The Fast Foodie

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6618 Seidel Road
7:30am-7pm Mon-Sat; 9am-3pm Sun
Tex-Mex is like Tim Duncan — a fundamental part of the city, yet unassuming and often overlooked. Its domination allows other cuisines to stand out like Lila Cockrell at a low-rider roundup. In that sense Tex-Mex is the perfect teammate, just like Tim.

I mention this because it’s difficult to judge the merits of Tex-Mex when a restaurant strives not to be different but to stick to the fundamentals of the game. With no cheap gimmicks, no bird trapped in a cage for the kids to marvel at, these ubiquitous restaurants want to succeed only on the merits of their food. Alas is such a restaurant.

Following a tip from a reader, I dropped by to give them a shot. On the borderland between Alamo Heights and the Austin Highway Badlands, Alas is located in a rather unassuming strip mall across from the new Earl Abel’s. My companions and I arrived for lunch so late it would have to be considered an early dinner. Not surprisingly, we were the only ones there.

I took a seat in the middle of the small but welcoming dining area. The bank of front windows let in an appealing amount of reflected light. I ordered a Mexican Coke and listened to the Spanish-language news playing on a background television while giving the menu the once-over. The lunch and dinner plates are textbook: combination plates, carne guisada, fajitas, chile relleno, and enchiladas, to name a few. The prices are modest, ranging from $4.99 to $6.75.

The lunch tacos intrigued me, especially with their $1.50 price, but I decided to go with Combo Plate #1 — chicken enchiladas, carne guisada, and a puffy beef taco — and left the tacos to my ravenous bike-mechanic friends. My initial impression was that the cook knows what he’s doing. Everything on the plate seemed just right, but I enjoyed the puffy taco the most. Puffiness is a difficult middle ground and Alas balanced the soft/crispy dynamic wonderfully. The chips were oily, but crisp, and the salsa was moderate: thick but not chunky, with a fair share of chile seeds but somehow not as hot as I would have imagined.

The bike mechanics enjoyed their tacos as well. These guys get poetic when discussing fajitas, particularly the ones at La Margarita because of the outstanding cuts of meat. Though Alas’s carne asada didn’t jump to the top of their distinguished list, it was compared favorably to hometown stars like El Milagrito on St. Mary’s. For a new restaurant, that seems like high praise to me.

— Mark Jones

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