The Riverwalk offers an abundance of dining and drinking options, but most of them fall into the category of ‘overdone Tex-Mex that only tourists think is good’. This past week I tried to such venues, and I’ll tell you what I thought.
The Iron Cactus, an Austin native, is a chain restaurant specializing in margaritas. Good appetizers and a very nice margarita can be had here easily- but skip the dessert menu. The chocolate cake was dry and the flan tasted day-old. Iron Cactus is a relatively new addition to the Riverwalk, so time will tell if the margaritas will grow weak and sugary. I especially recommend the Mexican Martini- anyone who has lived in Austin is familiar with this margarita-like drink. Iron Cactus makes theirs with real agave nectar and it is perfectly tart and dangerously strong. For a recipe that will not quite live up to Iron Cactus, but will give you an idea if you can’t make it to the Hill Country, try this: http://www.randomfate.net/MT/2004/10/14/jacks-special-mexican-martini/
Casa Rio and the Riverwalk are inseparable. The food is fair, the service is decent, but the seating along the river and the people watching is unmatched. Their Ensalada de Colores comes with a dressing that I wish I could duplicate. The iceberg lettuce and mandarin oranges are nothing special, but with their house special lime vinaigrette dressing it becomes something amazing. Just don’t expect the same from any of the other food- even the corn tortillas are easy to beat.