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October 25, 2006

Vivo Cocina Mexicana, 2015 Manor Rd

Vivo is the latest in a growing series of proofs of the following equation:

(Tex Mex – Lard) + Expensive Drinks = Huge Scene

(See also Guero's, etc)

Vivo adds a few twists to the formula, including a sort of mission statement that includes a perfunctory nod to "healthy" cuisine - a bit disingenuous given that the specialty of the house is a dish of deep fried puffy tacos. But whatever; things are clearly kicking for these folks, and when the margaritas are nearly as expensive as the entreés, someone is scaring up a good amount of scratch. Oh, and insert obligatory "burgeoning East Austin scene" copy here.

About those tacos: If you're part of that semi-fanatical, artery-destroying cult of puffy taco aficionados, Vivo certainly merits your consideration. You won't find the succulent carnitas of Angie's here, nor the gloriously salty grease mounds of Amaya's; instead, Vivo's specialty is a putatively healthier take on the oil-soaked classic. The thick corn tortillas are still fried, to be sure, but the fillings range from shredded chicken to guacamole and even (gulp) tofu. Vivo tosses a couple of old-school pickled japs on top of the lettuce and cheese to preserve a modicum of street cred, but these are definitely not your mother's lard sponges.

That said, they're damn good. There's enough grease to satisfy, and they fall apart in your hands (yes, that's how some of us eat them) just like the real thing. The fillings are all tasty and avoid that "mystery" quality you find in some establishments; the chicken looks and tastes like chicken. Maybe they save you a trip to the cardiologist this year, but then again you'll probably stuff yourself silly on chips and Vivo's other standout, the salsa. Vivo has perfected the charred "fogata"-style salsa and theirs may be the best in town (though Chango's runs a close second). It's got enough heat to keep you hitting those expensive margaritas for relief. Your server will be happy to bring you another.

Is it all just puffy tacos and salsa? Well, no, there's that scene, people. Vivo began almost quaintly, with brightly colored walls and slightly cheesy, brightly colored art. Suddenly, patios were added (lots of them) and – in what must be the confirmation that a place has "arrived" - a plasma TV appeared on the wall over the bar. Now Vivo sports valet parking, patio heaters and misters, more ferns than the Home Depot garden center, and a massive army of very attractive (in that East Austin, alterna-hot kind of way) servers to complement the crowds of attractive patrons. For now, you can still get a table quickly on a weeknight, but if you want to sit outside on a weekend, be prepared to wait.

If you do eventually tire of the puffy tacos, Vivo offers a fairly standard spread of enchiladas and other entreés; again, the formula is Tex Mex with a twist of hearty/smoky/sweet and easy on the grease. I haven't found anything else particularly inspirational, though none of it is bad. Should you wish to hurt your chances of making your mortgage payment on your Cherrywood 3-2 this month, get a good margarita buzz going here and keep them coming; Vivo's margaritas, while tasty and authentic (and thankfully, in most cases, free of simple syrup or sweet and sour) are about as good a deal as Austin real estate these days.


Posted by brentbuford at October 25, 2006 09:57 PM


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