Thursday, September 26, 2013

Right in my back yard

In Bastrop County, where I live and work--and please, local restaurateurs, forgive me for what I am about to say--it is hard to have a peak dining experience.  If you're feeling flush, you can have a lovely drive onto the Hyatt Lost Pines grounds and have a fabulous meal and incredible service at the elegantly appointed and soothingly decorated Stories.  You can venture down to the historic district, charming enough on its own with a growing abundance of galleries and terribly cute boutiques, and have an above average glass of wine and a fairly decent meal at Hasler Bros., a comfortable, solid throwback to classic steakhouses and supper clubs of the 60's and '70's.  And you can have a quick, satisfying and tasty meal at several family-owned restaurants that move tables efficiently and fill your belly, but are lackluster in terms of originality and ambience.

But, it seems, you could not seem to find that "something special" that makes a restaurant sparkle with imagination and vitality.  Not until very recently, that is, when Viejo's opened at the south end of Main Street in Bastrop.  I had heard friends talk about having been to Viejo's and they raved about it.  Being the food and wine snob discriminating eater and drinker that I am, I smilled politely.  Then I thought to myself, "Yeah, well.  I don't think so."

But honestly, I was blown away on my first visit.  The margaritas are hand mixed from fresh juices and other ingredients and served in elegant goblets or martini glasses.  I tried three different margaritas, all of them well-balanced, flavorful (the Basil Antigua and the Jalapeno Hibiscus are my two top favorites) and icy cold.  They paired beautifully with the taco menu, which offers a nice variety and generous portions for a very reasonable amount of your hard-earned cash.  Try the Tacos al Pastor and the Vera Cruz.  Ammmmmazing.

The Basil Antigua margarita at Viejo's
Other bonuses:  the tostada chips are fresh, the salsas are beautifully contrasted and delicious.  And the ceviche--deliciously and expertly balanced with the perfect amount of acid, salt and heat.  Ask for tostadas instead of the saltines that are served with it.

This small space has a lot going for it: a beautiful courtyard with a large fountain where diners can enjoy their drinks and meals outside, an inside dining space (which is a bit crowded and noisy due to the heavy furniture and lack of acoustic treatment), and a rather narrow and small but cozy bar where you can sample some pretty tasty tequilas.  The vibrant aquamarine blue of the bar walls, the mirrors and the copper-toned punched-tin hanging lights make this a fun, funky place to hang out and sip some great drinks.  The service is competent and very pleasant.  I'm not crazy about the large TV tuned in to college football in the bar, but it seems that TVs are everywhere these days.  Viejo's attracts a very young crowd, especially on weekend nights in the bar and courtyard area, where they also offer live music, and I think we all know how Texans feel about their sports.  They are fervently in relationship with their favorite teams as much as possible.

The restaurant menu is limited to mostly tacos and appetizers, but I'm in favor of that since that's what Joe Oviedo and his siblings do best.  I have seldom been able to say this about meals that I have eaten out, but you can taste the love and the family history in every bite at Viejo's.  Your tastebuds will want to fall to their knees at the altar of the Mexican soul food that the Oviedos do so well.

The bar menu at Viejo's
I'll continue to be a frequent guest at Viejo's.  You might want to consider that too.  Salud.


  1. Mmmm, tacos al pastor! With pineapple, I hope!

  2. Yes, South Austin Foodie, with FRESH grilled pineapple!