by Laura Beck

Last December, word spread quickly through Allandale that the long beloved Jorge’s was closing. I saw so many friends that last night, the place was nuts.  What was the attraction?  Certainly a family-friendly restaurant in the hood, and that they put up with a table of 4 families, 20 people, 10 of which were crazy, high energy kids.  Certainly the very strong margaritas to let the parents get through that dinner with the crazy kids. 
 
But honestly, not much else.  The place was kind of falling apart, a maze of tables and corners to navigate nearly running into servers.  Terrible bathrooms, a bar where you felt bad for the people drinking around wild children, a patio with stacked furniture, a little patch of astroturf in front that the kids loved doing cart wheels on.  Decent food, but nothing to rave about.
 
Did I say they put up with 10 kids at a table, and had stronggggg margaritas?   Yup, that got the Allandale love going and growing, holding strong for years.
 
Well, fast forward from a sad last dinner at Jorge’s December 21 to tonight: my first visit to La Mancha.  I’ve heard lots of feedback, mostly good, from people who tried it before me.  In true tradition, our visit was a party of 12, 7 kids.  We got seated right on time, they take reservations!  GREAT news for those large parties of multiple families.
 
The new floor plan and décor is awesome – open, logical, more seating, really nice atmosphere.  The bathrooms are clean!  HOORAH!  The astroturf is still there, but walled in, so I didn’t fear my children were part of a game of Parking Lot Frogger (the parking lot is still as crazy as always).
 
Our server, Mike, as super friendly, and honestly, everyone working there had a smile on their face.  Seriously. I kept checking and watching.  The kids menu was basic, functional, kid-approved, including a fun new addition – Mexi-dogs – a hot dog in a deep fried tortilla, that got 2 thumbs up from the 6 year old among us.
 
My friend admitted the margarita isn’t as strong as Jorge’s, but they don’t need to be.  And I quote.  Realistic words from a 40+ Dad of 2.  The Moms in the group like the Skinny margarita option, that weren’t too sweet, rather a perfect sour and tangy.  All of us felt the drinks were AOK!  That the Happy Hour is from 3 pm – you read that right – 3 pm to 6 pm is music to my teacher friend’s ears!  Finally, a happy hour that begins when lots of our important Allandale neighbor’s work day ends!  Great drink specials too!
 
As for food, one friend finally veered from her previous 2 visit order of the Tuna Tostaditos, which she loves, to theCamarones al Diablo, shrimp wrapped in bacon among other things.  The other friend went for the Tuna and loved it as well, a party in your mouth she said, with great flavors in every bite.  Both commented that it was nice to have lighter, somewhat healthier options.   Ceviche, ordered on a previous visit, apparently is also very good.
Both Dads among us went for the El Numero Uno, which was recommended, as well as previous orders of the Don Quixote.  The pickled carrots and onions on the side, a nice addition.  And while the Firehouse Number 12 Queso isn’t the Bob at Matt’s, it was pretty good.  Everyone thinks the salsa is better than Jorge’s, and darn good, and the chips are light and were kept coming.   Smart people brought the kid’s food out first, and fast, and no complaints among our youngsters.  As for me, I tried the plain old tacos, crispy, one beef, one chicken.  Good stuff, and make a note, daily lunch specials include the $2 Taco Tuesdays.  

We even tried the Cheesecake Empanadas for dessert, served with Mexican Chocolate.  Heck, I need to make sure I take this writing gig seriously, right!?  I have to say this dessert was a huge step up from the M&Ms I keep hidden in my pantry and eat on the sly to get my sweet fix after meals.  YUM! 

 
La Mancha in Spanish, for the uninformed among us (me!), means the stain, blemish, blotch, spot.  I’ll go with The Spot.  As in The New Allandale Spot!  Put it on your list, especially when you want to meet up with friends, especially friends with kids, AOK if lots of kids!  Welcome to Allandale, La Mancha, we are glad you are here!
 
La Mancha, at 2203 Hancock Dr  Austin, Texas 78756, (512) 467-4108, or http://lamanchatexmex.com/ is open Mon through Fri at 11 am for lunch until 10 pm.  It stays open until midnight on Fri and Sat, and they have a weekend brunch on Sat and Sun from 10 am to 3 pm.