The Beguiling Ways of Fonda San Miguel

You might not normally associate Mexican food with fine dining. You might not think of North Loop as a restaurant hot spot. You might not expect a lush villa in the midst of middle-class homes in north central Austin. You might not recognize a Mexican restaurant that doesn’t serve Combination Plate No. 1, or pralines.

Fonda San Miguel, the beloved iconic Austin restaurant, is celebrated as one of the best Mexican restaurants in the country. The restaurant’s commitment to traditional Mexican cuisine has challenged us, seduced us, persuaded us, and influenced us since Fonda San Miguel opened in 1975.

Serving Truly Traditional Mexican Food

Owner Tom Gilliland and consultant and former chef Miguel Ravago introduced Austinites to classic interior Mexican cuisine at a time when nobody knew what that meant. Little by little adventurous diners absorbed the essence of the dining experience:  the food opened you to the real Mexico, as if you were actually visiting. The two’s passion for authenticity has placed them at odds with prevailing trends, chefs and even diners. But Fonda San Miguel has triumphed. And once you’ve enjoyed the exquisite dishes, you feel a biological imperative to return.

The irony is that these self-proclaimed traditionalists in matters of food have nevertheless changed the face of Mexican dining in Austin – and what we expect from restaurants. Their very adherence to the actual dishes of Mexico, with no variance, forced other restaurants to begin serving black beans, seafood and more. Fonda San Miguel did bow to one local insistence, however: two years after opening, they overcame their personal distaste and began serving chips and salsa to demanding patrons!

“The Most Beautiful Restaurant in Austin…”

You’ll experience the Fonda San Miguel difference in more ways than the food. The menu void of fluorescent cheese concoctions; the setting is sublimely serene. You dine in an elegant villa-styled room, filled with outstanding museum-quality art, lovely plants, a charming courtyard and a subdued ambiance. Fonda San Miguel is an extremely romantic restaurant:  it is rumored that George W. Bush proposed to Laura Bush here. In fact, Fonda, as it is affectionately known, has been called, “Austin’s most beautiful restaurant.”

The Main Event:  The Food

Fonda San Miguel received the approval of Diana Kennedy, maven of authentic Mexican cooking, and a star from Texas Monthly magazine — both solid achievements that have contributed to the restaurant’s success. The food served at Fonda San Miguel is fine dining quality: fresh ingredients are always used, including real chiles and traditional peppers. The rellenos and seafood are especially delicious. Order enchiladas here, and they might be stuffed with duck. The emphasis is on flavor, not mere heat. Many dishes and drinks feature ingredients picked from the restaurant’s own organic garden. Prices reflect the superior quality of the cuisine.

The Sunday brunch buffet is legendary, and rightly referred to as “sumptuous.” Brunch at Fonda is considered a must by many who visit Austin. Hint: make reservations.

Awards for Excellence

Garnering 4 stars on, 4.5 stars on and 4.5 stars on, Fonda San Miguel is one of the top restaurants in Austin, and is the only Austin restaurant on Travel + Leisure magazine’s “Best Mexican Restaurants in the U.S.” list.

It’s not only a bit of a legend in these parts, but all over the country, too.