La Peña

I’m always on the lookout for a good breakfast taco. So when I’d heard that La Peña on Congress Avenue sells the best ones in town, I just had to investigate. Bill and I have walked by this building many times but never went inside.

I was very surprised to discover that La Peña is actually an art gallery that also sells some food. Founder Cynthia Perez created this gallery to showcase Latino art in downtown Austin. Usually the word peña means “rocky outcrop or summit” in Spanish, but it can also refer to “a grass-roots community meeting place where popular folklore and other artistic expressions accompanied by food and drink are showcased.” Cynthia and her sister Lidia used to own Las Manitas Avenue Cafe, a popular Mexican restaurant that used to be on Congress Avenue as well. I remember the controversy in 2008 when Las Manitas was closed to make way for a new Marriott hotel. (Construction on the hotel was subsequently delayed and is supposed to begin later this year.)  

La Peña’s current exhibit “The Amazing Talavera Style” displays painted ceramics made by fifth-grade students from East Austin’s Sanchez Elementary School. Another definition may be needed here: talavera is a type of Mexican pottery with a milkish-white glaze. The children’s creations are very colorful and creative. The upcoming exhibit, “Healing Manadalas” by Juan Pabloe Gutierrez, features traditional cut paper techniques and opens later this month.

Now about those breakfast tacos: La Peña contains a small food counter called Congress Avenue Grocery that sells pastries, coffee, soft drinks, and breakfast tacos. The tacos actually come from Elsi’s Restaurant, located north of downtown on Burnet Road. My egg-and-potato taco was quite delicious, maybe not the very best in Austin since it’s not made-to-order, but I will certainly return for more.  

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