A plaque remaining from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem.

Above, a 1934 plaque from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem. Discarded as trash in 2006.

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Entry from February 24, 2008
Tex-Mex Mile or Mexican Food Mile or Taco Row (South First Street, Austin)

Austin’s South First Street has about a dozen Mexican food establishments (restaurants/bakeries), all independently owned. South First has been called “Taco Row” (first cited in 1999) and “Tex-Mex Mile” (popularized by a feature story in the January 27, 2000 Austin American-Statesman) and “Mexican Food Mile” or “Mexican Mile” (the preferred terms of Austin Chronicle food editor Virginia B. Wood, used since 2001). “Tex-Mex Mile” is probably the most frequent nickname, but “Mexican Food Mile” is perhaps most accurate; the food on South First is more Mexican than Tex-Mex.

A song titled “Tex-Mex & Tattoo Pakistani Package Mile” (below), an homage to the Tex-Mex restaurants, tattoo parlors, and Pakistani-run convenience stores in the area, was performed by The Gourds in 2006.


10 February 1999, Austin (TX) American-Statesman, pg. 34:
South First Street’s taco row is a fun weekend fling. 

27 January 2000, Austin (TX) American-Statesman, “The Tex-Mex Mile” by Dale Rice, pg. 24:
This is a street with a sense of place. A street full of Mexican-American life, from baptisms at San Francisco de Asis to final services at the Angel Funeral Home. It’s a street of individuality, with yellow, purple and blue facades mingling with the red-white-and-green of identity. Yet, this street is the very synthesis of community, a busy thoroughfare through the heart of a vibrant Latino neighborhood. So it’s no surprise that this curvy street of busy intersections…
(...)
The Tex-Mex Mile, a one-mile strip of South First Street that has 11 Mexican restaurants, more than any other similar stretch in the city.

27 January 2000, Austin (TX) American-Statesman, “South of the border on South First” by Mike Sutter: 
To walk the Tex-Mex Mile on South First is to absorb some South Austin soul. The bumper cars on top of Todd Sanders’ neon shop. The motorcycle-cop speed-trap dummy outside Laughing at the Sun. Century agave plants as tall as you are. A place whose services include “coffee cup readings.” The restaurants are there. Eleven of them, a Mexican-food Motor Mile. To know them is to be an insider, a goodfella.

Austin (TX) Chronicle (May 5, 2000)
Milano Pizza
2911 S. First, 440-0866
Sun-Sat, 11am-10pm
From their outpost on the Tex-Mex mile, Milano Pizza has become a South Austin favorite, serving up delicious pizza whole or by the slice along with pasta, hot subs, and more.

Austin (TX) Chronicle (August 10, 2001)
The South First Mexican food mile has a new entry with the tiny Fonda San Angel (501 W. Mary at S. First, 851-1196) serving Interior Mexican cuisine at breakfast and lunch weekdays. 

Austin (TX) Chronicle (February 8, 2002)
Polvo’s
2004 S. First, 441-5446
Daily, 7am-10pm
Located on the South First Mexican Food Mile in a building that once housed both the legendary Jalapeno Charlie’s and Seis Salsas, Polvo’s has a great location and some good cooking karma going for it. 

27 July 2002, Austin (TX) American-Statesman, “Funky Bouldin Creek mixes it up” by Tim Green:
... on South Congress and the so-called Mexican Mile of eateries on South First Street.

18 October 2002, Austin (TX) American-Statesman, “Tex-Mex mile”:
Jovita’s By day, it’s a sprawling Mexican restaurant with plenty of parking. By night, it’s a locally renowned music venue (Don Walser has played here on Tuesday nights for a decade). Lunch specials are a true bargain. 1619 S. First St.; 447-7825. (...)

Austin (TX) Chronicle (November 1, 2002)
Las Manos Magicas (603 W. Live Oak, 416-1715): This friendly shop in the artsy section of South First Street’s Mexican-food mile has an altar of their own and everything you’ll need for yours:...

Austin (TX) Chronicle (April 30, 2004)
After spending a decade across the parking lot from Güero’s and two blocks off the South First Mexican food mile, I experienced culture shock last year when I relocated to a Central East Austin neighborhood with very few Mexican food options.

Metroblogging Austin
Deep in the heart of South Austin
posted by Sherry at 5:41 PM on October 12, 2004
What is it about South Austin that compels folks that live here to actually plaster their zip code on bumper stickers, t-shirts, and signs, and tattoo it on their bodily parts? Is it the funky-retro shops which gather larger crowds on First Thursday than on 6th Street? Is it because of the South First “tex-mex mile” which has many difference nuances of the cuisine?

Austin (TX) Chronicle (December 24, 2004)
Longtime downtown restaurateur Fred Nelson has opened a new Texas-style eatery in the heart of the busy South First Mexican Mile. Drop into Freddie’s Place (1703 S. First, 445-9197) for burgers, chicken-fried steak, Frito pie, chili-cheese dogs, nachos, barbecue, homemade desserts, and a full bar.

