One of the great things about our local Tex-Mex restaurants is that there are so many. It's also one of the frustrating things for reviewers: How can we possibly get to all of them? I discovered Julio's Mexican Café & Restaurant, in fact, while driving my well-worn path to another small, family-owned restaurant on Fredericksburg Road. There was a small traffic jam outside the driveway to the restaurant's parking lot, and I was forced to slow down. Then, I decided to join the crowd and go into the parking lot myself. Here's what I found: some of the best, if not the best, tender, fragrant corn tortillas ever; a mix of entrées that included some intriguing items among the usuals; and really, really good refried beans. Last but not least, the service was good -- as it has been in the many months since that I've made regular visits. On a one-to-10 scale, the salsa and chips are right up in eight-to-nine territory. The chips have never been anything but light in color, fresh and crisp. When we visit, we're usually into bowl No. 2 by the time entrées are served. I have not tried everything on the menu but my three favorites are the Green Enchiladas, the Enchiladas Matehuales, and the chorizo and eggs at breakfast (served with those great refrieds). While green enchiladas are a standby on nearly every Tex-Mex menu in town, I order them infrequently. But Julio's version, while not different in appearance, stands out in terms of flavor, texture and freshness. If you think you've grown tired of this dish, learn to love it again at Julio's. The chorizo and eggs are not greasy, and I love to get the diced fried potatoes with them. By the time you have a corn tortilla, the potatoes and the beans, you've blown your low-carb diet for a day. But was it ever worth it. Finally, my favorite dish, which I recreate at home, is the Enchiladas Matehuales. These have no sauce, just tender thin corn tortillas (they don't use the thicker, homemade ones) dipped in hot fat, then rolled around Mexican queso fresco, a white, creamy cheese. More cheese is crumbled on top, along with small-diced fried potatoes and carrots. I've had them once or twice when the cook didn't add the fried vegetables: I was not happy about that. I also sometimes order some of the warm salsa ranchera, that goes on the huevos rancheros, and spoon some of it onto the enchiladas as well. That said, I like them "dry," too. This is definitely a family restaurant, often busy, packed with kids as well as couples from the neighboring areas. Not fussy, not fancy, Julio's is, however, full flavored.
Julio's Mexican Café & Restaurant 1620 Fredericksburg Road (210) 734-0979 Open daily for breakfast and lunch, and dinner Monday-Saturday