Lakeway restaurant R19 Taqueria pioneers Cali-Mexican food

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Christopher Haydostian said his dream is to create and market the Cali-Mex culinary brand.

Haydostian is from Los Angeles and has been a chef for over 20 years. After moving to Austin with his family four years ago, Haydostian worked as a chef for St. David’s Medical Center.

“I think every chef dreams of having their own restaurant,” he said. “I had that dream for at least 10 years, but I just never had the opportunity.”

After getting together with three close friends in 2019, they agreed to help Haydostian start his restaurant, Reunion 19, in downtown Austin.

Though the restaurant closed after about a year and a half due to the pandemic, Haydostian noticed that quick-service restaurants were flourishing and decided to open the fast-casual version of Reunion 19 in Lakeway in October 2021, R19 Taqueria.

The main difference between Cali-Mex and Tex-Mex is the food originates from different parts of Mexico, Haydostian said. While Tex-Mex tends to come from border towns such as Laredo, Cali-Mex uses flavors from places such as Baja or Tijuana and mixes in flavors from around the world.

For example, R19 Taqueria’s chicken is marinated in a tandoori sauce traditionally used in Indian foods. However, instead of using Indian-flavored spices, he “plugs in” Mexican-flavored spices to create his own version of the tandoori marinade.

Haydostian said he also wants to honor Texas culture; his carne asada, a popular meat typically found in Cali-Mex foods, is made with local Texas ribeye.

Ultimately, Haydostian said he is happy he was able to break into the Austin food scene.

“My success has given a lot of validity to being the California kid who wanted to create a taco in the heart of the taco capital in Texas,” Haydostian said.

R19 Taqueria

2422 S. RM 620, Ste. A-120, Austin


Hours: Mon.-Sun. 8 a.m.-8 p.m.


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