August 13, 2010

El Naranjo

- Location:  Downtown - 85 Rainey St. - Rainey Street District
- Hours: Monday - Saturday: 11:30 AM - 10 PM
- Number: 512-474-2776
- Cuisine: Interior Mexican

Before calling Austin home, Iliana & Ernesto Torrealba used to have a restaurant in Oaxaca, Mexico from 1997 – 2006.  But when turmoil destroyed the economy, the couple moved stateside to continue their family business.  Iliana says, “We picked Austin because we have friends here and it’s a city I like.  It’s hard when you leave your own country, but I feel really welcome in Austin with the community.  I can call it my home; it’s green and beautiful, and the people are nice and laid back.”

The Torrealba’s are serving up authentic Mexican cuisine.  You won’t find any chips and salsa at el Naranjo because it’s not a traditional Mexican thing to serve.  Rather, you can order traditional food from Iliana’s birth town of Mexico City.  Her best sellers are the tacos al pastor, and the tacos las gringas.

Even though it’s a complicated food to serve in the trailer, Iliana enjoys making the mole the most.  With over 200 traditional mole’s in Mexico to choose from, she explains what makes a mole a mole: “It is basically a sauce itself that is a dish – you have to have dried or fresh chiles and a thickener component, plus some spices.  Chile is a vegetable not a spice.”  She should know; before she gets to the trailer in the afternoons, Iliana works as a Mexican Cuisine specialist at the Culinary Institute of America in San Antonio.  She is currently working to create an archive of rare recipes to common street food in Latin America and Mexico that also includes anthropological and cooking data in video and print form.