacos and Carnitas tacos. Everything rocked. The carnitas were slow cooked and crispy. The ribeye was grea with the cheese on it. Each taco is probably only 3-4 good bites. We ordered a la carte. 2 each of the tacos, guac and a beer totaled about 24 bucks I think. Yeah, more pricey than Curras, but less than la condesa. The porch seating along the creek lets you forget you are in the ground floor of a tower. The service was expedient and helpful.
Then we walked next door to Mulberry, as my dining companion hadn't been there yet either.
I eat at Mulberry every few weeks now and have yet to have so much as a negative interaction there, much less anything but perfectly executed food. Today, we had the meatballs and the shrimp/artichoke crostini. The broth the meatballs are served in is craveworthy- lemony and rich with a depth of flavor that tells me that the chef takes great pride in his stock, not just in the preparation of the protein. I love this place. the two dishes and two drinks set us back about 50 bucks after tip. It was worth every penny.
I still have my reservations about some of this new urbanism and the variety of density theories that seem to take grip every few years, but I don't have to live there and I'm digging the food.