El Sol Y La Luna (credit: Zesmerala/Flickr)
El Sol Y La Luna has been around forever. Its old location, on South Congress in front of the Austin Motel, was a typical Mexican restaurant: nothing fancy and straightforward service. I went there every now and then, but never really cared for the food, or the fact that they charged for chips and salsa.
Free chips and salsa at a sitdown restaurant is a God-given right. If I pay $3 (THREE DOLLARS!) for chips, they better be homemade and warm. They should probably also do my homework. El Sol Y La Luna's chips are of the subpar, cold, crunchy, probably-store-bought variety. I was very disappointed. The salsa, at least, is decent; but it doesn't make up for the chips or the cost.
At the new location, some things have changed, but, unfortunately, not the important stuff. The new locale is definitely more attractive than the old one (and more attractive than "Emo's Lounge" as well.) The new interior is well put together and has a bit of an upscale air about it (think: Manuel's). Unfortunately, they still charge for chips and salsa. Oh ... and the food is of the same quality and taste as always.
I went on two occasions (paying a total of $6 for chips and salsa!) The first time I sampled Nilda's Taco Plate. It was a respectable chicken taco with a pleasant mesquite flavor, topped by some actual leafy green vegetable (as opposed to shredded iceberg lettuce). The refried beans and the rice were undistinguished.
On my second visit I tried the Guisada plate. The corn tortillas were limp and moist, like they'd been steamed. There were also too few of them and I ended up with more meat than tortilla. The meat itself was nice and tender, but was lacking any kick. It reminded me of a pot roast my 50-year-old mother from Indiana would make. That is not what I'm looking for at a Mexican restaurant.
The location is well-placed to serve the downtown lunch crowd that would otherwise have few good walking-distance taco options. If you like to pay too much for tacos, too much for chips, and too much for iced tea ($2), this is your place.
El Sol Y La Luna - 2.5 stars - The Commish
600 E. 6th St
Austin, TX 78701
Austin, TX 78701