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Fearless Critic restaurant review
Austin
Food
Feel
Price
8.4
8.0
$40
Mexican
Upmarket restaurant

Hours
Mon–Thu 11:00am–10:00pm
Fri–Sat 10:00am–11:00pm
Sun 10:00am–10:00pm

Features Date-friendly, live music, outdoor dining
Bar Beer, wine, liquor
Credit cards Visa, MC, AmEx
Reservations Accepted

www.manuels.com

Congress Ave. Area
310 Congress Ave.
Austin, TX
(512) 472-7555

Arboretum
10201 Jollyville Rd.
Austin, TX
(512) 345-1042
Manuel’s
An old fancy-Mex favorite that’s as classy and amiable as ever

Manuel’s has carved out a distinct niche with its nouvelle takes on Mexican classics. Its famous tortilla soup is stark and exciting, with a deep red-brown color from the dried chiles that form its base. The ancho pepper’s smoky back notes blend beautifully with the bright, creamy avocados sliced into the bowl. Yellowfin tuna ceviche is a good starter, tart and fresh, with a little chewy interest; guacamole is bowl-scrapingly addictive. We’ve found sopes a little tough and chewy, perhaps not griddled to order anymore. All the margaritas are fantastic, with showy tart lime—not soapy sweet and sour or agave nectar.

Brunch is fine, if not exciting: just the same old Mexican egg dishes most places have around town, but at Manuel’s you get live music—and not in the form of a mariachi. Among mains, avoid bland chile relleno de elote and flavorless, overpriced camarones a la plancha—just a few sautéed shrimp and some okay rice. We recommend instead chile relleno en nogada, filled with shredded pork, almonds, and raisins, and enveloped in a walnut cream brandy sauce; the mole’s also great, lighter and fruitier than most.

We still love that goofy downtown branch, stuck firmly in the ’80s, complete with mirrors, black lacquer, and pink neon light. The Arboretum branch is more ’90s-serious, but you can dine on a verdant patio.

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