Touched down just after noon on Friday. Up since 4 am we are tired and hungry. Austin is overcast and a light rain falls but it is also verdant with spring, mild and the birds are singing, with the bonus of being sans slush and the treachery that is our Ottawa driveway currently.
Rob and I have been to Austin on two other occasions for all-too-brief stops on road trips, so we already have a basic lay of the land and some favorite places to grab a bite. We make an easy decision. Gueros!
Despite the drizzle, South Congress is alive and buzzing on this Friday mid-afternoon. We luck into a parking spot across from the restaurant and head in. Guero’s is packed but has a couple of free tables. We get seated and first up: Margaritas! We already know Guero’s does ’em right. They offer about 15 margs with different tequilas. We order The Don, February’s featured marg made with Don Julio tequila, Triple Sec, fresh lime juice, rocks, salted rim for me, no salt for Rob. Our drinks arrive with a slice of lime and starting to sweat. Guero margs are in short glasses and are about twenty shades paler than the neon chartreuse abomination that the unfortunate think is a real margarita. Ooooh! Goes down easy after our long day.
Drinks arrive with complimentary, well made corn tortilla chips and two house salsas. The first, a smooth, roasted tomato chile dip provides a nice spicy burn. The second is a fresh, chunky pico de gallo with a hint of creaminess provided by some chopped avocado. I’m not sure which I prefer. Both are great with a margarita. I do immediately regret wearing a white shirt however.
Starving, we select a few apps off the menu to share. Tacos Al Pastor and Chorizo Quesadillas. The tacos are small, open-faced and piled with spiced pork and pico de gallo laced with coriander and fresh pineapple. They come with lots of fresh lime. The quesadillas keep me coming back to Guero’s. The soft, pillowy flour tortillas (corn are also available) are sumptuous with just enough cheese, chorizo and spiced oil rendered from the meat to glue the tortillas together. A generous helping of guacamole and sour cream for spooning up with each bite makes these the perfect marg-soaking-up food. With our bellies content we head to the hotel to check in and have a much needed nap.
Refreshed and ready to roll, we select the Iron Cactus for dinner because we can walk there. We are only a block from 6th street which is hopping on a Friday night despite the rain. The Iron Cactus, a large two story affair here in Austin, has a few locations in Texas, much like the Lone Star in Ontario minus the fake Texas crap and waiter named Durango. We have a 15 minute wait at the bar where the tender tells us they make a mighty good margarita. We bite. They have a pretty good array of tequila behind the bar. He makes us a decent drink with fresh lime and agave nectar. It’s good but a tad too sweet. Not bad though. The bar is noisy on a Friday. We are by a factor of two, the oldest people in the joint. Oddly the sound track beckons to us: The Zombies, Johnny Cash, Pink Floyd, Tom Petty and Steppenwolf.
After we are seated, I order a local beer, Fireman Four. Complimentary chips with two roasted chile -tomato salsas, one warm, one cold arrive. Chips are good and the salsas tasty. We order a Chile Con Queso app. It arrives in a cast iron pan, thin and white with a few chunks of chilies and tomato. Quite average but really good when sharing a chip with the mildly spicy roasted salsas.
For mains we are sharing an order of shrimp and pork carnitas fajitas. The dish arrives hot but not sizzling. The pork is in good sized chunks, sweet and nicely spicy. The shrimp appear to be wild caught as they have an intense shrimpy taste and are smokey sweet. Accompanying the proteins are nicely sauteed onions, poblanos, and red peppers. The flour tortillas (again corn are offered) are soft and perfect. Our mains come with a choice of beans. We both opt for the bacon onion beans which are very good but not sweet. The Mexican rice is dull and the classic fajita fixins are fine but in our book cheese is a no no and the guacamole had been set out too far in advance and had started to oxidize which is unappetizing.
We head back to our hotel via 6th Street, Austin’s bar and restaurant scene. Lots of colourful characters and live music spill out into the street. Can’t wait to check it out!