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Fresh and Tasty Tex-Mex, Prepared by a Grandma

This entry is part of a series, Restaurants»

Red Enchiladas

PJ never got to go out for a Mother’s Day dinner, and I’ve not been hearing the end of it so I decided to fix that, just as soon as possible. I asked her to look through our wish list of restaurants to try, and I’d take her wherever she wanted. Special, like.

Her choice? La Cocina de Consuelo.

Okay, I thought. A new Mexican food place! I looked online for information. Good ratings, lots of nice reviews. And in a part of town we don’t usually get over to, so it would be a bit of an adventure as well. I put the address into Smartypants (the Droid phone I’m still trying to figure out) and away we went.

I only drove right by it once. It was a whole lot closer to the corner than I expected. No huhu, traffic was light (for some reason), so getting turned around wasn’t an issue. Then I saw the building.

Uh oh, I thought. I don’t know if Paula Jo’s gonna be pleased. This place is tiny! I took the last parking space out front and we strolled in.

Consuelo’s eatery brought back fond memories for me as soon as I stepped inside, although I’d never been there before. It reminded me of all the places in San Antonio that Dad would take me when I was young, as part of our quest for the best breakfast tacos. A hole-in-the-wall joint, with limited seating and all the great smells of Tex-Mex cooking. The dining area has six tables, each seating two or three diners; one of the tables was larger, with six chairs. Simple furniture, made of wood painted in bright colors. Mix-and-match table coverings. Simple adornments on the wall.

Yep, just my kind of place.

Not what I was expecting from the Webstuff, though. I looked at PJ and she seemed a bit surprised, but not dismayed.

We were greeted immediately by somebody’s Abuelita, who asked if we wanted to sit inside or out. (Was this Connie? I clean forgot to ask.) We chose outside in unison and instantly, as the weather was the best we’ve had the whole season. Warm with a light, cooling breeze and deep, blue skies, the aftermath of the first rains in the area in four months. Besides, pretty much all the inside space was taken.

We followed the lady out to the north porch, where there were three more tables. The only one open was for six people. Assuming they were very friendly, of course! We took it, as there were no other diners waiting. I noticed one more table, made of decorative ironwork, out in the corner of the back parking area. Possible, but no; we’d leave that for whoever showed up next.

Connie’s place has a very simple menu, and there’s a reason for that. Connie started her business when she was over 60 and already a grandmother, and at that time she only prepared enchiladas. For her friends, mostly. In fact, her first attempt was for a church fundraiser, and that was so successful she decided to give her next career a push-start. After a few years she found the current building and quit making food at home. La Cocina de Consuelo was born.

Good Tacos

It’s indeed a tiny building, and I can’t tell what it’s first purpose ever was. I don’t think it was purpose-built as a restaurant, and it’s gotta be several decades old. With good upkeep, it’s settled into “quaint” mode. In a quiet area northwest of the University of Texas by a few miles, it’s clearly a neighborhood favorite and just what Connie wants. It only takes two people to run the dining areas when weather’s good, and when it’s not, then the capacity shrinks to little more than a dozen and one server can easily manage.

While we relaxed and considered our orders, we noticed that there were several people grabbing takeout. Seems that’s a great way to enjoy Consuelo’s dishes too.

We ordered a small queso with our drinks: Iced tea and hand-made lemonade. The queso was quite nice, and the lemonade was outstanding. Maybe the best I’ve tasted in Austin. We ordered our dinner next. I decided to try Connie’s famous enchiladas, since they were the start of it all. PJ chose avocado tacos, after much consideration; several tempting choices. We settled back to enjoy our appetizer and the great weather.

Consuelo’s has a variety of dishes even with a simplified menu. For instance, the enchilada choices include potato, queso fresco, and spinach and mushroom in addition to the expected cheese, chicken or beef. Sauces for those range from chipotle, to ancho, to green (tomatillo) to red. The special of the evening was salmon enchiladas, something I’d never seen or heard of before. (The trio at the next table all ordered the special, and they were unanimous in their praise.)

Several types of tacos are available, from campesinos (fajita beef) to al pastor, to the avocado ones that PJ chose. For the first course you can have anything from quesadillas (several types) to nachos, queso or guacamole. All classics, and if our queso was any indicator, all good.

The drinks selection is very small, as Consuelo’s doesn’t serve alcoholic beverages. You’re welcome to bring your own. (We didn’t miss them.) Jarritos sodas help keep things authentic.

Our meal arrived in good order, and we were plenty ready. Classic Tex-Mex, served on stylish white plates of generous size. The sauce on my enchiladas was creamy and smooth, with good flavor and very little chile zest. Next time I’ll try the chipotle or ancho sauce, just to see what those are like. Almost no places make those enchilada sauces these days! Paula’s tacos looked inviting, with plenty of fresh ingredients and cheese. The avocado was creamy and soft; I know, I snitched a bit when she wasn’t looking. (Okay, so that really wasn’t the Goodrich blimp going by; my bad.) The cheese in the enchiladas wasn’t anything novel, just everyday melting cheese. Good-tasting, and very much like I grew up on. More flashbacks…

In summary, we found the food to be good and plentiful, without being in the “special” category, nor with overwhelming portions. A great little dinner in a perfect little diner, bringing back memories. It was only later, as we were on our way home, that PJ and I determined what flavor was missing from the whole meal: Cilantro! Something that’s so stereotypically Mexican in food these days. The meal was good enough, however, that we didn’t miss it at the time. And it’s lack isn’t enough to keep us from going back.

