While the ongoing pandemic continues to put a strain on Austin eateries and bars, area restaurateurs remain nothing if not resilient. And falling quite literally under the realm of when one door closes, another opens, a beloved Cali-Mex restaurant known for its abundance of drool-worthy dishes is reuniting local taco lovers with its West Coast-style fare in a spicy new location.
Sadly, East Austin lost a darling taqueria when Reunion 19 — the popular restaurant opened in February 2020 by four Los Angeles chefs, among them Esdras Ochoa, a semifinalist on Netflix’s The Final Table — closed permanently in early November.
“With labor shortages, rising costs, and a landlord not willing to work with me, I was forced into a position of having to close the restaurant,” says chef and owner Christopher Haydostian, the hands-on heart and soul of the concept.
While Haydostian is not alone in facing such challenges, prior to Reunion 19’s closing, he had opened a food trailer in the Hudson Bend area called R19 that enabled the chef to gain more fans in a region of town seriously lacking in “propah” tacos.
R19 was so popular with locals in Hudson Bend, Haydostian tells CultureMap, that it emboldened the chef to relaunch the concept in restaurant form in nearby Lakeway.
“The love from the community was there and I took a leap of faith to move into a brick-and-mortar location,” he says, noting that in order to do so, he had to close the trailer.
But the new R19 Taqueria — which is located at 2422 RR 620 South, suite A-120, in Lakeway and has its official grand opening on Monday, November 29 — gives Haydostian the opportunity to fully realize the brand’s potential. He expanded the trailer’s menu, importantly added cocktails, beer, and wine, and brought some spice to the lakeside community, decking out the joint with a massive Taco Lover mural and tons of cool spray-painted tags adorning every wall.
The new R19 will function as a fast-casual counter-service operation, and includes indoor and outdoor seating, a big-screen TV that will air UT games, the World Series, and other major sports events, and is available to host private parties.
“As for the food, we have done some cool things, I feel,” Haydostian says, highlighting a new activated-charcoal corn tortilla for the restaurant’s seafood and shellfish menu items, as well as spinach corn tortillas for vegans and vegetarians, which will be available alongside the eatery’s classic yellow corn tortillas for meatier dishes. And yes, all of R19’s tortillas are made in-house from fresh masa and cooked to order.
Other tempting new menu options include the house-made queso blanco, the Lakeway house salad (a Santa Fe-style delight), and an expanded kids’ menu. Haydostian notes that both kids and adults will clamor for the cheesy quesadilla with a “cheese skirt” on the outside.
And since no local worth a hill of beans can start the day without a breakfast taco, R19 is obliging with its new grab-and-go breakfast tacos in bacon, chorizo, and black bean varieties, as well as breakfast burritos.
Haydostian says he plans to expand the breakfast and lunch/dinner offerings in the coming months and will also feature regularly rotating specials. An upcoming special is the “char’d” ahi tuna taco, an activated-charcoal-dusted ahi steak seared rare and served with tortilla chips, house slaw, cotija, and avocado dressed with a Sriracha crema.
Starting November 29, R19 Taqueria will be open Sunday through Thursday from 7 am-8 pm and Friday and Saturday from 7 am-9 pm.
Follow R19 on Instagram for menu updates and more.