Austin's Chi'Lantro — A Portmanteau of Language and Food


For this week’s review Dave and I decided to have a true “Austin” kind of evening. The place we decided to visit this week is called Chi’Lantro. It’s run out of a couple of vans that spend most of their time in the heart of downtown Austin. Rather than just hitting the review and heading back home, we first hooked up with our brother Fred for a show at a club called Mohawk. We had a great time and got to see a few bands, but our favorites were the Preservation and Amplified Heat. Both are highly recommended. After the show, Dave and I headed to Chi’Lantro for some truly awesome grub. It was an Austin kind of night if ever there was one!

Chi'Lantro is a combination of the words kimchi (fermented Korean vegetables) and cilantro, and it signifies the fusion of Korean and Mexican-style cuisine found here. What the masterminds at Chi'Lantro do is take bulgogi — which is the Korean style of barbecue — and stuff it into a tortilla. They are far and away one of the better trailers in town; and they serve some of the most interesting food around. The flavors are bold, very spicy, and the texture of the meat is absolute perfection. Although they have only been open for eight months, they have managed to generate quite a bit of attention in that short span of time. After this visit it's easy to see why.

They offer a decent array of dishes: tacos, burritos, quesadillas, hamburgers, and hot dogs, all served as entrées. Each of the entrées comes with your choice of meat, or tofu if you prefer. To start, Dave ordered a chicken taco. I have to say, it was some of the best chicken I have had anywhere. It was tender, moist, and full of flavor. It was garnished with a Korean soy vinaigrette salad, Chi'Lantro's house red sauce, and served in a double-layer corn tortilla. It is the perfect mouthful of food. Next up was the burrito, which we ordered with beef.

I should have known better with this one, I really should have. Having had their tacos at the Gypsy Picnic, I knew that they would be large and quite filling. This burrito was, for me anyway, huge. It is stuffed full with that wonderful bulgogi mentioned before, the soy vinaigrette salad, and rice. Like the tacos, it also comes with the house red sauce. For anyone who is not a fan of spicy food, you might want to order it without the sauce! It is very spicy for the average person, and if you one of those that doesn't have much of a tolerance for spicy food, it will be extremely hot.

Also worth mentioning is the add-on for the burrito. You can get yours prepared with a fried egg. Sounds weird, I know, but there is nothing I like more than a runny yolk on just about anything and it balances out the heat nicely.

For our sides, we got ordered both the fries and the kimchi fries. The regular fries come served with salt, pepper, and a spicy orange sauce. The sauce is very similar to what comes on Unagi rolls at sushi restaurants. As good as the regular fries were, the real star here was the order of kimchi fries. This is really less of a side and more of an entrée. They come topped with caramelized kimchi, Cheddar and Monterrey Jack cheeses, onions, cilantro, Korean peppers, their spicy orange sauce, and your choice of meat. In this case, I went with the pork.

I think a good description of the kimchi fries would be like a cousin to chili cheese fries. They are the richer, better-looking cousin of chili cheese fries — but you get the point. If you can only decide on one thing from Chi'Lantro, this would be a good choice.

The hours and locations for Chi'Lantro vary, so be sure to check the schedule at their website. For the most part, they're open for lunch and a late dinner: 9:00 p.m. to 3:00 a.m. As far as prices go, you are in for an exceptionally good deal because everything on the menu ranges from $2 to $5, and they do not skimp on portion sizes. It was an excellent evening all around!


Restaurant: Chi'Lantro
Location: Varies
Austin Food Junkies' Rating: Five Lone Star Points

The Austin Food Junkies are Alex Artibee, Matt Braley, and Dave Braley, "Two guys who love food, and one chef, trained at the Texas Culinary Institute." Check out their reviews of other Austin area restaurants on their blog, Austin Food Junkies.