Massive condominium towers. Dense urban retail. An ever-changing roster of restaurants and services.Just as bell-bottoms have given way to skinny jeans, on the busy stretch of Guadalupe that runs adjacent to the UT campus in Austin, change is the only constant. That is, except for El Patio.

Here, in a cozy limestone building on the north corner of campus, connoisseurs of classic Tex-Mex have congregated since 1954. It’s still a family affair; though patriarch and founder Paul Joseph passed away in 1995, his family—matriarch Maryann and children Michelle, Renee, Roseann, and David—keep the enchilada plates coming, along  with cheesy piles of nachos, fresh-prepared guacamole, perfectly al dente Spanish rice, and other El Patio hallmarks. Like old-school Tex-Mex eateries in San Antonio and the Rio Grande Valley, El Patio offers diners a choice of dessert-a small dish of sherbet, or a classic crunchy praline. Or if you ‘re inclined, a frosty margarita.

“For years, we sold only beer and wine,” says David Joseph . “But we added a margarita machine a few years ago.”

Lest you decry El Patio for this margarita-induced modernization, remember that this tart-sweet concoction boasts a long (and Texas-connected) tradition in its own right: Legend has it that Dallas restaurateur Mariano Martinez invented the margarita machine in 1971. And besides, at El Patio, you can still enjoy your libation on the rocks. The old-fashioned way. At 2938 Guadalupe; 512/ 476-5955. -Lori Moffatt

From the November 2009 issue

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