Taco Flats, an old Austin staple and neighborhood hangout in the 70’s is being resurrected as one of the buzziest new restaurants to open along what I like to call “Restaurant Row”, or Burnet Road.
Local business owner and entrepreneur Simon Madera has poured his heart and soul into reviving this Austin institution, a project that he’s worked on for the last two years. His concept was simple: he wanted to focus on creating a neighborhood bar, but he wanted to “do it right”. He didn’t want to solely rely on analytics telling him this was the hottest up-and-coming neighborhood in Austin. He wanted to “make sure there was a connection with the community and wanted to focus on a local home-grown project.” The most important thing for him was to create something with “soul and culture.” He started doing research by asking repeat customers at his liquor store at The Triangle about their families and he heard stories about the neighborhood. One of his customers that now lives in Dallas (and used to frequent the bar when she lived in Austin and was in high school), told him about Taco Flats in the 70’s, and the seed was planted.
Simon reached out to the former owners of Taco Flats and wanted to make sure he got their blessing prior to moving forward with the project. He found out it was just the type of neighborhood bar he had in mind; one that had heart and soul, and one that cultivated the biggest thing Austin is known for, it’s music, by hosting beloved musicians like Townes Van Zandt, Blaze Foley, and Calvin Russell–just to name a few. Once he got Linda Steele’s blessing, he was ready to move forward.
Simon is excited about the menu that he created. His tacos are made in the traditional method with quality ingredients, with a few creative twists (like the fried leeks on their Tostadas de Atun appetizer). They’ll have fresh corn and flour tortillas to go with the tacos, not because it’s the “in” or “hip” thing, he says that’s just the way they know how to do it. The Tostadas de Atun is one example that will set them apart from other tex-mex taco joints (especially in that area), showing they have an appreciation and understanding of interior Mexican food. Simon spent a total of four months last year in Mexico City, getting a good feel for the trendy taquerias that thrive in the city, and figuring out how to deliver their hip and trendy approach and fuse that with long-established practices.
As far as the cocktail menu goes, Simon says (hey!) they don’t want to take themselves too seriously. While they will offer serious craft cocktails, it won’t come with the arrogance or edgy attitudes that is sometimes synonymous with mixology. Aaron Fresas (Midnight Cowboy and The Highball) developed a fun cocktail program built for speed and efficiency, while also serving up quality cocktails with fun names like the NO-MAH-MES (edgy Mexican slang, now also a cocktail made with Espadin Mezcal, green Chartreuse, maraschino liqueur, fresh lime juice, spicy bitters) and LA DOSIS (smoky mezcal, canton ginger liqueur, fresh lime juice, honey, egg whites, Islay scotch). They’ll also be offering wines on tap, and an incredible variety of beers: 20+ craft beers on tap, 15+ canned beers, and 15+ bottled beers, ranging from local Austin beers, to domestics, to delicious Mexican beers like Bohemia, Indio, and Modelo Especial.
Part of the Taco Flats team that deserves attention and praise is Austin design team Chris McCray and Grace Hall of McCray & Co, who have also worked on the design/decor for LENOIR, Ramen Tatsu-ya, Odd Duck, St. Philip, and countless other treasured Austin brands. They’ve carefully integrated the nostalgia of the old Taco Flats and introduced more modern touches, giving the place a clean look and feel yet conveying an inviting ambiance that will make you want to eat, drink some beers and watch some football. One of my favorite elements are the painted walls, making the place look modern, yet acknowledging Taco Flats’ Mexican roots and the traditional zarapes that are unique to Mexico. They also brought in craftsman Bill Brasher, and together with Chris they created impressive wood-paneled walls composed of reclaimed barn wood from a 100-year-old barn in Kentucky, community tables made from repurposed white oak from the same barn, and added vintage light fixtures juxtaposed with more modern neon lights and custom-made furniture.
I’m excited about the food and cocktails, and the overall project in general. Some menu items that I’m excited about are their Tostadas de Atun (yellow fin tuna, onion and lime aioli, chili powder, cotija cheese, queso fresco) and Panchos (tortilla chips, refried black beans, yellow american cheese, grilled onion, house pickled escabeche, guacamole, pico de gallo–yum!) for appetizers. When it comes to the tacos, The Al Pastor (spit roasted pork, onion, cilantro, pineapple) and Pirata (beef fajita, grilled onion, cilantro, Oaxaca cheese, refried black beans) definitely have my name written all over them. They also will be offering tortas (one of my other favorites), a great burger, and a veggie burger as well made with a Goodseed original hemp patty. It’s worth noting that the overall menu is vegetarian friendly, and most tacos and appetizers and be made vegan. They’re also going to be serving brunch on both Saturdays and Sundays, and along with delicious breakfast tacos they’re going to be serving pozole, which is the ultimate hangover soup made with hominy, pork, radish, cilantro, cabbage, Serrano peppers, onion, lime, and tortilla chips. They’ll also serve up brunch cocktails like cafe de olla (coffee, milk, real sugar, and cinnamon), micheladas, and banderitas served the right way, with top-shelf tequila, fresh lime juice, and sangrita.
They open on October 16th at 4 pm for dinner service, to get more information on the restaurant, view menu items, and get hours/location, make sure to check out their website here. Did you go to Taco Flats in the 70’s? If so, make sure to tell us about your experience in the comments below!
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