Here’s the thing about Matt’s El Rancho: Austin loves it. Matt’s has been a staple since 1952, and the current location seats 500 guests at a time in a giant, multi-room indoor space as well as a sprawling patio.
If you google “where to drink margaritas in Austin,” Matt’s El Rancho will show up on every search. They have the highest liquor sales in the city, and I’ve certainly experienced my “happy buzz” after a few of their strong drinks.
Their Bob Armstrong Dip is famous world-wide, named after the famous Texas land commissioner who supposedly walked into the kitchen and asked Matt to whip him up something different. Matt added taco meat and guacamole, and Bob Armstrong loved it so much that he got everyone at the Capitol hooked on it too….and they all called it “that Armstrong dip.” Now it’s the most popular menu item at Matt’s El Rancho.
I went on a Friday lunch date with my Caitlin. She’s a beer and booze blogger, so I know she’s always up for a couple mid-day drinks! We tasted a little bit of everything on the menu.
Before sitting down to eat, we were invited back into the kitchen to see how their homemade tortillas are made.
I’m always pleased to hear when a restaurant makes their most important menu item (tortillas, for instance, for a Tex-Mex restaurant) from scratch.
Matt’s El Rancho does all the heavy lifting on these homemade corn tortillas. They start with whole white corn, purchased in giant paper bags from Lytle, Texas. It’s a town just south of San Antonio, about 1.5 hours south of Austin.
The corn is soaked and soaked and soaked….
….before it’s turned into masa harina. Now it’s ready to be pressed into corn tortillas.
As I was snapping pictures of the tortillas being made, I looked over my shoulder and saw rows and rows of corn tortillas, fresh and piled high, ready to be made into tortilla ships, enchiladas, tacos… Matt’s sells about 8,000 tortillas a day.
I mean….what? Just look at that! The volume of food this place is pushing out every day is ridiculous! I don’t know exactly numbers, but I would bet that this is Austin’s most visited Tex-Mex restaurant of all time.
They also make all of their flour tortillas from scratch. This is a slightly less labor-intensive process than making corn tortillas, but it’s still time consuming. But oooh, you can taste the difference between a freshly made tortilla and an old store-bought one that’s been sitting on a grocery store shelf in plastic wrapping. I think that in a city like Austin, there’s really no reason to eat a tortilla that isn’t homemade.
Does that sound snobby? Probably.
But the cost difference between homemade and store-bought tortillas is insignificant, and it’s easy enough to find homemade tortillas that it’s not worth it for me to waste the calories on a tortilla that’s just half as good.
TRY THIS -> Their brunch options are delicious! The Fajita Omelet is a Mexican version of the popular French dish. This one is stuffed with beef or chicken fajita meat, grilled poblano peppers and onions, and topped with ranchero sauce, melted cheese and avocado. Mmm….
ANOTHER BRUNCH OPTION: Matt’s is well-known for their migas, so I had to try them! As far as Tex-Mex breakfast dishes go, migas are at the top of my list.
Be sure to start the meal with a Bob Armstrong dip. Order a “small Bob” or a “large Bob.” Restaurants around the country have also started naming their queso “Bob Armstrong Dip,” but it started right here at Matt’s El Rancho.
THE FOOT-LONG BEEF ENCHILADA is big enough to share. Or the perfect size for one really hungry person.
Frozen margaritas are dangerous… They’re sweet and they disappear quickly! On the rocks is obviously the authentic way to consume this tequila cocktail, but I honestly like frozen margaritas better in the hot Austin summers. Regardless of what you decide, Matt’s has plenty of options in the drink department.
HAPPINESS IS -> sizzling beef fajitas and a cold Mexican martini shared with a friend. Some of my best memories are of hot summer nights in Texas, sipping ice-cold margaritas and eating a big plate of Tex-Mex food with a group of friends.
Mm, yum. Matt’s is such a staple in Austin, so I knew I had to write at least one blog post about it. If you’re visiting Austin, this is definitely one of the most popular Tex-Mex restaurants and it’s worth a visit! If you’re an Austin local….have you been?
Matt’s El Rancho
2613 S Lamar, mattselrancho.com