Casa Chapala Mexican Grill and Tequila Bar

New location features tequila tasting room



Growing up in Central Mexico, Lupe Barragan worked in the fields harvesting the blue agave plant, which is the base ingredient for making tequila.



Barragan brings his knowledge of harvesting, distilling and producing tequila to his newest restaurant, Casa Chapala Mexican Grill and Tequila Bar, which opened March 21 on Research Boulevard after relocating from Anderson Lane.



The Barragan family first opened the restaurant seven years ago after moving to Texas from Central Mexico. The family owns another location on San Jacinto Boulevard in downtown Austin.



In this new location Barragan said they added a cata, or tasting room, to allow patrons to try more than 200 varieties of tequila and artisinal mezcals. The bar area features chairs made from repurposed barrels and a table for tastings.



"It's a very educational visit to learn about the different types of tequila and different processes to make it, which are unique by family," Barragan said, adding that making tequila is usually a family business in Mexico.



During happy hour and special events, Barragan dons his Tequila Man outfit of a harness with two dozen shot glasses, lime juices and other mixes to serve shots of tequila. Customers may also try tequila flights and margaritas made with fresh-squeezed juices.



The restaurant is also known for its lunch buffet ($9.95) and molcajetes, which are meats and vegetables cooked and served in the namesake volcano stone mortar and pestle. Casa Chapala also makes its salsa at the table for customers to choose their level of heat.



Barragan said his family is also involved in the community by supporting schools. He serves on the board of directors at the Greater Austin Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.



"I'm happy to be a part of this community," he said. "We are a local business doing business for the locals."



Tequila tasting



Owner Lupe Barragan said it takes six years to grow an agave plant before it can be harvested to make tequila.



"It's an art to make [tequila]," he said. " The tasting room gives us the opportunity to mingle with guests and educate them about tequila so they will know what to order next time."



The first step of tasting tequila involves smelling the alcohol until the fumes have disappeared. Then the taster takes a small sip to savor the initial flavors such as oak from the barrels. The second sip brings out more notes, such as honey, cinnamon, chocolate or vanilla, Barragan said. He offers four types of tequila:



Blanco: Usually clear in color, this type of tequila is not aged but may be distilled twice. Because of this, the drinker will taste more of the blue agave plant, Barragan said.



Reposado (meaning "rested"): This tequila will have been aged anywhere from two weeks to 12 months and will have more color than blanco.



Aejo: Usually aged between 12 and 28 months



Extra aejo: The tequila is aged more than three years. Barragan said the aging process takes place in sealed barrels in dark rooms. Sometimes the barrels will be placed in soil or concrete.



Casa Chapala Mexican Grill and Tequila Bar, 9041 Research Blvd., Ste. 100, 512-459-4242, www.casachapala.com, Hours: Mon.–Thu. 8 a.m.–10 p.m., Fri. 8 a.m.–11 p.m., Sat. 9 a.m.–11 p.m., Sun. 9 a.m.–10 p.m.

By Amy Denney

Managing Editor, Austin metro

Amy has worked for Community Impact Newspaper since September 2010, serving as reporter and senior editor for the Northwest Austin edition as well as covering transportation in the Austin metro. She is now managing editor for the 10 publications in the Central Texas area from Georgetown to New Braunfels. She enjoys spending time with her husband, son and two cats.