The State Of Bean And Cheese Tacos In Austin Texas Part 1: Tamale House #3

When I first came to Austin back in the early 90’s to cover SXSW for a magazine,  I’d never experienced Tex Mex cuisine.

Yes, I’d grown up eating Mexican food: Crispy tacos,  chile con queso, guacamole etc. but it all came in brightly colored boxes from Piggly Wiggly with fiery sunsets and smiling cactus everywhere.

Kentucky’s nascent Mexican market had been monopolized by Ortega, Rosarita and Tostito and I was none the wiser.

So when my hound on the ground Angelika, a friendly Greek local offered to take me to a genuine Tex Mex restaurant I leaped at the opportunity.

“It’s the only place in town where you can fill up for .65 cents” she confided.

While we ran the table on their taco offerings the one that really stood out was the decidedly humble bean and cheese.

It was the first bite of authentic Tex Mex I ever put in my mouth and it still resonates to this day.

I’ve been doing a lot of Mexican food research for Chowpapi in the last year and that’s meant revisiting some old favorites. While I’ve found Mexican restaurants I prefer to Tamale House, the old girl still holds a special place in my heart.

Walking in on a recent morning,  the line is just about to stretch out the door. A gaggle of sweat soaked Mexican ladies in aerobics gear is right in front of me. Eager to nullify their recent workout they’re all ordering big combo breakfast platters of Migas, Huevos Rancheros and other Tex Mex classics.

I have this assignment in mind so I limit my ordering to just one taco. Outside in my Econoline I eagerly tear into the wrapper and get down to business on my .92 cent taco.

The tortilla is flour, their only offering, and not good. It’s going to take some seriously delicious beans, cheese and salsa to manage to overcome this oversight on Tamale Houses part.

They manage it.

The pintos have been cooked down and refried with plenty manteca. They’re almost pureed but there are still little,  semi-whole beans throughout. The cheese is the classic “yellow” Tex Mex cheese served widely throughout Austin and Texas in general.

A special note must be made of their salsa as it’s one of the finest, tomato-based, “chips and salsa”-styles in town. Lots of onions, jalapenos and cilantro fire this classic sauce. It’s the standard type most places offer for free when you sit down in any one of a hundred places in Austin, but Tamale Houses’ is a perfect rendition.


5003 Airport Blvd

About the Stars:

4 ****  Extraordinary, life changing

3 ***   Excellent

2 *     Very good

1 *     Good

0 *     Mediocre to Acceptable

Quality, price, service and ambiance are all taken into account when rating

About RL Reeves Jr

I'm a writer living and working in New Orleans, Louisiana.
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