Thursday, February 6, 2014

The Weekend Gourmet Dines Out for February...Featuring Uncle Julio's Austin

This month, The Weekend Gourmet Dines Out is headed up the road to Austin for a visit to Uncle Julio’s. The restaurant has several locations around the country, but this is the only location in Central/South Texas. They opened last July and have quickly become quite popular with locals and visitors alike. We take several road trips to Austin yearly, and we’re always on the lookout for new restaurants to try. This one's a real winner...we especially like that they focus on locally sourced  ingredients for their menu items! We arrived at Uncle Julio's and were warmly greeted, then quickly shown to our seats. First up were drinks and chips & salsa to munch on while we looked over their extensive Tex-Mex menu. Uncle Julio’s specializes in grilled platters, as well as Tex-Mex classics like enchiladas and tacos.

We selected a couple of classics for our cocktails. I had The Swirl. This flavorful, eye-catching drink combines the best of both worlds: frozen margarita and frozen sangria swirled into a chilled mug. It packs a ton of fruit-infused flavor...but watch out, it's stronger than you think! Michael chose Julio's Gold, their special house margarita. It was tart, with a nice tequila kick. Both drinks paired well with our shared starters. Being a guacamole lover, I was immediately intrigued by their creative Pineapple Bacon Guacamole! To their creamy house guacamole, they up the Wow Factor by adding pineapple, hickory smoked bacon, and crumbled queso fresco. I loved the tang and smoky flavors these additions brought to the creamy guacamole. This is one amazing guacamole! We also sampled their house-made tamales in both pork and chicken. They were excellent -- the masa was soft and flavorful, and they were generous with the spicy meats inside. 
For our entrees, we focused on grilled menu items. Michael is a fajita connoisseur, so he likes to try them whenever we visit a new Tex-Mex restaurant. He opted for the Beef Fajitas Especial. The mesquite-smoked meat was flavorful and juicy, and it came with all the fixings, including: guacamole, pico de gallo, cheese, sour cream, and rice & beans. I'm a seafood lover, so the Bacon Wrapped Cammarones Brochette quickly caught my eye! This platter comes with a half dozen sweet jumbo shrimp stuffed with Monterey Jack cheese and fresh jalapeƱo. Then, they're wrapped and grilled over mesquite. The shrimp are smoky from the mesquite and bacon, a bit spice from the jalapeno...and filled with melty cheese. The platter is served with guacamole, pico de gallo and freshly made tortillas. Together, we had a delicious Tex-Mex surf and turf to share!
For dessert, we shared two treats. First up was the Cajeta and Sopapilla Combo. Cajeta is a scoop of vanilla ice cream covered in toasted coconut, pecans, house-made caramel sauce,and whipped cream. Then, freshly made sopapillas are arranged around the platter and topped with powdered sugar and drizzled with hot fudge. Needless to say, this decadent dessert is made for sharing around the table! The sopapillas were pillow soft, and the Cajeta is like a kicked up good!! We also shared a seasonal dessert, the Pumpkin Flan. If you've never had flan, it's Mexico's version of custard. It's creamy and rich, and it makes its own caramel topping as it cooks. This one was rich with cinnamon and creamy pumpkin. It reminded us both of a decadent pumpkin pie, and it wasn't overly sweet. We both really enjoyed the flan, and it was the perfect ending to our visit to Uncle Julio's!
Uncle Julio's Austin is located at 301 Brazos Street (corner of San Jacinto and 3rd St.). This location is convenient to many Downtown hotels and live music venues. They're open for both lunch and dinner, and they have a great Happy Hour and weekend brunch as well. During the cooler months, their outdoor patio is a great place to unwind and enjoy cool breezes, cocktails, and great Tex-Mex food. Available Downtown Austin parking can be hard to find at times, but Uncle Julio's offers convenient valet parking at the front of the restaurant. I hope you'll check out Uncle Julio's the next time you find yourself in Austin and in the mood for Tex-Mex made with fresh, locally sourced ingredients.

Disclosure: Uncle Julio's provided us with a complimentary dinner to facilitate this feature. We receive no further compensation, and all opinions expressed are my own. All photographs are copyrighted by Michael K. Garcia and may not be copied or otherwise used without prior permission.

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