A few weeks ago, I had dinner at Lisa's Mexican Restaurant, which has now moved to the strip shopping center where Bandera Molino and Henry's Puffy Tacos *used* to be. In fact, they're in Henry's old location. Lisa's was previously located on West Commerce Street, near Our Lady of the Lake University. Although they still offer some traditional dishes (many as taco fillings only), they appear to have added some less-challenging menu items like spinach enchiladas and fish tacos. They also now serve sopes and queso fundido.
A great deal of the new menu is filled with drink specials—mostly margaritas but also mojitos and other South-American-inspired drinks. I'm guessing that the after-work crowd is now their target customer base, as this location offers a full bar and many happy-hour specials. I've also noticed that their parking lot is always full, yet there are almost no businesses left in the shopping center. Instead, the lot seems to serve as an unofficial park-and-ride location.
To start the meal, we were served just-average, bland, packaged chips with a fairly hot, fresh, red salsa. We also tried an appetizer of sopes. These are little masa "bowls," which seemed to have been baked, rather than cooked on the comal or fried, and topped with fillings of your choice. Some of us asked for half of them with chorizo, half with puerco [pork] guisado. The chorizo was overly browned, fairly unseasoned, and not flavorful, but the stewed pork was pretty good. Another diner ordered her sopes with grilled meat, which was much less satisfying than the stewed-meat filling.
I enjoyed the puerco en salsa roja again as a main course. The shredded bits of meat were tender and tasted like they had been slow-cooked with a complex variety of spices. This dish had good depth of flavor, but I should note that it wasn't incredibly spicy. The Mexican rice was just so-so, but their refried beans were pretty good. They contained a hint of bacon grease and had great body.
A fellow diner ordered the soft tacos with chicken, which ended up being a lot more like enchiladas than he had bargained for. The tacos were more or less rolled around the filling and then covered with white cheese (like Monterrey jack). The chicken filing, which seemed to have been poached in a kind of ranchera salsa, was tender and very good. Too often, plain boiled chicken makes up the filling. The soft tacos also came with refried beans and rice.
The caldo de pollo, on the other hand, was not good at all. The portion was huge, and the soup contained chicken pieces, some vegetables, and a ton of chopped cilantro. You don't usually see that much fresh cilantro in caldo de pollo, but maybe they thought it would distract the diner from the soup's lack of flavor. To make matters worse, the soup was served cold. This diner thought that the rice was the best part of the soup course.
Lisa's homemade corn tortillas were quite good. They're slightly thicker than most varieties, though still pliable and tender. They reminded me of the ones sold at Bandera Molino on weekends. The housemade flour tortillas were of the thick, tender type that are made with baking powder. However, they didn't have enough shortening for my tastes; plus, the shortening sure didn't seem to be lard. While these flour tortillas were better than most of what's available in Austin, they were just okay for San Antonio. We thought the corn tortillas were superior.
My overall impression was that Lisa's food had become much more generic since they left the west side. You have to look under the menu heading for "Tacos A La Carte" to find many of the old standards. The ambience seemed bland and chain-restaurant-like, too. I realize, however, that some people appreciate that. One person in our party said that it was nice to finally have a "classy" Mexican food place in the neighborhood. I will say that the hostess, servers, and management were friendly (and bilingual), and it looked like both families and groups of co-workers were enjoying the drink specials. Just focusing on the chow, however, I'd say that only the stewed dishes (like puerco en salsa roja), the corn tortillas, and the refried beans were noteworthy. In my opinion, Lisa's isn't the best option in town for these dishes, but they were the best options at Lisa's. Their new location seems to be more of a comfortable neighborhood spot than a true chow destination.
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