Austin >Food & Dining > El Mercado Restaurant
1702 Lavaca St, Austin, TX | Directions 7870130.279566 -97.741370
Mon. - Thu. 8am - 10pm;Fri. 8am - 11pm;Sat. 10am - 11pm;Sun. 11am - 9pm
We went to El Mercado for the first time today (a Sunday). As soon as we walked in, we were greeted by the smell. Not a yummy-food smell, but more of a sewage / mold smell. But we decided to stick it out and try.
There were only 4 other tables. Our waiter wasn't unkind, but seemed less than enthusiastic about being there. I ordered the carne cuisada and my husband had the tacos al pastor. Seeing as there were only 4 tables total, our food took longer to arrive than expected. When it did, it was OK. Not great, just OK. The rice and beans tasted as though they were left over from the busier weekdays and reheated. They both kind of tasted like dirt - literally. They had a very metallic taste to them.
As I mentioned, despite only 4 tables and two waiters, service wasn't great. My tea wan'ts refilled until it sat empty for a while, nor were our chips. One of the only four tables there walked out because their order had not even been taken after a fair amount of time.
Let's get back to the smell. Now I am all for dive restaurants, especially ones with great food. But this one is just dirty - and the food wasn't even good. The fabric draped from the ceiling was moldy and had these nasty brown water-type stains on them. The dirty dishes that were cleared were just thrown in plastic bins and left on a shelf. It didn't look like anyone had bothered to wash a dish all day, despite not being busy at all.
Between the grime and old food, I was almost afraid to eat. But the place has been around for a while, so I figured it wouldn't kill me. But seriously, I don't know how this place stays open. The food is not great - maybe better when it's fresh during a busy week. Maybe the next health inspection will do them in.
Great Drink Prices and strong tasting – I think what I have to say why I love this place is for their drink prices! Chocolate Martini for $3.50 and super strong?! YES PLEASE! I WILL TAKE 10 OF THEM. Even without their happy hour, their drink prices are not to bad at all! You can get several flavors of Margaritas in two different sizes (for the lighter and heavier drinkers). It is also just a couple of blocks from UT Campus and the At&t Conference Center. What I was impressed with is that they had a seperate Vegitarian Menu. No its not a very large selection but the fact that they had it was much appericiated! Everyone I was with were vegitarian but myself so it made dinner great.
They had a good amount of food on your menu. I would say it was not the greatest but it did it jobs. I ended up with the Botana Platter. It ended up coming with Chicken Fajitas, Some Nachoes, Cheese (with grilled onions and mushrooms) Qusadillas, and queso. It was good but nothing to brag about. For the prices though it was not to shappy! I can not complain!
I would come here again especially for the drinks!
Worst chili relleno ever – A tex-mex restaurant should not leave the seeds in a stuffed chili relleno. It just shouldn't happen. Austin restaurants have a knack for taking accepted good food and trying something "cool and artsy" which completely destroys the edible element of any dish. If you are going to stuff a chili relleno, take out the seeds and ensure the cheese melts. I was disgusted by the cheese chunks and seeds. If you want good tex-mex, go to San Antonio.
Mediocre but cheap – If you're looking for Tex-Mex, go to Maudie's, Vivo's or even Serrano's. Cheese enchiladas are not well-cooked (I like my cheese melted, thank you very much).
Blanks for dinner – Okay, so apparently citysearch will not allow to me write a review containing a certain word, (which I find disturbing because I would want to know what I'm about to tell you) so I'll just leave that word to be "blank". Just know that "blank" is code for a certain insect that is disgusting, you get the raid when you see it, they were here before us and they'll probably out live us all. Ok, here goes my original post : this place is ok. I went once and got a a chicken plate of some sorts, felt like I could have made it myself, the sauce was meh. They have really good salsa I hear. But the best thing they have are blanks. Yea, that's right, blanks. My parents were eating lunch, LUNCH, not dinner, so it was the middle of the day in a well lit restaurant, and two baby blanks proceeded to walk across the very table they were eating at. I know stuff like this exists everywhere, back there in the kitchen, but at least it's out of sight, out of mind, and you don't have to look at it while your eating. Baby blanks strolling across your dinner table midway through your meal? Ew. Salsa's good though.
Family-friendly Tex-Mex restaurant in downtown. – In Short
El Mercado stands out with its comfortable, relaxed scenery and kid-friendly attitude. Brightly colored balloons for the kids, festively painted decor and tasty margaritas for Mom or Dad--it's a match made in Tex-Mex heaven. Cheese is well-represented; in fact, the only non-cheese items on the kids menu are the breakfast items. Fussy kids who won't go for anything even remotely connected to foreign cuisine can always get the Elmer cheeseburger with fries.
Mighty Colorful – Whenever I visit Austin I always make time to visit one of the many locations to this moderately priced restaurant. Not only is the food fresh and one of the BEST Mexican feists in town, the service is also warm and friendly. The interior is very family oriented and children are always welcomed. It's a peaceful, warm environment with great food that won't empty your wallet.
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