9 June 2005, Austin (TX) American-Statesman, “New Location, Same Great ‘Tex-Mex Mile’ Food” by Dale Rice:
Once part of the “Tex-Mex Mile,” the strip of South First Street that five years ago had the largest concentration of Mexican restaurants in Austin, El Borrego de Oro closed after its building experienced structural problems. Now, several years later, it has re-emerged in a new site, still in South Austin, but on a parallel thoroughfare, South Congress Avenue, just north of Ben White Boulevard.

SolMan
Wednesday, May 10, 2006
My Town is Cooler than Yours 2: Tex Mex, Tattoo, Pakistani Package Mile
I’ll bet there are no songs about the whores and dope dealers in your neighborhood. (Please see my earlier note about this blog not applying to residents of NYC, SF and Chicago.)

Well, the Gourds wrote just such a song about my neighborhood.

Here are the lyrics. The title “Tex Mex, Tattoo and Pakistani Package Mile” refers to South First street in South Austin. The section of S. 1st by my house is packed with Tex Mex restaurants, tattoo parlors and Pakistani-run convenience stores.

Tex Mex & Tattoo Pakistani Package Mile

Well the South Congress whore is a movin on down the line
They moved the Cinema West down on Interstate 35
The hos got the Johns following single file
They ain’t good looking but they got that a freaky style

Chorus
Down on the Tex Mex & Tattoo Pakistani Package Mile
They got a thing down there that make an angry young man mild
And if you go down there and smoke out you’re gonna leave with a smile
Down on the Tex Mex & Tattoo Pakistani Package Mile

Well the police sirens whining every night
From South First and West Mary all the way down to Ben White
Yeah old Tom Ables used to say with an impish smile
Brother, sit back and listen to the South Austin lullaby (...)

In the Pink Texas
slickshusez
posted July 24th, 2006 at 5:30 pm
Interesting, but how was the food? I dig El Sol, but the food has drifted to just south of average in my opinion. The glaring fault in El Sol’s lineup is the lack of a full liquor license–they make wine margaritas. Two things that should never be mixed are wine and margaritas. El Sol’s less than average position puts it a good click ahead of Guero’s, which has taken a nosedive of late, especially their breakfast fare. You want the good stuff–food and drink–it’s on the Tex Mex Mile at Polvo’s.

Taco Town
Polvo’s
Posted by chappy | Oct 31, 2006
this review is in issue 61 of the Austin Daze!
Rating: Four stars out of five
South 1st street in the ATX: Taco Row, The Isle of Mex, whatever you wanna call it, you could slip on an enchilada and fall into basket of tacos one step off the sidewalk. This is where the taco obsession started for me, my taco homeland. I used to work in an office at Monroe and South 1st.. come lunch time every day, we would choose the next restaurant in line.. El Mercado, Jovita’s, Little Mexico, La Reyna, La Mexicana Bakery, Aranada’s #5, and of course, Polvo’s…

City-Data Forum: Who Loves Southwest Austin?
achtungpv
09-30-2007, 08:32 PM
As mentioned above, there is a lack of non-chain restaurants, but heck you are minutes from downtown, south congress, Tex Mex Mile on S 1st, south Lamar, etc.

Disparate
Tex-Mex Mile?
Posted by enkerli on February 6, 2008
Haven’t found many details on the so-called “Tex-Mex mile” but it does sound like an interesting concept (and the series of restaurants is right by my place).

Here’s the best definition I’ve found so far (as part of a description of Jovita’s):
a one mile stretch of South First Street that has 11 Mexican Restaurants, a Mexican Bakery, Mexican Curios, Bar BQ, and a Funeral Home, just in case things get a little too spicy!
Honky Tonk Texas, USA - Austin Restaurants

Another description, found in a mailing-list thread:
Tex-Mex Mile has a variety of inexpensive dining options, not all of which are nuclear hot
Tex-Mex Mile is S. 1st street from the river to Oltort, parallel to S. Congress, 2 blocks west

Comments on the following blog post mention a few places in connection with the “Tex-Mex mile” expression:
In The Pink Texas » Blog Archive » Holy Guacamole

While they don’t use the same expression, food reviewers at the Austin Chronicle have described a stretch of South 1st in terms of its Mexican and Tex-Mex restaurants. That was a few years ago and it’s quite possible that the “Tex-Mex mile” expression was coined later to describe pretty much the same series of restaurants. Included in the Chronicle’s coverage was a convenient map.

So, according to the Austin Chronicle, we had (going South on S 1st Street):
El Mercado
Jovita’s Cantina
Mercedes Martinez
La Reyna
La Mexicana bakery
Polvo’s
Little Mexico
Tex-Mex Bar-B-Q
El Borrego de Oro (now on South Congress)
Taqueria Arandas #5
El Nopalito

Some of these places may have closed in the past few years. There probably are a few new places too. Also, it sounds as though the “Tex-Mex mile” may have been replaced with South Congress (SoCo). The Chronicle has another convenient guide for SoCo dining, complete with map and semi-witty comments.
Will have to investigate. 

Posted by Barry Popik
Texas (Lone Star State Dictionary) • (0) Comments • Sunday, February 24, 2008 • Permalink