A taste of Zacatecas, Mexico, in Austin
Tucked just off the side of Burnet Road, surrounded by a small parking lot with room for no more than about a dozen cars, is La Cocina de Consuelo. Inside the quaint, house-like room, past the few worn tables and chairs that adorn the space opening up into a small kitchen, is owner Connie Rodriguez doing what she loves to do: cook.
A burly voice belts classic mariachi tunes over the radio as she does her craft, making some of the most popular Mexican food in the area. She’s been catering for almost 30 years and still uses her mother’s tortilla recipe that she learned as a young girl. It is how she helped put her children through school, she says.
Originally from Zacatecas, Mexico, she has always had a passion for cooking. She dropped out of school before she reached sixth grade and came to Austin illegally—like many in those days—with her brother, a bracero, or farm worker, when she was 16. Eventually, she received her citizenship to live in the United States permanently.
“In those years, it was so easy to get a passport,” she says. “We made an appointment with the American consulate in Monterrey, and in less than a week we’d come back ready with a passport.”
Six years ago, Rodriguez made enchiladas for her church, and what was supposed to be just a casual favor snowballed into orders from 20 people, each of whom recommended her to another 20. Pretty soon she was filling hundreds of orders.
She has her own restaurant now, and she will say it is more than hard work that got her to where she is—it is faith. The 69-year-old says she owes everything to God.
“I did need money, and I always delivered enchiladas. So, I always wanted a little kitchen, a little restaurant. I put it in God’s hands for two years,” she says, pausing to reflect. “It’s going to be six years soon.”
Before she opened up her own place, she was filling orders out of a small commissary off of 12th Street and North Lamar Boulevard called Gina’s Kitchen. Prior to that, she cleaned houses to make ends meet.
La Cocina de Consuelo opened after Rodriguez took out a loan out against her house to pay for the location. Back then, it was just the founder and her niece, who sometimes filled orders past 2 a.m.
According to Rodriguez, most of her customers are regulars, friends just shy of family and people from the neighborhood who have been coming since she opened. But that is changing, as more people hear about the hidden gem restaurant.
It only takes a few people to run the restaurant from the time it opens until the time it closes. Rodriguez says it is a gift to be able to do what she loves and that she will do it as long as she can.
“As long as I feel good, then I’m going to keep on doing it,” she says. “I’m happy. I can be cooking all day and all night, and that’s fine.”
Creating a menu
La Cocina de Consuelo’s menu is owner Connie Rodriguez’s custom selection, and it was something she was very picky about, she says. According to Rodriguez, her crown jewel is the chicken enchiladas with salsa verde. She also serves fajitas, chile relleno and carne guisada, all with a traditional, homemade feel.
Rodriguez says she fills a gap in the eatery scene in Austin. Her competition, Fonda San Miguel, is the only other place she compliments.
“I don’t think I’m too far behind their food,” she says earnestly.
Rodriguez says she arrives at the restaurant every morning looking forward to the day’s work. She has been cooking since she was a young girl, using recipes passed down from her family, and says that she comes from a lineage of good cooks.
She has three menus, including a day menu, night menu and catering menu.
Besides holidays, the only day her restaurant closes is on Saturdays to honor her religious beliefs.
La Cocina de Consuelo, 4516 Burnet Road, 524-4740, www.consueloskitchen.com
- Mon. 7 a.m.–3 p.m.
- Tue.–Thu. 7 a.m.–3 p.m., 6–9 p.m.
- Fri. 7 a.m.–3 p.m., 6–10 p.m.
- Sun. 8 a.m.–2 p.m.