The Mexican food scene in South Austin is about to get an infusion of Oaxacan flavor and a touch of sophistication. After serving as one of the culinary anchors in the Rainey Street district for the past seven years and making repeated appearances in the Austin360 Dining Guide’s Top 25, chef Iliana de la Vega and husband Ernesto Torrealba are opening a version of their El Naranjo on South Lamar. The restaurant, which will softly open on September 17, will be located at 2717 S. Lamar Blvd. in the space recently occupied by Spanish restaurant El Chipiròn.
A Mexico City native, de la Vega operated a restaurant of the same name in Oaxaca for more than a dozen years before moving to Austin. They initially operated a trailer on their Rainey Street lot before opening the avocado colored bungalow that celebrates traditional Mexican flavors and the richness and diversity of the Oaxacan staple mole. The chef explores the wonders of mole with the deep chocolate and toasted notes of mole negro, with its more than two dozen ingredients, and will likely introduce you to something new, maybe a light, herbal green mole that swathes meaty salmon and beans, all wrapped in hoja santa leaves.
The restaurant will initially only serve dinner Tuesday-Saturday from 5:30 to 10 p.m., with plans to add hours later. During its first week of service (September 17-21), El Naranjo will offer 20 percent off food items. The original El Naranjo on Rainey will continue serving lunch, brunch and dinner.
2018 Austin360 Dining Guide: El Naranjoy (#19)
2012 restaurant review: El Naranjo serves as a culinary oasis amidst the pulsating nightlife of Rainey Street