Matt’s Famous El Rancho (Austin, TX)

As we’ve mentioned before on this blog, we appreciate suggestions of places to see, things to do and restaurants to try. If your recommendation works with our schedule and our budget, we’ll more than likely give it a whirl. And thanks to one of those tips (from Scott’s Mom’s cousin), we ended up at Matt’s Famous El Rancho on our second night in Austin, Texas.

The sign for Matt’s Famous El Rancho boasts that it is the “Best Mexican Food In The World.” While we definitely can’t attest to the validity of that statement, we can say that Matt’s had some amazing food. From your standard tacos and fajitas to the more exotic frog legs and duck, Matt’s had a wide variety of choices on its menu.

Smoked Duck Enchiladas

Scott has yet to meet a duck he doesn’t find tasty, so when he noticed smoked duck enchiladas on the menu, his choice was made. This entree came with two large enchiladas plus guacamole salad, Spanish rice and refried beans.

When we say large, we mean it! The two yellow corn enchiladas filled the middle of the plate and were stuffed full of pecan-smoked duck meat. The meat was juicy, tender and sweetly smokey – incredible! The enchiladas were covered with a chipotle sauce and a little cheese. The sauce was amazing – hot & deeply smokey without being too spicy. It was a great addition to the duck.

Old Fashioned Taco Dinner

Edie opted for the Old Fashioned Taco Dinner, an entree that included 3 grilled tacos and plenty of onions and cilantro to add to them, plus frijoles a la charra and guacamole salad. She opted for two chicken tacos and one pecan smoked brisket taco (to help Scott continue his brisket streak!).

The tacos were amazing! The shells were two corn tortillas for each taco which were packed full of moist, tender, shredded chicken or brisket and a tiny sprinkle of cheese, then grilled – making a kind of soft-shell/hard-shell taco combo. The addition of cilantro and onions (and a little of the thick salsa verde) just made them even better.


Bob Armstrong Dip

Back in Edie’s law firm days, she had worked with a super nice guy named Bob Armstrong (someone at WTC please tell him she said hello!), so when she saw this app on the menu, and when we heard it was an El Rancho original, we decided to give it a try. That turned out to be a great decision!

The Bob Armstrong is a really simple idea – yet it isn’t something you see on too many Mexican and Tex-Mex menus. Start with a bowl of queso, toss in a scoop of guacamole and a scoop of spicy ground beef, and voila! Amazing dip! The flavors all mix together well and leave you with a mildly spicy, incredibly creamy (and filling!) accompaniment to the crispy tortilla chips.

Guacamole Salad

Both of our entrees included guacamole salad – a scoop of guacamole and a scoop of diced tomatoes on a bed of shredded lettuce.

Like the guacamole at Casa Rio, the guac at Matt’s was also served with a small amount of what we assumed was chili oil drizzled on top. The extra little kick mixed with the fresh avocado tasted wonderful.

Frijoles a la Charra

We’ve noticed a trend at both Mexican and BBQ places in Texas – “beans” are often pinto bean dishes. The frijoles a la charra (a/k/a cowboy beans) were too. This side was a bowl of plump pinto beans mixed with (we think…) a little meat, a few diced tomatoes, and some spices – a nice flavorful dish without too much spice.

Refried Beans & Spanish Rice

The beans and rice accompanying the duck enchiladas were pretty standard. Good, but nothing exceptional.

Chips & Salsa

Chips and salsa – the pre-entree belly-filler.

The staff at Matt’s will make sure your bowls don’t get too low before they’re offering you more. The chips are fresh and crunchy and the salsa is thick and spicy – very spicy!

Salsa Verde

Edie loves tomatillo salsa – the green sauce is flavorful without being too hot. She saw it listed as an option on some of the entrees so she asked for a little cup of it on the side and our wonderful server was happy to oblige the request.

Matt’s salsa verde was incredible! Great flavor and, unlike those we’ve had before, this one was thick. Very thick. As in it would coat the spoon. Perfect!


Our server Laura was great – efficient, knowledgeable and friendly…even when Scott threatened to stab her with his fork if she took his plate away too soon.

Overall Value

Our total bill, including tip, was $40.00. Obviously not as cheap as Casa Rio, but the food was excellent and filling. Plus we had enough left over to make a really good doggy bag for Knox!

The Doggy Bag, By Knox

After spending the day being walked for 5 miles in the Austin heat (yes, heat – in February!), Mommy and Scott were nice enough to let me nap in the truck while they went in the restaurant for dinner. And apparently they understood that I needed a good-sized dinner to rebuild my strength after all that walking!

Wow – what a meal! I got a quarter of a duck enchilada (this is how ducks should always end up!), half of a chicken taco, some brisket, some rice and even a few beans. I gobbled it up in no time. The only thing they forgot was a few tortilla chips, but they’re learning what a big dog like me needs. One day I’ll get them trained up properly.

Overall Ratings

Smoked Duck Enchiladas
Old Fashioned Taco Dinner
Overall Value
Final Rating
Knox’s Rating