Rene Ortiz, La Condesa, Austin, Texas, Contemporary Mexican, James Beard Foundation Award, Semi-Finalist, SXSW, South By Southwest, Vancouver, Chef, Australia, Sydney, London, Daniel Boulud, DB Bistro Moderne, Alain Ducasse, Mix, Jean-Louis Palladin, Douglas Rodriguez, Patria, Peter Gordon, Public, Odea, New York, Providores, La Esquina, La Cantina



Contemporary Mexican

400-A West 2nd Street
Austin, TX 78701
T: 512.499.0300


Mon - Wed: 5 pm - 10 pm
Thu - Fri: 5pm - 11 pm
Sat: 11am - 11pm
Sun: 11am - 10pm

Texas-born chef Rene Ortiz traveled and worked around the globe before returning to the Lone Star state to open La Condesa in Austin. While they’ve only been open for less than a year, people are taking notice of chef Ortiz’s contemporary Mexican cooking. La Condesa was recently honored with a semi-finalist James Beard Foundation Award nomination.

The long road back to Texas was a winding one with a wide array of culinary training. Chef Ortiz worked in Vancouver at the restaurant Star Anise. He then moved to Western Europe, which gave him the opportunity to experience a variety of international flavors. In 1998, chef Ortiz returned to the US, working alongside three of the biggest names in culinary history - Daniel Boulud at DB Bistro Moderne, Alain Ducasse at Mix, and Jean-Louis Palladin at Palladin.

He was the Chef de Cuisine for Douglas Rodriguez at Patria before joining Peter Gordon of London’s Providores to open Public and Odea in New York City.

Mark Miller of Santa Fe’s Coyote Café asked Ortiz to revamp the menus for Wildfire and Ocean Room, Miller’s restaurants in Sydney, Australia. Chef Ortiz’s most recent job was back in New York as Executive Chef at La Esquina.

Fresh local ingredients, an extensive tequila selection, and classic Mexico City cantina fare make up the menu at La Cantina.

Q & A with Chef Rene Ortiz

Q. Congratulations on your James Beard nomination. You’ve made quite a splash in the short time you’ve been open. What’s the sweetest part of returning to Texas and getting such great accolades?

A. It makes me want to do more projects here in Austin because people are receptive to our cooking craft and different techniques.

Q. For people traveling to Austin, how would you describe your restaurant?

A. It’s a beautiful restaurant to look at and locally designed. It’s organic and there are lots of visual stimulation. The food is fun and we are changing how people view Mexican food by creating locally-sourced cuisine with global vision and conceptual cooking.

We also have a wonderful bar, Malverde, which is our upstairs lounge where you can finish your night. At our location we try to provide everything.

Q. What’s your favorite dish on your current menu?

A. The simplest one, the Ceviche Acapulco.

Q. How much of your menu is supplied from the farmer’s market?

A. About 75% of our menu comes from local farmers. Some products that I require need to be ordered or even grown and some specialty items that are very hard to find fresh, but that’s what gives us that edge of complexity and difference.

Q. You’ve worked all over the world with many well-known chefs. In what way has each influenced your work?

A. The chef that has taught me the most is Peter Gordon of Providors in London.  Peter taught me grace and patience. This has allowed me to become a better chef and a better person.

Q. What is your least favorite new culinary trend and why?

A. No comment other than food needs to be celebrated in its purest form and never altered because it degrades the hard work of the farmers who produced it.

Q. Who else in your field is doing interesting things that you think should deserve more praise and why?

A. Pastry chefs in general, including mine, Laura Sawicki, who has brought me new visions, taste, and purity.


Photographs courtesy of La Condesa


Q & A

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Chef’s Recs

Find | Food Purveyors

Purveyors That Inspire You | Richardson Family Farms

Jim Richardson, from here in Austin, inspires me with his loyalty to provide the best product possible and to deliver it even when he’s tired.

[See details.]

Find | In The Refrigerator

What’s In Stock At Your Home?

Beer, wine, and tequila.


Drink | Tequila & Mezcal

Tequila | Milagro Romance

It’s my favorite tequila. The concept (which is the same with our food, as well) is the marrying of two flavors together (Repasado + Anejo) to create the perfect drink or “romance.”

Mezcal | Los Danzantes Reposado

I will always pair Mezcal with smoked foods. For example, our oak wood grilled carne asada is amazing with Mezcal because of the smokey aroma the meat gets from the wood. One of our favorites is Los Danzantes Reposado. Very boutique and not always easy to find.

[See details.]

Eat | Restaurants in Austin, TX

Least Chefy | Homeslice

Their pizza -- it’s the best.

Top 3 Must-Eat Foods at SXSW

Dai Due

On Saturday mornings at the Farmer’s Market.


For dinner.

Snow’s in Lexington, TX

For their brisket.

Off-The-Beaten Track| G'Raj Mahal

It's cute and awesome. It’s an Indian food truck with table service in the backyard of a house in East Austin.

For Late Night Dining

East Side Showroom or Justine’s.

Won’t Break The Bank & Killer Food | Casino El Camino

They have the most amazing burgers.

[See details.]

Eat | Favorite Restaurants From Your Travels

Brooklyn, NY | Marlow & Sons

My favorite fancy dinner is their brick chicken.

New York, NY | La Esquina

Vancouver, Canada | Restaurant C

Sydney, Australia | Golden Century

London, UK | Providores

[See details.]


- Mexican Grilled Street Corn


Details of Rene Ortiz’s recommendations for where to eat, drink and shop in Austin, TX.

City Guides

- Austin, TX: Download


Austin, TX