Mario Gonzalez, Hecho en Mexico chef and co-owner, said he started working in the restaurant industry when he was 12 years old—peeling potatoes for his sister in a kitchen in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico. Several years later Gonzalez said he still loves working in restaurants.
“I love the social part [of a restaurant],” Gonzalez said. “I like to meet the people. I always get passionate about the flavors of the food. I love the smell and thinking about what it’s going to look like [on the plate].”
When he walks through the restaurant, Gonzalez greets many customers by their first names.
He opened the first Hecho en Mexico in South Austin in 2008 with his wife and sister-in-law as co-owners. They expanded the restaurant to a second location in Steiner Ranch nearly three years ago.
Gonzalez said many customers are regulars, some of whom live in North Austin and used to drive to the south location before the new one opened.
Gonzalez said the food is an interior, traditional Mexican style that is different from Tex-Mex dishes. He said he travels about four times a year to visit his family in Mexico, and the trips inspire new dishes and techniques from various areas throughout the country.
“We don’t have to be the best of the best,” he said. “But we want to offer an option that’s true to Mexico.”
An ingredient Gonzalez said depicts Mexican flavors is rose petals. He said he cooks down the petals into a tea to flavor a dessert mousse or cooks whole petals to blend into the salsa.
However, the most popular item on the menu is the mole sauces, he said. Hecho en Mexico serves mole sauces based on different areas of Mexico, including a fruit-based spicy mole representing Oaxaca and a Puebla region-inspired 27-ingredient mole that takes 1 1/2 days to prepare.
The restaurant offers breakfast, lunch and dinner along with live music every Thursday and Saturday. Hecho en Mexico also features daily happy hour specials.
The eatery’s south location offers tequila tastings and cooking demonstrations—something Gonzalez said he may eventually bring to the Steiner Ranch restaurant.
Dinner menu specialties
Mancha Manteles – $15.50: One of the seven moles from Oaxaca, Mexico, the Mancha Manteles features chicken with plantains, sweet potatoes and pineapples in a chile ancho mole.
Mole Blanco – $15.50: This white mole is served over chicken breast with sesame seeds and pickled onions.
Carne Pibil – $15: Achiote-marinated roast pork is baked and served in banana leaves with pickled red onions on the side.
Chiles en Nogada – $14: Roasted Poblano pepper stuffed with shredded pork, cooked with almonds, peanuts and raisins. Topped with a walnut sauce and pomegranates.