El Alma

Review by: Sara Griffith Dawson

If you’re seeking authentic Mexican cuisine in Austin, Texas, look no further than El Alma. It is the brainchild of two friends, restaurateur Carlos Rivero and Chef Alma Alcocer, who have created a menu bursting with flavors straight from Mexico. A perfect spot for sharing a meal with friends and family.

Approaching the doors of El Alma, you’re immediately impressed by the bright-white exterior and vibrant indoor plantings. The interior is warm and welcoming with woven straw lamps, a peacock-blue ceiling, and succulent plants on each table. A captivating stone staircase in the back adorned with tropical plants, a rocky wall, and a bubbling waterfall, piqued my curiosity. I discovered that it led to a small, quaint rooftop where customers eat and drink with a gorgeous view of the skyline.

A friendly server was happy to get us seated, delivering complimentary chips and two types of house-made salsa: one red, one green. The red is tomato-based with lots of smokiness and just a hint of spice. The green is jammed with herbal flavor, the most prominent being cilantro. It has an unexpected spicy kick.

I ordered a Clásica Margarita on the Rocks, and for an appetizer, Queso Blanco y Rojo. The margarita is cool and refreshing, with fresh-squeezed citrus, and just enough sweetness to even out the tart lime. The queso is unique with its toppings: slices of mushroom, onion, and poblano pepper generously mixed in, with a drizzle of spicy arbol salsa made from chili and garlic. Freshly baked tostada chips are a perfect base for the queso, and have a rich, well-balanced flavor compared to typical store-bought tortilla chips.

An entree of Tostadas de Tinga boasts two large corn tostadas with layers of fresh food atop: soft refried black beans, chicken soaked in chipotle tomato sauce, rich corn slaw, creamy hunks of white cheese, and chunky guacamole, all complimented by simple yet savory white rice as a side. It is messy to eat, with toppings ending up all over hands and napkin, but well worth it.

A carne asada taco contains grilled steak, caramelized onions, and guacamole — a simple combination of flavors that is  a refreshing break from more typical Tex-Mex style tacos. The lamb barbacoa, with habanero pickled carrots, a bit of onion, and just the right amount of cilantro, is a game changer. Do ask for an extra napkin with this bad boy, as the sauce will certainly be dripping out of the bottom of your tortilla.

If you’re craving Tex-Mex, and want authentic flavors and fresh ingredients, head to this local hot-spot.

What To Eat

Carne Asada Taco & Lamb Barbacoa Taco

Tostadas de Tinga

Queso Blanco y Rojo

Clásica Margarita on the Rocks


El Alma Recipes


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