From Mexican to Mediterranean, students returning to UT-Austin have several new food options

Meara Isenberg

Students returning to campus this fall will be able to check out two new Mexican eateries, try a Mediterranean bowl or grab some barbecue from a soon-to-close West Campus joint.

Taco Ranch, a Tex-Mex restaurant and drive-thru, will open its second Austin location on Martin Luther King Jr Blvd by the end of October, spokesperson Arielle Olfers said.

“We felt like especially with Mexican food, Tex-Mex, there was really no place you could go get a healthy taco … through a drive-thru,” Olfers said. “The only other alternatives are the Taco Cabanas and Taco Bells of the world, and we really wanted to be able to provide a fast food offering that was healthier.”

The Mexican eatery is a sister restaurant to popular Austin burger chain P.Terry’s Burger Stand, and they offer tacos, burritos and other Tex-Mex menu items with all-natural, fresh ingredients, Olfers said.

Olfers said Taco Ranch offers students a fun environment with indoor and outdoor seating, and low-priced menu items, such as tacos that start at $2.50. The restaurant will be open weekdays from 6 a.m. – 12 a.m., and will open an hour later on weekends.

Austin may be known for its tacos, but a new food truck in West Campus is trying to get customers hooked on a different Mexican dish. Chilaquil has set up shop in Urban Outfitter’s Space 24 Twenty and offers chilaquiles, which are tortilla chips covered in salsa and topped off with various ingredients such as cream, cheese and avocado.

“I decided to go with chilaquiles because I wanted people to know more about Mexican cuisine,” truck owner Orlando Aguirre said. “Most people just know tacos, burritos maybe, and there’s way, way more stuff to try.”

Aguirre opened Chilaquil in June as the first location in Austin. He said he chose to open a truck location near campus because UT has a diverse student population, and he wants to introduce the food to different kinds of people.

“We have different dishes from different regions of Mexico,” Aguirre said. “We have the very traditional way to serve it with chicken, a Northern way to serve it (with chorizo) and a South Mexican (meatless) way to serve it.”

Aguirre said Chilaquil is currently closed due to maintenance on the truck, but he expects it to reopen this week. The truck’s hours are currently 11 a.m. – 9 p.m. weekdays, but Aguirre said he plans to open the truck at 7 a.m. this fall for breakfast.

This semester, Aguirre also said a sister truck will be set up on certain weekdays at the food truck areas by Gregory Gym and the Perry-Castañeda Library.

Mediterranean food restaurant CAVA also opened on the Drag this June, serving bowls filled with meats and seasonally-rotating vegetables in Space 24 Twenty.

West Campus will soon say goodbye to Freedman’s Barbecue, which is closing its doors Aug. 31. General manager Dawn Catagnus said the restaurant, which opened on San Gabriel Street in 2012, will open in another Austin location yet to be determined.

“This location is closing down due to construction around the building,” Catagnus said. “It is no longer safe for us to operate in this space.”

Catagnus said the restaurant is going to focus on catering over the next few months while it searches for a new brick-and-mortar location.