A Dozen Dives: Rosie's Tamale House

12 places we’re drawn to in spite of ourselves. And sometimes in spite of themselves.
Day 10: Rosie’s Tamale House
13436 Texas 71 W. 263-5245, no website.
Hours: 6 a.m to 9:30 p.m. daily except Tuesday, when it’s open 5 to 9:30 p.m.
By Mike Sutter | Fed Man Walking | 04.18.12
I can’t talk about Rosie’s without talking about Velveeta, because the cheese is like that here, whether it’s in pre-queso shreds on iceberg lettuce or formless and inscrutable inside enchiladas or smelted into party dip with just enough red and green to charge $4.50 a bowl for it. Rosie’s has never been fancy, just textbook Tex-Mex. But it’s always been there for me, like when I lived in Apache Shores and Rosie’s was the only thing west of Loop 360 until you got to Lakeway. Or like when the girls were babies and we were too tired to drive into town. My daughter’s old enough to order for herself now, but she still finishes dinner with a warm corn tortilla sprinkled with Sweet N Low, because that was her pretend dessert in the high-chair days.
The whole mini-plex of Bee Cave has sprouted around Rosie’s since it opened in 1973, with dueling Gallerias and an Iron Cactus and a Maudie’s to compete with it. But Rosie’s stays with its velvet paintings and brown paneling and Christmas lights on the yucca plants. The AC vents in the low-slung ceilings have aged in patterns like crosses. Waiting for the Virgen de Guacamole.
What you’re eating: It’s tempting to get Willie’s Plate, just for the name. But no matter how far Miss Rosie and Willie Nelson go back, the No. 2 plate is a better deal. For $9.95, you get a crispy beef taco, cheese enchilada with onions, guacamole salad, rice and beans and the namesake tamale. The tamale is just for show, because I’d never order that if you weren’t looking. But on a recent Saturday night, I found a new affection for it, with tender shredded pork and moist, adobe-textured masa. Like the cheese enchilada rolled with a corn tortilla, it was covered in gravy the color of a sunburst guitar top. I won’t get too misty; it still tastes like denatured chili the way it always has. Chips are free, with salsa like you made in college with jalapeño juice, garlic powder and cans of diced tomatoes to fill those empty places in your blender when it wasn’t full of margarita mix.
What you’re drinking: See all those beer coolers next to the tables? Those BYOB people know what they’re doing. The couple with the red wine must be from the nicer part of Lakeway, but I’m not judging. Having a Spec’s just down the road at the Shops at the Galleria means you can stop in for a six-pack of Shiner Wild Hare Pale Ale for your guests and some Real Ale Phoenixx Double ESB for you.
More options: A taco salad with stewed chicken in an edible fried tortilla shell is filling at $7.95. On Tuesday and Saturdays for dinner, Rosie’s serves chicken and beef fajitas on sizzling iron platters and molcajetes piled with sour cream, guacamole, cheese and pico de gallo and hot tortillas ($11.20 for one, $20.40 for two). Because they know their jeans-and-boots crowd from way back when, Rosie’s also makes a passable chicken-fried steak, burger and grilled T-bone.
(Photos by Mike Sutter © Fed Man Walking)