Sunday, October 11

Places to Eat When You are White and Have Questionable Taste : El Chile - Downtown

Why can't anyone open a good downtown Mexican joint? Downtown is home to some of the most overpriced, under-tasty places around (see Manuel's, La Condesa, El Sol Y La Luna, Rio Grande). El Chile's new Downtown location keeps that streak alive.

I've eaten at El Chile's Eastside location more than I would like. The downtown location is very similiar, although it lacks the large patio of the Eastside. Much like Mando and Curra's, I just don't understand El Chile's popularity. There is a littany of things that I dislike about it, but I'll just focus on my main complaint first: their salsa is not good. Sure, I eat it when I'm there, it's edible; but I'll eat anything laid out in front of me, so long as it is accompanied by a bowl of chips. That doesn't mean I enjoy it. Give me a good red or a green salsa over their brown, over-roasted sludge in a bowl. (I can't, for the life of me, imagine who buys it at the grocery store.)


So, after eating the chips-and-so-so-salsa, I ordered a smattering of selections. To start, I had the Rajas con Queso, which in Spanish means "small bowl of white cheese with two or three strips of caramelized onions and green peppers for only $6" (yes, Spanish is a very concise language.) It was decent, but barely lasted two minutes between my friend and I. Next I had the Tortilla soup. It was probably the best thing I had there. It had a nice smooth texture and a spicy heat about it that I liked. However I was disappointed in its relative lack of tortillas. Looking back, I'm not sure there were any in there; although I wasn't explicitly looking. You kind of expect them to be in there, right?


For the main course I figured I should order Puffy Tacos since this is, after all, Taco Journalism. The stewed chicken was tender but very bland. One of the nice things about 'fancy Mexican' is that the chicken is usually decent or, at least, non-nasty; El Chile lived up to that, at least. The two tacos were nicely garnished with guacamole and the usual accompaniments. However, like a lot of puffy tacos, it was damn hard to eat since the shell exploded into a million pieces on the second bite. Eating a taco with a fork? Nonsense! I didn't touch the rice or beans, so I can't comment on them.

I hope and pray that, one day, downtown will get a good Mexican (or Tex/Mex) restaurant. If you know of one, please leave it in the comments.

El Chile Cafe y Cantina - 2 stars - The Commish
918 Congress Ave
(512)291-3120
Austin, TX 78701

11 comments:

Lesley said...

Yikes! Bad salsa is the worst. I really don't understand how restaurant owners think they can skimp here... great salsa will keep me coming back, even just for chips and salsa and beers.

EgOiStE said...

I suppose you don't think anything east of 35 as downtown? At the very least, Janitzio's is alright and right on MLK, unless they closed it while I wasn't looking. PS I'd love to see how you go off on the hipster raved places Garridos with their baby tacos, and the new Rio Grande restaurant downtown. Do we even need to discuss Cantina Laredo ?

EgOiStE said...

I am a dumbass without enough coffee yet. I can see clearly now you've reviewed all these places. Your review of Zocalo has me questioning your tastes lol

CubaRiqueno said...

How can you screw up Salsa? If the Salsa is lousy how can you serve any food and can it authentic?

chuck said...

"Places to eat when You are White." I love your brand of backhanded racism.

The Commish said...

@CubaRiqueno
It's not for lack of trying. They clearly worked very hard to make their salsa 'different'. It just isn't 'different good'.

jarod said...

Chuck - The writer of this post, 'The Commish,' is white and has questionable taste. It's a joke. Racisim? Seriously? I expect more from you. Check out his other review in this series here - http://tacojournalism.blogspot.com/2007/10/places-to-eat-when-you-are-white-and.html

austin homes said...

I love the atmosphere here. I agree, the food isn't THE BEST, but it's alright.

Anonymous said...

The author is literally the second person I've ever talked to who doesn't like El Chile's salsa.

Cornbiter Deluxe said...

You can count me as number three. I'm not a fan of the salsa.

I think they should offer a more trad. salso to go with it, then everybody is happy.

Anonymous said...

They fixed it! I swear. I used to hate the salsa at el chile, and now it is very tasty. Their other food is still equally mediocre though. But half priced margaritas and appetizers all day on Sunday and Monday helps.