Reina Morris, owner and executive chef of Buenos Aires Cafe, sees every restaurant in Austin “as an opportunity for new adventure,” she said. As a chef and diner, she loves to take up all of those opportunities by regularly visiting restaurants throughout the city
While Morris may specialize in traditional Argentinian cuisine in her restaurant, when she isn’t in the kitchen, she loves to indulge in Mexican fare at Fonda San Miguel and Santa Catarina (1310 RR 620 South, Lakeway).
She enjoys Fonda San Miguel for its authentic cuisine and atmosphere. As for Santa Catarina, she considers the 620 strip mall resident as be her hidden gem. Dish-wise, she recommends the mole at Fonda San Miguel and the cochinita pibil and huitlacoche stuffed poblanos at Santa Catarina.
Two of Morris’s favorite under-the-radar restaurants are Lucky’s Puccias and Elizabeth St Café. After meeting Lucky through her daughter years ago, his puccias became her favorite because the bread is baked to order and, she said, “his passion is so genuine that you can taste it in everything he makes.”
As for Elizabeth: “I am there every week as I simply cannot live without the food. Simple, fresh and just a lovely atmosphere. It’s like I am at home, but with pho,” she said.
A good atmosphere is something Morris looks for in every restaurant. Recently, she found her favorite at Emmer & Rye. The Rainey restaurant’s space is so open, but still feels intimate and personal. She enjoys how, regardless of your party size, you can hear your conversations.
“Open kitchens are also so wonderful, I love seeing the magic happening in front of me,” she said.
As for dessert, Morris never skips the final course at Uchi and Perla’s. The desserts at Uchi are like “an edible, fulfilling piece of art every time,” and Perla’s are always so good and well executed, Morris said.
Her favorite sweet from the latter? “Cheesecake in a mason jar with dark berries and crumble,” she said. “Yes it was delicious and yes, I still think about it.”