Food + Thought: Karen’s Pick
Head East down Cesar Chavez for a colorful take on Mexican flavors
by Karen Spezia
Photographs by Leah Muse
If you haven’t taken a long, slow drive along East Cesar Chavez lately, you’re in for a surprise. In just a few short years, it’s been transformed from a sleepy residential road into a street of dreams. Now a microcosm of All Things Austin, it’s lined with funky shops, art galleries, wellness studios, co-working spaces, indie businesses, luxury apartments, renovated bungalows, and a boutique hotel. It’s also become the most exciting culinary stretch in town.
Within two miles, there’s everything an Austin foodie could want — with more to come. New places seem to sprout up overnight like toadstools. You’ll find excellent restaurants like seafood-centric Mongers, fine-dining Juniper, Texas-proud Jacoby’s, and Cajun-inspired Sawyer & Co., plus newcomers Pitchfork Pretty and Intero Italian. Neapolitan pizza joints like Bufalina and Southside Flying Pizza. Barbecue at Kerlin’s mobile truck and la Barbecue’s new brick-and-mortar home. Tex-Mex institutions Juan in a Million and Veracruz All Natural, plus a handful of old-school taquerias. There are health-food favorites JuiceLand, Mr. Natural, Counter Culture, and Bento Picnic, plus The Vegan Nom taco trailer and Capital City vegan bakery. Coffee shops Cenote and Flat Track provide caffeine, while Craftsman, Weather Up, Stay Gold, and EastSide Tavern supply the booze. There’s even a brewery called Blue Owl.
What more could you want? Keep going. As you near the end of the road, there’s one more place to discover: Grizzelda’s. This relatively new Tex-Mex player embodies the fascinating dichotomy of the area: new glitz and old funk, fancy drinks and draft beer, traditional dishes and updated classics. Located across the street from Jacoby’s, its ranch-inspired sister restaurant, Grizzelda’s is the second project from married-couple Adam Jacoby and Kris Swift. Jacoby fans the culinary flames while Swift sparks the design sizzle. Jacoby comes from a Texas ranching family who also runs a café and mercantile in his small hometown, and Grizzelda’s is named after the café’s influential Mexican cook.
Opened in late 2016, Grizzelda’s offers a more tropical vibe than its rustic sibling across the street. The breezy ambiance reflects the menu’s coastal leanings, with pops of sunny color and lush floral accents among the chic décor, a quirky mash-up of velvet upholstery, metal chairs, marble countertops, and wooden tables. While the dining room buzzes with energy and pulsing music, the covered patio feels like a hidden oasis. The clientele is equally diverse: couples on date nights, singles on the prowl, and techies networking over margaritas.
The menu also mixes things up, with a spotlight on coastal Mexican dishes plus a nod to interior Mexican and Tex-Mex cuisine. Seafood options include shrimp and fish ceviche and ahi tuna tostadas. Meats, including beef, lamb, pork, and goat, come from the Jacoby family ranch and are excellent. The picadillo tacos are loaded with juicy roasted peppers and served with tasty homemade corn tortillas. Our favorite dish was the bistec a la parrilla, a simply grilled ribeye steak, tender, flavorful, and fresh from the family ranch. Be sure to start with a bowl of the Grizzy Guacamole, studded with bacon and accompanied by a toothsome roasted salsa. Wash it all down with a frosty-cold Victoria lager or a dangerously potent Bad Girl Ri Ri. It’s all good fun and flavors at Grizzelda’s — and well worth the journey to the end of the road.