No, Consuelo’s isn’t chef-prepared Mexican fare. If you want that, go to some place like Manuel’s or Fonda San Miguel. If you’re looking for a broader selection, or a place for a bigger group or with adult beverages, go to Matt’s El Rancho or Trudy’s. But if you’re looking for an intimate setting, Tex-Mex fare, and with Abuela ’s love cooked in, then by all means, go to la Cocina de Consuelo.

La Cocina de Consuelo on Urbanspoon

La Cocina de Consuelo, 4516 Burnet Rd., Austin, TX 78756 512.524.4740 Open six days a week, Sunday-Friday, for breakfast and lunch; open Tuesday-Friday for dinner. Reservations not needed; no alcoholic beverages sold. Outdoor seating available, weather permitting.

Enjoy the (Just Like Gran Always Makes) Heat!

Entries in this series:
  1. Cool River Café and Southwestern Poblano Soup
  2. Restaurant Review: Gumbo's Louisiana Style Café
  3. Restaurant Review: Chola Indian Restaurant
  4. Restaurant Review: Fujian Grand China Buffet, Austin
  5. Restaurant Review: Casa Garcia's Tex-Mex Restaurant
  6. Review: Mesa Rosa Mexican Restaurant
  7. Restaurant Review: Truluck's Seafood, Steak and Crab House
  8. Restaurant Review Update: Fujian Grand China Buffet Restaurant
  9. Restaurant Review: Pho Viet Restaurant
  10. Sunday Brunch Anniversary Celebration: Moonshine Restaurant Patio Bar and Grill
  11. Late-Lunch Steaks at the Blue Oak Grill
  12. Mama Roux: So Good There's A Song About It, Sort Of...
  13. Phil's Ice House, an Austin-Weird Place for Great Burgers
  14. Easter Sunday Dinner: A Poor Experience at a Usually Reliable Locale
  15. A Sedate Spring Lunch at Zed’s
  16. Looking for a Taste of Germany? Well, We Tried…
  17. Fresh and Tasty Tex-Mex, Prepared by a Grandma
  18. The HomeField (Grill) Advantage
  19. Dinner for One: Sometimes the Good Stuff is Right Under Your Nose
  20. Smoky Heaven in Round Rock: Johnny T’s BBQ
  21. Tex-Mex, Better’n Sex (Says So on the Menu)
  22. The Quest Begins Anew (Just Pho Me): Mai Lien Bistro
  23. A Little Bit of the French Quarter, Here in Central Texas
  24. Quick Bites: El Caribe Tex-Mex
  25. It’s Good, It’s Italian, and You Don’t Have to Go to Europe to Get It
  26. Casa G’s for Lunch (Hint: It’s Awesome)
  27. Chola Indian Restaurant: A Good Indian Eatery Gets Better
  28. Tacos are Brain Food, and Brainiacs Eat at El Taquito…
  29. Get Your Indian Food Fix the Easy Way: Tärkă Indian Kitchen
  30. Late Lunch at Mandola’s Italian Market; Worth the Wait…
  31. I Didn’t Know Sichuan, China Included Round Rock
  32. Sunday Brunch at Pecan Street Station; Good Choice…
  33. Does Kung Fu Buffet Lives Up to Its Name? My Sample Says…
  34. The Underground Visits Ethiopia for Dinner (and Has a Wonderful Time)
  35. Pho Lee Vietnamese, It’s Total-Lee Pho (and Very Good)
  36. A Taste of Jalisco in North Austin
  37. The Great Pho Quest Continues: Pho Thaison in Allandale
  38. From New Pho to Old: Lunch at a (Nearly) Forgotten Friend, Tan My
  39. Z’Tejas, a Wonderful Place for Brunch and Clan Revelry
  40. Dickey’s Barbecue Pit in Round Rock: Great Meat; As For the Rest…
  41. LongHorn Steakhouse Round Rock: A New Family Favorite
  42. Salt Lick BBQ in Round Rock: More Than Finger-Licking Good
  43. Drinks and Snacks on the Deck at McCormick & Schmick’s
  44. Going Back Pho More at a Local Favorite
  45. Swagat Indian: A Disappointment With a Few Bright Spots
  46. Branch BBQ in Wells Branch: A Local Secret?
  47. Karrrazy, Man: Kublai Khan Crazy Mongolian Stir Fry
  48. VooDoo BBQ & Grill: Their HooDoo’s Pretty Good, Actually
  49. My Fit Foods: Tasty, Healthy Food, Ready in a Flash
  50. Chang Thai, Our Family’s New Favorite
  51. A Quick Trip to Agra, Without Leaving Home
  52. Playing With Your Food (and Your Mom Would Approve): Shabu Hot Pot & Noodle Bar
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