At Matt’s, you have to try not to have a good time. The bustling south Austin Tex-Mex landmark, founded in 1952, is an irresistible place to enjoy dinner, drinks, and some legendary queso with family and friends. Colorful paintings of the Virgin de Guadeloupe and bullfights adorn the walls, along with portraits of the founder, Matt Martinez, in his champion boxing days; and rhythmic conga drums playing in the background add to the festive atmosphere. Even with several spacious dining rooms plus an outdoor patio, Matt’s tends to be crowded and loud, part and parcel of being “famous,” as the restaurant’s familiar sign boasts. If you arrive during peak times, expect at least a twenty-minute wait.
The wait gives you an opportunity to enjoy one of Matt’s signature Knockout Martinis at the bar. A twist on the classic margarita, this “martini” is made with reposado tequila, fresh lime juice, and Cointreau, and served in a personal shaker with a chilled martini glass garnished with olives. A word to the conscious consumer (who wants to remain conscious): these drinks live up to their name. They pack a serious punch, justifying their $11 price tag.
Fresh salsa and a basket of thick, crunchy tortilla chips arrive on the table as soon as you sit down. Be sure to order the most popular dish, the Bob Armstrong queso dip, named after the popular former Texas Land Commissioner. This bowl of rich melted cheese is served with savory ground beef and a generous dollop of creamy guacamole. Pro tip: stir some salsa into the queso for an extra kick of dry heat and acidic brightness. This dish is so popular that bumper stickers shouting “GIMME A LARGE BOB!” can be purchased at the restaurant’s merchandise counter, along with t-shirts, mugs, and cookbooks. A small “Bob” can easily be shared between two to three people, and a large is recommended for four or more, but no one’s stopping you from eating one all by yourself. The stuff is addictive!
For a classic entrée, you can’t go wrong with a Matt’s Special: two enchiladas (mix it up with beef and chicken) smothered in green enchilada sauce, melted Monterrey cheese, and queso. Is this overkill? We think not. As a general rule, the more cheese, the better.
Another favorite is the Chile Relleno, a meaty pepper battered, fried, and stuffed with tender al carbon beef (an off-menu selection but highly recommended) and covered with tomatillo sauce and — you guessed it — gooey melted cheese. The dish sets itself apart by its garnish of Texas pecans and raisins, which adds a delicious sweetness that balances the tang of the sauce.
If tacos are your thing, don’t miss Tacos Asadero. House-made corn tortillas wrap around savory beef tenderloin, thick Asadero cheese, sweet caramelized onions and rajas, sliced poblano peppers with cream.
Note: Lunch specials are served Monday through Friday from 11am to 3pm for $7.95 each. Brunch is served on weekends 11am to 3pm, featuring Tex-Mex classics such as huevos rancheros and migas. Matt’s is closed Tuesdays.