It's finally time for the final installment in the 'LBJ Likes It' series with a review of the third Austin Tex-Mex joint on LBJ's list: Matt's El Rancho.
Matt's has been feeding Austin since 1952, and much like El Patio, has become a family tradition for many longtime Austinites. Your humble Cornbiter has been a regular visitor for years.
photo by Chad Wadsworth
The food at Matt's is kind of a hybrid of AusMex and classic TexMex. The focus on fresh, high quality ingredients, multiple vegetarian options and a large, diverse menu bring to mind Austin-centric places such as Trudy's. Matt's secret weapon, however, is delivering this kind of fare with honest to goodness TexMex flavor.
To begin with, the salsa is fantastic. Nice and hot, with a vinegary twang that really soups up whatever you're putting it on. The chips are freshly fried, and always very crunchy. I usually get myself in trouble on the chips and sauce before any food comes out, because it's that tasty.
Matt's also makes their flower tortillas from scratch. As you, our faithful readers, know, this carries a LOT of wait around here. I would personally like the cooks to put a little more char on these torts before sending them to the table, but they are a quantum leap better than what most places serve.
Jarod and I decided to try an array of tacos as well as a selection of the many types of beans available.
I had a fajita taco, a carne guisada taco, and a taco al carbon. All three types of meat were hearty and delicious, especially in their homemade flour homes. The fajitas were tender and flavorful, with some nice grilled onions and peppers adding to the fun of the juicy flank steak. Again, the old school vato in me would have preferred the meat scorched just a touch more for optimal texture.
The carne quisada taco was a delight, served up for fork eating with a dollop of sour cream outside the tortilla. The gravy was quite tasty, and the chunks of carne were very tender.
It's obvious that Matt's uses very high quality cuts of meat for their tacos, and they take it to the extreme with the tacos al carbon, where they dice up nothing less than the tenderloin before grilling it and sending it out to you in a taco. If it's your first time to Matt's, I'd suggest the tacos al carbon plate with frijoles ala charra as an ideal starting place.
All of the beans we tried were tasty. There are re-fried and whole black beans for the vegetarians, but I mostly ignored those to concentrate on the excellent meaty beans. The refried beans had a great texture, and tasted great. A little more bacon could never hurt! The frijoles ala charra are my favorite of the beans on offer at Matt's.
The next time you are with some truck averse or vegetarian friends who want to go to Trudy's or Torchy's or wherever, you should suggest Matt's El Rancho. I believe it's the place where hardcore taco nuts and their vegetarian and/or finicky friends can all be satisfied.
Matts El Rancho - 4.25 stars - Cornbiter Deluxe
2613 S Lamar Blvd
Monday, Wednesday, Thursday& Sunday: 11am till 10pm
Friday & Saturday: 11am till 11pm