We’re late finding out about high dollar, East Austin Mexican outfit Zandunga Bistro’s closure. Apparently they went quietly into the night a couple weeks ago.

We never made it by.

Generally, when a new restaurant opens up we try to view a menu online or get some first hand accounts before paying a visit. Somebody sent us a pdf of the Zandunga menu and our hearts sank. We’re not afraid to pay Four Season’s money for food as a once in a blue moon splurge but the pricing at Zandunga was outrageous. Perched on the banks of Lady Bird Lake in a multi-million dollar facility with the best waitstaff in town? Yes. In a brick building next to a Wells Fargo with a view of black-top 11th street? No.

A few highlights from the menu:

$18 Desebrada? We toured the finest desebrada parlors in Austin for our 7 part series here http://chowpapi.com/wordpress/wordpress-2.8.6/wordpress/category/the-state-of-desebrada-in-austin-texas/ and invariably found dirt cheap, delicious versions all over town. It’s pot roast y’all.

$20 carnitas? Once again. Commonplace, delicious and cheap in their abundance. We explored the topic fully http://chowpapi.com/wordpress/wordpress-2.8.6/wordpress/category/the-state-of-carnitas-in-austin-texas/

The crowning glory of the menu writing team’s achievement came in the form of the deification of the humble avocado. We regularly buy one at Fiesta for south of a dollar, mash it up with a little shallot, sea salt and lime juice and enjoy a feast for next to nothing. And if we want a mind-bendingly delicious version we go to El Zunzal where they trot out the best bowl in Austin for 2 bucks. Zandunga went for broke on this humble appetizer pricing it straight into the stratosphere at NINE DOLLARS.

Manhattan pricing had come to East Austin and the result was predictable. While dozens of modestly priced Mexican restaurants thrive east of I-35, they do so via competitive pricing. There’s a baseline of what people are willing to pay and if you double or triple that margin, chances are you’re not going to thrive.

We’re sad to see Zandunga go. Any restaurant’s closure hurts Austin. There are earnest, hard-working people trying to make a living at every cafe and bistro in town and it’s sad to hear about one going out of business.

We sent out a blanket email to our address book to get some impressions on Zandunga for this article. Not one person had ever eaten there. Our list is filled with dozens of bloggers, cooks, bartenders, dockhands etc and not one person had broken bread there.


It will be interesting to see what enters the former Primizie and Zandunga space on east 11th street. With Austin restaurant lease space at a premium we’re betting the room won’t stay vacant long. Further reports as warranted.

previous Austin restaurant obituaries http://www.scrumptiouschef.com/food/RIP-Rest-In-Peace

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