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photo credit: Maggie Svoboda

La Condesa review image
8.0

La Condesa

$$$$

400 W 2nd St, Austin
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There’s no shortage of tacos, tostadas, and tlacoyos in Austin. If this city ran on masa, we’d be perpetually generating enough excess energy to sustain the electrical grid for decades to come. But until scientists are able to engineer a reliable corn-to-energy conversion device, we’ll keep enjoying all of the masa at La Condesa. Because in a city full of great Mexican food, La Condesa’s modern takes on classic dishes—combined with some of the best tortillas in Austin—make it one of our favorite spots to grab a meal downtown.

Tacos aren’t even an item on the menu here—though just about every large-format entree you order will come with a short stack of petite, pliable, and incredibly tasty corn tortillas. Instead, you’ll find a rotating selection of tortas, tamales, tlacoyos, and huaraches that help to showcase La Condesa’s biggest strength: masa. The short rib quesadilla levels up with an ever-so-slightly-sweet blue corn tortilla, and huitlacoche is an earthy, rich topping for a thick huarache with just the right amount of bite. Some other dishes, by comparison, are a little less memorable: The queso fundido is among the most expensive in the city, and has arrived overcooked and broken, on a couple occasions, with only a few millimeters of stretchy cheese pull. And the ceviches, while pretty to look at, lack any real punch. 

La Condesa

La Condesa review image

The dining room is a welcome escape from the busy energy of downtown. It’s bright and airy, with colorful blotch murals that look kind of like Banksy painted a rainbow that got rained on before it could finish drying. And if you want to feel even further removed from Austin, for a big group dinner, you can book their private subterranean dining room with a long table that feels like the underground lair of a James Bond villain. There’s also a large bar area (with tables) reserved for walk-ins, making it a great stop for a quick margarita and a snack, or just for an impromptu fancy weeknight dinner.

Pop in for Happy Hour and you’ll get to enjoy half off La Condesa’s entire drink menu. Pair all of that with the buzzy dining room, the large private dining area, and the cozy sidewalk patio, and it’s not hard to see why this is one of our favorite spots downtown to celebrate a birthday, enjoy some half-priced drinks before a movie at Violet Crown Cinema next door, or just to eat some excellent tortillas (and whatever accompanies them) to your heart’s delight.

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Food Rundown

Richard Casteel

La Condesa review image

Queso Flameado

We love a super stretchy queso flameado. Unfortunately, this one isn’t. It’s seasoned well, but ours came out a bit overcooked and broken on a couple different visits. But broken or not, melted cheese still tastes pretty good, and if anything just gives you a chance to eat more tortilla chips. If you do get this, spend the extra few bucks to add chorizo.

Richard Casteel

La Condesa review image

Tuna Tostada

This is a massive tostada the size of a small dinner plate. The base is crispy, with a thick layer of fresh guacamole and plenty of spicy and zesty lime-dressed tuna. It’s big enough to share, but good enough that you won’t want to.

Richard Casteel

La Condesa review image

Huarache De Huitlacoche

The huitlacoches on this are excellent—earthy in flavor, with a soft texture that practically melts into the beans beneath them. And a bit of epazote adds just the right amount of herb-y zest to brighten the whole thing up.

Richard Casteel

La Condesa review image

Quesadilla De Short Ribs

The short ribs here are fork-tender and rich with a slow-cooked, savory punch. The blue corn tortilla is warm and thick, with a hint of nuttiness. And it’s a striking visual contrast to the white melty cheese spilling out from every side.

Richard Casteel

La Condesa review image

Carne Asada

This is basically a giant carne asada-seasoned steak over a bed of rich, punchy mole. The price tag is a bit steep, but when you and your party of four can each build a couple delicious tacos out of it, it doesn’t feel quite as bad.

Richard Casteel

La Condesa review image

Churros

These are pretty classic churros, served with a side of dulce de leche. Fried with a crispy outside and a soft, warm center, these are our go-to dessert order here.

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