If you’re looking for a real taste of Texas, fajita franchises and queso conglomerates will only disappoint. Austin's true local Tex Mex spots are off the map, under the radar and out of this world delicious, serving up everything from homemade tamales to legendary tacos. To get a bite out of the very best, we've made a list of some top restaurants off the beaten path in east Austin.
1306 E 6th Street
Located inside an old house on east 6th, Licha's Cantina serves traditional Mexican comfort food inspired by Alicia “Licha” Rivera herself. Licha’s not only has great happy hours and live music, but boasts an eclectic menu that offers everything from cochinitas to calbazitas. For an authentic dish straight from central Mexico, try their Mixiote de Chamorro de Borrego, with braised guajillo peanut marinated lamb shank, banana leaves, cactus and rice.
Tamale House East
1707 E 6th Street
There’s so much more to this authentic Tex Mex restaurant than just homemade tamales. Tamale House offers bomb breakfast tacos, killer chalupas and a charming atmosphere to boot. Sit on their adorable covered patio and enjoy traditional pork tamales with fresh corn flour, or share a plate of queso compuesto with your companero. We recommend the savory chicken mole taco with monterrey jack cheese on a grilled flour tortilla.
Juan in a Million
2300 E Cesar Chavez Street
Famous for their loaded lunches and “legendary” breakfast tacos, Juan in a Million has been dishing out deliciously greasy eats in Texas sized portions for nearly three decades. The price is insanely low considering the portion, and the mouth-watering menu has everything from burritos to taquitos. This little business packs a lot of character and authentic flavor from south of the border into each dish; no matter what you order, you’re bound to leave bursting at the seams and brimming with satisfaction. We recommend their legendary Don Juan Taco Grande: a tasty stuffed taco that inspired the infamous Don Juan Taco Challenge.
2600 E 7th Street
This seemingly unknown restaurant tucked away on east 7th street makes some of the most authentic Tex Mex in the city. Owned and operated by the Guerrera family for decades, El Azteca has been a Mexican staple in east Austin since 1963. Don't let the modest exterior fool you — their lunch specials are unbeatable, their drinks are strong, and their food is fantastic. Whether you’re looking for something familiar or trying something new, El Azteca’s sprawling menu of combos, quesos and carnes won’t disappoint. We recommend their most popular dish, Cabrito al Horno, with baby goat, la charra and ranchero sauce.
Marcelino Pan y Vino
901 Tillery Street
This tiny taco shop is full of Mexican culture and traditional tastes. With recipes that predate the shop itself, Marcelino Pan y Vino dishes out fresh authentic Mexican food on the daily. But where this discreet Tex Mex restaurant really shines is in their hearty tacos, stuffed to the brim with meaty deliciousness and encased in warm, soft flour tortillas. This place has everything from bodacious breakfast bowls filled with bistek ranchero and spicy picadillo, to Mexican folk art, and more importantly, all the tacos you could ever want. For a savory treat with a little kick, try their green chili pork taco.