Dearly Departed Dishes – Resurrecting Recipes of Austin Restaurants Past: Eldorado Owner Joel Fried Brings Dearly Departed Dishes to Life


Joel Fried of Eldorado Cafe (Photo by John Anderson)

It’s Halloween/Día de los Muertos, which means it’s time to reflect on and honor loved ones who have passed away as the veil between the worlds of the living and the dead is at its thinnest.

Many of us, especially those of us who have lived in Austin long enough to see iconic restaurants fall to the vagaries of economic downturns, development (progress?), retirements, and financial failures long before the pandemic , mourn the dining halls of past Austin. In fact, about six months ago I received the following email: “I love Austin in all its forms, but sometimes, when I miss old Austin, this Mexican Chicken Salad from Castle Hill/ I REALLY miss Corazon. Had two magic dressings (one topping the diced chicken and the other for the greens) and the most amazing little blue corn empanadas,” reader Kimberly T wrote. Do you have any luck finding these recipes?

I let that email marinate in my inbox for a little while, then approached my friend Joel Fried, owner of Eldorado Cafe and seasoned veteran of the Austin restaurant scene. The question was, would you be willing to help me research, unearth, and possibly redevelop recipes from Austin restaurants? Luckily for us, he enthusiastically agreed. We went back and forth, thinking about which restaurants in Austin would touch people the most, curating what I think is the most nostalgic (and painful, if we’re being honest) list we could have imagined. We (mainly Joel) worked on our relationships, tapping into our network of restaurant industry friends, including Jack Gilmore and Joel’s brother, Curtis. On the list was this Castle Hill salad, and for a moment it looked like we might get our hands on the recipe.

Alas, the track got cold and we can’t share it with you today. I’m sorry we don’t have tiny blue corn empanadas to place on the altar this year, but maybe next time we’ll have better luck. Because, unfortunately, the nature of the restaurant industry is such that we could run this feature every year in perpetuity, never running out of beloved and past dishes to share and revere. Such is the nature of love and heartbreak: you cannot have one without the other. Hope these recipes help you connect with treasured memories, one meal at a time.

All recipes serve 3-4 people.

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Rozella J. Cook