The first time you visit a restaurant can lay the course for your patronage. Tossed out on your ear after drunkenly wrangling with the barkeep over a shot of Hot Damn…helping the waitress wrap silver so you can adjourn together to the nearby Mexican strip club…sharing some smoke in the alley with the busboy and his cousin Octavio…any number of things can shape your return visits.
The first time I dined at El Zunzal I had a glorious time with their gregarious owner Elmer, a big strapping honcho who ended up pouring a couple quarts of stellar Salvadoran lager down my gullet and then whooping it up with me over the Kentucky Wildcats basketball game on the color teevee.
Since then I’ve been a regular for a number of reasons but it’s the carnitas and guacamole that keep me coming back year after year.
Depending on the style of carnitas you prefer El Zunzal could be your favorite source in Austin. While the shredded or pulled pork style is dominant in these parts the Salvadorans at this small restaurant on Calle street in East Austin have a different take on their preparation.
To wit: The pork is cubed, slow roasted then finished for service by placing in a very hot oven. The resulting carnitas are crispy on the outside giving way to a tender inner core. The occasional lip of fat on the cubed meat builds the lusciousness to a highly desired level.
While the price of a carnitas taco has skyrocketed over the years to a bordering on untenable $2.50 I still make the occasional visit. A big bowl of made per order guacamole [best in Austin], a standard issue bowl of red table salsa brought to table by a smiling waitress and a quart of Regia Salvadoran Lager make for a fine Central American meal.
642 Calles St
Austin Texas 78702
About the Stars:
4 **** Extraordinary, life changing
3 *** Excellent
2 * Very good
1 * Good
0 * Mediocre to Acceptable
Quality, price, service and ambiance are all taken into account when rating.