The bottom line: An extensive menu and lots of margarita, what’s not to like?
I went to Austin with friends recently. It was my first time in Austin and of course we made it our mission to try tex-mex food as soon as we got there. The Iron Cactus was recommended to us at our hotel and so we hopped on the shuttle and headed downtown. Upon arrival we found ourselves in a spacious dining room with a bar in the middle and a second floor with extra seating. We sat by the window and started to peruse the menu. The first thing I noticed was the margaritas. They have all sort of flavorful combinations. The one that was memorable for me was blood orange. Alas, we weren’t going to start that early so the margaritas will just have to wait on a future visit to Austin (you don’t visit a city like that just once!)
Our waitress brought over the chips and we ordered fresh guacamole. The first thing I noticed about the chips was how light and airy they were. They weren’t as heavy as the tortilla chips that are often found in most restaurants. I really liked this because I felt that I could indulge more than usual (the brain is a deceitful thing). The chips were so light that they were also too thin to support scooping the guacamole (more on this later). The salsa was really fresh and spicy. It was comparable to many of the good quality sauces found at many tex-mex places.
Once the waitress brought over the guacamole ingredients she got to work. She used onions, cilantro, peppers, salt, lemons, and orage, and of course avocados. She mixed it all up, mashed, and added the condiments to our taste. The guacamole was delicious. The waitress left it to a consistency that we liked. Chunky, in this case. You could taste the freshness of the vegetables, and the citrusy flavors of the lemon and orange. We also added more peppers for additional spiciness.
For lunch I decided on the chile relleno rustico. When I ordered this dish I was thinking I was ordering something on the lighter side. Ha! When my dish arrived it was the size of my head (ok, that’s a slight exaggeration but it was close). My stuffed pepper was beautiful. I felt in love with it. And then I killed it with my mouth. It was roasted and stuffed with fajita chicken, sunflower seeds, toasted pecans, dried cranberries, and pepper jack cheese. It was such an incredible marriage of flavors. It was sweet, spicy, crunchy, and cheesy all at the same time. The nuts provided the crunchiness, and the dried cranberries provided the sweetness.
For my sides I had the charro beans and rice. The beans used were brown and it was more like a soup in consistency. There were other vegetables mixed it as well. The rice had good flavor as there were bits of corn and carrots mixed in.
Overall, this wasn’t the hole in the wall experience tex-mex place I pictured myself eating at but the food was of better quality and taste then any tex-mex place that I have eaten at in Charlotte. Would I go back? Most definitely!