Matt’s brings Mexican family feel, history, to their Austin restaurant

Matt's Mexican in Austin

There aren’t many restaurants that can say they’ve been around for half a century. But here in Austin, we found one that has earned that distinction. Matt’s El Ranchero has been an Austin family business since 1952.

We joined our daughter’s friend and her family for our first visit to Matt’s, and after only a few minutes, we could see why this restaurant has lasted so long. The welcome was friendly…more like a greeting from a friend you haven’t seen in awhile than a hostess seating customers. The chips were instantly there, hot and fresh and the salsa had an actual kick (clearly NOT made in New York City!)

While we looked over the menu, we were serenaded by an excellent strolling Mariachi group (a plus since we have a soft spot for Mariachi bands…we had one at our wedding!) While we waited for the food to arrive, I walked around and looked at the collection of Mexican artifacts and family photos scattered around the restaurant. You can even look into the kitchen and watch the food being prepared! It was like getting a peek into the family behind Matt’s, and I loved that family feeling. Then it was time to eat.

A word of advice….if you go to Matt’s, go hungry! The serving are large, and the food tastes too good to leave any on your plate!

The menu has lots of options for meat-eaters and vegetarians alike, and the staff was happy to answer questions about ingredients, make substitutions and even combine several menu items into one to meet dietary needs. There’s a good kids’ menu, with choices beyond standard chicken fingers, so kids can enjoy Mexican food along with mom and dad.

Sure, there are chain Mexican restaurants in town. But with a local family place like Matt’s around, who needs mass-produced?

Television gets its own Festival in Austin

ATX Television Festival Austin Texas

Someday, when the ATX Television Festival is as big as the Sundance Film Festival, I will be able to say I was there for the very first year.

Come to think of it, I was there for Sundance’s early years, too, when their showings were screened in tiny Salt Lake City venues like the The Blue Mouse Movie Theatre in Salt Lake City and the Tower Theatre, and the audience was a mix of film makers, film buffs, and high school and college students.  From small beginnings….

This year’s first ever television festival was made up of a similar mix to those early Sundance crowds, with a few more families thrown in.  We didn’t make it to the first day’s events, including a screening of the newest episode of “Royal Pains”, but we did go to the screening of local favorite “Friday Night Lights”, held in the parking lot between Jo’s Coffee and the San Jose Hotel on South Congress.  About 300 people showed up with folding chairs and blankets to meet FNL cast members, snack on goodies from Sweet Leaf Iced Tea, Cornucopia Popcorn, and more, and then settle down to watch the show on the big screen. The crowd applauded as their favorite characters appeared on screen or local  spots appeared (yes, as Austin newcomers, we were lost!)

On Sunday, we attended screenings at the Alamo Drafthouse, and met more members of the festival staff.  The highlight for us was the screening of an episode of Firefly, and a chance to meet and talk with the writers Ben Edlund and Jose Molina. Geek heaven! There were also panels on Saturday and Sunday where industry pros and industry hopefuls could share information and ideas about televisions production, program development and scripting.

Festival creators Emily Gipson and Caitlin McFarland were on hand throughout the weekend.  Emily told me that the festival was created as a way to offer the television industry a way to showcase their art form…one that often takes second place to big screen productions.  It’s also planned as a way to allow fans a way to honor their favorite shows and performers.

Plans are already underway for next year’s event.  “We’ll review the results of this year’s festival, and then start planning,” said Emily.  “We plan to be back next year with even more.”