Nixta Taqueria is the kind of place that could only exist in Austin. It’s a lo-fi East Side spot, with colorful corn murals, fluorescent lighting, and a golden disco ball - the restaurant version of an independent film on a shoestring budget. It may be a little rough around the edges, but that doesn’t stop Nixta from winning multiple Restaurant Academy Awards, including the Taco We Want To Eat Most This Year and the Best Supporting Beet in a Series, Miniseries, or Tostada.
Scrappy as the space might be, the food at Nixta is more like what you’d find in a blockbuster restaurant. It treads a line between the super-traditional (they make their own masa) and the unconventional (you don’t see many taquerias where duck confit stands in for carnitas). All the tortillas are homemade, leaving your hands smelling of corn hours later – like they should. Unlike a typical Austin taqueria, however, the influences are more than Tex-Mex. Many of the dishes, like the cured tuna tostada with chipotle mayo, feel like Mexico by way of California by way of Texas (which makes sense, because the chef here used to work in some of the best restaurants in LA and Mexico City).
That being said, when you’re at Nixta, you never forget you’re in a low-budget taqueria. The beet “tartare” tostada - which is really just roasted beets on a blue corn tostada - is incredible, but when we tried to split it up to share, our plastic fork shattered into pieces. They blast great music - out of a single HomePod. And while this place has a real energy to it, we’re convinced that most of it comes from the single spinning gold disco ball.
Then there’s the wine list – which reads like one you’d find at a restaurant with $39 entrees instead of a taqueria with paper napkins – with interesting natural wines from Texas, France, and Mexico. While we like the charmingly cheesy wine glasses that probably came with the place, we do wish the wines were served at the right temperature. If that bothers you, though, you can just get a Modelo.
Overall, Nixta reminds us of the early days of Veracruz All Natural, or when Barley Swine was just a tiny, buzzy spot on South Lamar - in other words, some of the best of Austin’s indie hits. It’s not a perfect restaurant by any means, especially when you catch the clusterf-ck that sometimes happens at peak times when there’s a long wait to order. But when you walk right in and get a seat at the counter, or you get to spend a sunny afternoon outside on the picnic tables, you feel like you’re at the next restaurant version of Bottle Rocket, Clerks, or Dazed and Confused - and it won’t be long until everyone else discovers how good it is, too.
It’s a riff on a carnitas taco - traditionally made with pork - but here it’s shredded duck confit. Duck confit can be a little fatty, but the taco is brightened by a salsa cruda, radish, white onions, and cilantro. All on a ridiculously good blue corn tortilla. You should order this.
There’s a pretty generous portion of cured yellowfin underneath chipotle mayo, cilantro, and furikake. It can be a little difficult to split this because the tostada can be so crispy, but it’s so good you probably shouldn’t share it anyway.
Like Coldplay or Guy Fieri, people sometimes have mixed feelings about beets. If you’re not a fan, this will probably change your mind. Here the beets are almost like a beef tartare, but the beets are roasted and not raw, and they’re served with an avocado crema, fresh horseradish, and lime. It also happens to be vegan.
We really like the avocado paleta with spicy candied pineapple, but our favorite is the coconut one with coconut chips, toasted to order with a torch. Yes, they have a torch dedicated to toasting coconut. We need one.
Check Nixta Taqueria’s Instagram account for their rotating specials that change every two to three days - like a Persian mole taco and a very good chorizo quesadilla.