Southwestern Ho!

A guide to hot spots in Texas and around the country.

February 1996By Comments

Where to Eat Southwestern in Texas

Reata Alpine
Cowboy cooking rules, but you’ll find city touches like cream of jalapeño and cilantro soup and smoked-cabrito quesadillas in habanero barbecue sauce. After dinner in the simple wood-floored dining room, check out the sprawling mural of the original Reata, from Giant.

Brio Austin
At the heart of a multinational menu are sprightly creations like grilled pork in cascabel cream sauce with a black-bean-stuffed ancho chile. The congenial old two-story house is spiffed up with arty lights.

Coyote Cafe Austin
Santa Fe lives, amid adobe-esque colors and carved, painted desert critters. Try the smoked rock shrimp relleno in a cornmeal crust with smoky tomato-jalapeño sauce, and Coyote’s hallmark blue-corn chicken enchiladas.

Hudson’s on the Bend Austin
Wild game is the forte, from water buffalo enchiladas with a meaty sauce to Hudson’s legendary rattlesnake cakes with chipotle cream sauce. The converted cottage near Lake Travis always seems cozy.

Jeffrey’s Austin
Coolly neutral white walls and contemporary art back up fantastic dishes like sirloin medallions with tomatillo-poblano sauce and habanero aïoli, and apple-walnut cake with tequila-raisin ice cream.

Blue Mesa Grill Dallas
Settle in for simplified Southwestern in a tile-floored, wood-beamed room with a round fireplace in one corner. Try blue-crab-and-shrimp cakes pepped up with corn relish and a chutney of fresh papaya and onion.

The Landmark, Melrose Hotel Dallas
The formal dining room looks like a place for tea and crumpets, but the eclectic menu offers a tamale-crusted catfish taco with tequila cream corn, not to mention a Southwestern Caesar with grilled shrimp, cotija cheese, and roasted corn.

Mansion on Turtle Creek Dallas
Southwestern is merely the starting point for a splendid global menu, but look for the likes of calamari tacos with cherimoya-lime glaze, jicama fajitas, and seared avocado (all one big dish). The lavish dining room in Dallas’ top hotel recreates an Italian Renaissance mansion.

Star Canyon Dallas
Lofty limestone pillars and vast wrought-iron chandeliers set a mock-epic tone for the enjoyment of wonderfully succulent tenderloin-and-sweet-potato enchiladas with dual sauces: smoothly sweet mango-cranberry and smoky tomatillo-poblano.

Michaels Fort Worth
Deep-fried quail loll about in a sweet raspberry-serrano-maple sauce accessorized with fried jalapeño disks and tobacco onions. Andy Warhol’s cowboys-and-Indians series punctuates the casual restaurant’s pristine white walls.

Cafe Annie Houston
The civilized, dark-paneled room could be a fine restaurant anywhere from Chicago to Milan, but its Southwestern roots go deep, with tortilla soup (the broth sweet and light as a breeze) and superb grilled redfish in a subtle red-chile salsa.

Sierra Houston
Adobelike walls are a foil for twinkle lightsand a centerpiece of tall, spiky dried weeds at this informal Southwestern emporium. Select among homey presentations of dishes like chile-crusted tuna with mango salsa or pumpkin-seed-crusted chicken.

Biga San Antonio
In a comfortable old manse jazzed up with vivid colors, chow down on honey-smoked pork loin chops on satiny “sweet mashers” (a.k.a. mashed sweet potatoes) with ancho-cherry sauce and a tangle of tortilla slaw. Smoked salmon nachos make a classy appetizer.

Cascabel, Sheraton Fiesta San Antonio
The marble floors, banquettes, and tall windows are a reasonable facsimile of a Spanish Colonial villa, making a pleasing milieu for dining on achiote tempura shrimp with cactus-lemon cream or pecan-crusted crab cake with chipotle-lime aïoli and pineapple-jicama salsa.

El Mirador San Antonio
The much-loved, resolutely unpretentious hangout for Tex-Mex breakfasts and lunches now serves well-bred Southwestern dinners. Try the thick veal chop with roasted-guajillo-pecan-brandy sauce and herbal oven-roasted fresh vegetables.

Zuni Grill San Antonio
This attractive, bustling River Walk perch offers simpler, less-costly examples of the genre: grilled ribeye in cascabel-goat cheese sauce and grilled vegetable fajitas with jicama-nopalito slaw.

