Azul Tequila: Aztec-Inspired in the Heart of Texas
Updated: Nov 29, 2018
If there is one lesson I’ve taken away from my hero, the brilliant culinary journalist Anthony Bourdain, it is that you can find the most incredible food in the most unlikely of strip malls. Strip malls, shopping centers, truck stops, and roadside shanties being held up by nothing more than history and love – food that can truly comfort the soul doesn’t have to come with a Michelin Star.
For over a decade Azul Tequlia has been serving up what I consider some of the most expertly crafted Mexican food in Austin. Tucked away in a sprawling concrete wasteland at the corner of Ben White Blvd. and Lamar Blvd., wedged between a Dollar Store and a Target, this hidden gem has become my go-to whenever I crave a spicy heart-warming bite of magic. This is not your stereotypical “Tex-Mex”, but “Aztec-inspired” cuisine which lends those deep, rich spices and passionate cooking techniques of interior Mexico regions to the enchiladas and tacos we have all come to love here in the Lone Star State.
When you first walk into Azul Tequila it takes a moment for your eyes to adjust. The interior décor is not your typical “Mexican fiesta” often associated with Hispanic restaurants in North America. There are no piñatas, no lanterns, no Christmas lights that are up 365 days a year. The only cacti are in planters outside the small seating area of white plastic chairs and tables beside the front door. The walls are a dark gray-blue with booths to match, beneath strange incandescent wall sconces – there is a strange 1980’s slant to the décor, as if it is stuck in time in a semi-emo state between Texas and Miami. Do not let the dim atmosphere dissuade you from pulling up a chair, however. You do not want to miss the opportunity to dine here.
When it comes to the menu, it is fairly extensive. Order a margarita (I recommend the frozen coconut, or the Big Blue on the rocks) and a bowl of their luxurious queso while you take your time perusing the various sections. From fish to fajitas, you can trust that whatever you choose you will not be disappointed. But if you’re looking for my go-to recommendations, I would start with the Cochinita Pibil. This Mayan pork barbacoa dish, marinated in achiote sauce and cooked on banana leaves, is so tender that it literally melts in your mouth. Served with Habanero pickled onions, salad, and sweet grilled plantains, as well as house-made tortillas, the balance of flavors is impeccable.
Other gorgeous dishes to dive into include the Mole Pipian – grilled chicken with a traditionally prepared, deep, dark, chocolaty mole sauce; the El Paso Rib Eye – rib eye prepared perfectly to your specification and smothered in fresh jalapenos, onions, peppers, and Montery Jack cheese; and the Chicken Flautas – velvety roasted chicken rolled in house-made corn tortillas and topped with a zesty verde sauce and sour cream. In addition, whether for one or for sharing, the Lone Star Fajitas are simply to die for! This exquisitely flame-grilled dish marries marinated zucchini, Portobello mushrooms, onions, peppers, shrimp, chicken, and beef fajita meat for a divine explosion of tastes and textures that elevate a common Tex-Mex dish to new heights. And, just FYI, most of the dishes come with black beans standard, but I also highly recommend substituting the charro beans with bacon for another sumptuous southern bite.
From the Nachos Tejanos to the Pincho de Camarones, if you’re craving absolutely delicious Mexican cuisine you will not be disappointed when you dine at Azul Tequila. For more information visit www.azultequila.com or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/azultequilatx.