Isalia’s offers authentic Tex-Mex to the Drag

Stephen Acevedo

Last December, father-son duo Ezequiel and Gubiel Aviles brought Tex-Mex to the Drag. For students looking to satisfy their enchilada cravings between classes, Isalia’s offers authentic Tex-Mex to customers from their shop at 26th Street and Guadalupe Street.

“Growing up, my parents were well-known by my friends and cousins for their great cooking,” Gubiel said. “Everyone always wanted to come over and eat their food, so I’ve always been interested in opening a restaurant to offer everyone my parents’ great food.” 

Isalia’s is easy to miss, located in a tiny building behind Fat Sal’s. Despite being hidden from plain sight, Isalia’s has a great atmosphere, offering customers two dining area options. The first is the main indoor dining room, charmingly decorated with various pieces of Mexican artwork, giving off the familiar, comforting vibe of a local taquería. For customers longing for a side of fresh air with their meal, Isalia’s also offers a sizable outdoor patio in the front. 

The menu, complimented by Isalia’s cozy ambiance, includes all the staples of a good Tex-Mex restaurant plus some pleasant surprises. Ezequiel makes everything on Isalia’s menu from scratch daily, down to their fluffy flour tortillas. Ezekiel said he has worked as a cook at various restaurants for much of his adult life, so he brings a wealth of experience to Isalia’s kitchen.

“My dad pretty much does all the cooking on his own, and he certainly likes it that way,” Gubiel said. “He can actually be quite controlling in the kitchen.” 

While a major part of their menu is tacos, the chicken and beef fajita tacos, served with sautéed peppers and onions, don’t distinguish themselves from any other run-of-the-mill fajita tacos. 

The true highlights of Isalia’s taco selection are the al pastor and barbacoa tacos. The al pastor — or red-seasoned pork — is delectably greasy in all the right ways. The mixture of the seasoned grease and fat with the soft flour tortilla keeps the taco moist and flavorful without the need for additional salsa or toppings. The barbacoa, on the other hand, lacks the dish’s trademark grease but makes up for it with a smoky flavor from the barbecue pit, where it is smoked for approximately six hours every day. Served traditionally with cilantro and onion, this is easily the best taco on Isalia’s menu. 

In addition to tacos, Isalia’s takes pride in putting a spin on Tex-Mex enchiladas. With half a dozen to choose from, the two most notable are the enchiladas famosas and the cheese enchiladas. The enchiladas famosas are the most unique on the menu, filled with chicken fajita and topped with a poignant red chipotle sauce that gives them a flavor distinct from anything else on the menu. The cheese enchiladas were a pleasant surprise, straying from the predictable form of cheese-filled enchiladas topped with meat gravy. Instead, these cheese-filled enchiladas are smothered in Isalia’s house chile con queso, making a classic dish different enough to still be exciting. 

Two dishes that completely break away from the rest of the menu are the stuffed avocado and Isalia’s Especial. The stuffed avocado is deep-fried and loaded to the brim with shredded chicken and cheese before being covered in more cheese and rich green suiza sauce. This plate takes the ambition just far enough without overwhelming the palate, although it will certainly leave customers struggling to walk home as a result of its heaviness. Isalia’s Especial, a personal favorite of server Rosemary Ochoa, stuffs a fried poblano pepper with chicken fajita meat and is covered with Monterey Jack cheese and tart tomatillo sauce. It has plenty of flavor but still leaves room to be enhanced by one of Isalia’s two house salsas for more of a kick. 

Isalia’s also offers impressive breakfast items. All of the classic breakfast tacos, including chorizo and egg, bacon and egg and migas, are enhanced with a generous serving of melted cheese. For less conventional Tex-Mex breakfast options, Isalia’s serves a hearty migas enchilada and some startlingly mouth-watering pancakes that could go head-to-head with Kerbey Lane’s any day of the week.

“We’re just really happy to be serving food here in Austin,” said Gubiel. “I have always loved this city and wanted to give back, and what better way to serve Austin than with food?”