Where to Eat Southwestern Across the Country

Windows on the Green, The Phoenician Scottsdale
Should you shoot under par on the Phoenician’s well-groomed links, reward yourself with dinner at Windows, where you’ll find the likes of salmon cooked campfire style topped with chipotle vinaigrette, sided by a shaved-vegetable salad.

Vincent on Camelback Phoenix
Prepare to experience cognitive dissonance: Camouflaged by country French decor is a solid Southwestern menu, offering duck tamales with Anaheim chiles and raisins, and lobster chimichangas in basil cream.

Rio Grill Carmel, California
Watch your step; the dining room’s a forest of live cacti. Grab a seat at the big mahogany bar while you wait to order the likes of house-smoked-salmon tostadas with tropical fruit salsa, black beans, and chèvre.

Authentic Cafe Los Angeles
On the wide-ranging menu at this casual cafe, seek out a handful of Southwestern specialties: fettuccine caliente with fresh corn, red peppers, poblanos, and a smoky mora chile cream sauce.

Sonora Cafe Los Angeles
Native American motifs enliven the fabrics, and ceramic lizards scurry around the fireplace. Meanwhile, patrons sup on crab-and-wild-mushroom enchiladas in chipotle cream and finish with a Southwest sundae drenched in hot fudge and cajeta sauce.

Abiquiu Santa Monica
Chili Palmer ate here (in Get Shorty) because, as he maintained, it was comfortable but expensive—the better to keep out the riffraff. Gaze out through the soaring two-story windows as you savor Cochiti Pueblo whitefish with green pumpkin seeds and lemon butter.

Nava Atlanta
You’d swear you were in Santa Fe when you see the round fireplace and the dramatic vigas spanning the ceiling. The menu runs from a massive cowboy-cut tenderloin to shrimp relleno. Got a sweet tooth? Try the taco split.

Blue Mesa Chicago
Bask by a real kiva fireplace under the soaring wood-beamed ceiling as you contemplate such offerings as Santa Fe satay (choice of barbecued chipotle chicken or grilled sirloin on skewers) and a fresh vegetable burrito with black-bean sauce.

Cottonwood Cafe Cambridge, Boston, Bethesda, and Tucson
The Cambridge location, with its pueblo look, is the best known of the four Cottonwood Cafes; the expansive, restored hacienda location in Tucson is the newest. But all are right on the money with mesquite-grilled lamb chops served with raspberry-chipotle sauce.

Red Hawk Bar and Grill Ann Arbor, Michigan
Take the chill off a winter day at this cozy red-brick, wood-floored spot. Southwestern dishes on an eclectic menu include chicken in mole topped with tomatillo salsa.

Tejas Edina, Minnesota
Located just outside Minneapolis, Tejas is—despite its name—more New Mexican than Texan, thanks to a tiled fountain and abundant folk art. The food is decidedly Southwestern, with entrées such as grilled-chicken-and-wild-rice burrito with mango-habanero sauce.

Coyote Cafe Santa Fe and Las Vegas
Visitors to Coyote’s Austin edition will recognize certain decorative motifs: adobe-style walls, folk-art animals, cowhide chairs. Same with the menu, featuring fried oysters in a crisp blue-cornmeal crust and huitlacoche tamales made with the dusky-hued corn fungus.

Anasazi Restaurant, Inn of the Anasazi Santa Fe
With rough-hewn hand-painted tables and bancos covered in Chimayó textiles, the dining room is earthy and elegant. So’s the food. Expect East-West hybrids like tortilla soup with ginger-pork potstickers and ancho chiles.

Arizona 206 New York
If Ralph Lauren designed a cave in New Mexico, it would look like Arizona 206. Guests dine stylishly on sage-roasted chicken with blue-corn stuffing, green-chile mashed potatoes, and honey-baked shallots. The New York Times awarded Arizona 206 three stars in 1991 and 1993.

Mesa Grill New York
With its banquettes covered in a buckaroo print and a warm palette of oranges, yellows, and reds, Mesa Grill revives a fifties fantasy. The menu, however, is pure nineties. Feast on shrimp and green-chile risotto with smoked tomatoes and grilled onions. The New York Times awarded Mesa two stars in 1991.

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