Back in 2010, a taqueria opened its doors in a small space off Hudson Bend Road across from the Los Pinos Restaurant. As with most inconspicuous restaurants that pop up in the area, you might find yourself a little hesitant to give it a try without hearing about it from someone else first.
Well, it didn’t take long for word of mouth to spread and for the five star reviews on Yelp to start coming in. Even people from South Austin were making the drive out to Lake Travis to experience items from a menu filled with a melting pot of traditional comfort foods from Mexico City.
And after four years at a place with only eight tables (and no liquor license), the dream of moving to a larger space became a reality when the former Sobani Restaurant was vacated. The more noticeable location is in the Light House Market at Ranch Road 620 and Oak Grove Blvd., just a few miles away from the inconspicuous original taqueria that started off Hudson Bend Rd.
Don Mario Mexican Restaurant is family-owned and operated. All the food is made from scratch using quality ingredients. From the five different types of salsas to the tacos al pastor, you can taste the tradition.
It’s a tradition that was passed down to the son of Don Mario, Mario Isidro, who started working at his Uncles taqueria in Mexico City at the age of 11. He learned how to make tacos al pastor (“shepherd style”) from scratch — a dish developed in Central Mexico that is very similar to how shawarma is cooked (think gyro meat at a Greek restaurant).
The style of cooking spit-grilled meats originated from Lebanese immigrants who made their way to Mexico. The main difference is that tacos al pastor in Mexico are made from marinated pork instead of the lamb-based meat used by the Lebanese.
Mario made the move from Mexico City to the Lake Travis area in 2000. After many years of working for local restaurants Cafe Lago, Flores and Mesa Rosa, he decided to open his own place in 2010. And now after getting settled into the new location (with a lot more seating and a liquor license), you can stop by and give them a try.
There are so many amazing dishes that you’ll have to pick one (or two) and go back for more later. Start off with a basket of chips and samples of the five different types of salsas — red hot, spicy guacamole, fire orange, pico de gallo, picked onions with habaneros — all made from scratch. Try the made-to-order guacamole and a fresh huarache, but be sure to save room for the Mexico City street tacos with your choice of meat including the house specialty — al pastor.
Using fresh ingredients doesn’t stop at the food. There’s homemade lemonade for your little ones and fresh squeezed fruits in all the flavored margaritas (for the adults).
Stop by and give these guys a try when you’re in the mood for some straight up Mexico City street food. And you wouldn’t be in Austin without breakfast tacos — Don Mario serves up breakfast tacos at 9am during the weekday and 8am on the weekends.
Don Mario Mexican Restaurant
1700 Ranch Rd 620 N Ste 110 Lakeway, TX 78734 (map)
Mon – Thu: 9:00am – 9:30pm
Fri: 9:30am – 10:00pm
Sat: 8:00am – 10:00pm
Sun: 8:00am – 9:00pm