While it’s true that you can’t get near the place on a weekend morning, a recent Monday visit to Juan In A Million finds the house to only be 75 or so percent full and mysteriously no line out the door snaking down Cesar Chavez.
When I was a Mexican food neophyte I dearly loved this longtime East Austin taco joint. That was well over a decade ago, before I discovered the whys and wherefores of homemade tortillas, carefully constructed sauces and the pleasure of high end Mexican taco cart cuisine.
With trepidation I walk into the wildly popular Don Juan [the street name for the restaurant] and approach the counter. Juanito, the son of the owner greets me warmly and asks after my needs.
I’m on a bean and cheese taco journey through Austin so I confine my choice to this, ask which of the tortilla options is homemade and receive the dreaded “neither”.
Further queries find the manufacturer of choice to be Fiesta, the big tortilla factory down in the Burleson Road warehouse district. I know their flour to be superior to their corn so I opt for this option and set back to take in the restaurant.
A phalanx of waitresses are bustling about, many of whom I recognize from my patronage of over a decade ago. Don Juan’s must be a pretty good place to work I inwardly reckon.
The main room is nigh onto capacity with Marines, housewives, City of Austin cops, bearded ruffians and the occasional Mexican-girl street tough replete with jail house tattoos and half-busted flip flops.
Just another busy lunch at Juan In A Million.
I pay my $2.11 and adjourn to my Econoline for a quick feed.
The taco itself has a good heft to it as the weight is substantial. The quality of the tortilla is negligible but that’s to be expected from a commercial offering.
The beans have been fried and thoroughly mashed to a thick paste. If manteca has been used, which I doubt, the cook has a light hand.
The yellow cheese is sharp and plentiful combining with the well cooked beans nicely.
Salsa is a spicy hot, tomato-based concoction. It’s the basic, “chips and salsa” style that’s found on every table in town but it does provide an above average note of heat which is welcome.
Juan In A Million is the most popular Mexican restaurant on the Eastside of Austin. It’s status is nearly legendary for a variety of reasons: A charismatic, aggressively-friendly owner, an appearance by Adam Richman of Man vs Food [he failed the Don Juan Taco Challenge] big patio, a liveried staff who speed about constantly replenishing this and that.
It’s a good, solid, second tier Mexican restaurant. Patrons are treated kindly and the proprietors will not get so deep into your wallet that you feel like filing a police report when you leave their establishment.
2300 E Cesar Chavez St
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