Nearly two years ago, the corner unit at 525 E. Jefferson Boulevard, formerly a furniture store, had windows blocked by craft paper and a sign promising El Pueblo was coming soon. I watched for months as construction progressed until the restaurant was ready to serve customers and—for some unknown reason—waited a few more months to visit the restaurant. I shouldn’t have done that. I had deprived myself of a worthy addition to the east end of Jefferson, one offering marvelous carnitas tacos. Why I waited until now to write a review is anyone’s guess. El Pueblo is one of the few Mexican restaurants I patronize often and have made it a stop on a taco tour of East Jefferson joints, just for its carnitas.
Every bite of the pork fried in lard was crunchy, salty and silken, a sight to behold in soft, bumpy yellow corn tortillas fresh enough to make a destructive oil bath unnecessary. Staring down at the strips of mahogany, sienna and black coursing through the filling it was obvious, here was taco beauty. If only the tortillas were fluffy and irregularly shaped handmade rounds. Continue reading
The yellow, peach and blue restaurant at Jefferson Boulevard and Tyler Street isn’t shy about advertising its daily specials, whether on the windows or a sidewalk board on which the deals are scrawled in permanent marker. Prominent among the announcements is that the flour and corn tortillas are made by hand—not in a press. By hand.
“Platters only,” the woman explained as she patted her hands back and forth demonstrating the method used to shape the tortillas. Unfortunately, I hadn’t ordered any entrées and she told me this nugget of critical information as I was paying my bill.
I knew I should’ve ordered the rajas con queso, I thought to myself. Better yet, another of the house specialties, like quail, grilled or fried with optional salsa roja. The pozole, a hominy stew believed to have originated in Michoacán state, the homeland of Mi Fondita’s owners, was also tempting.
My quest for taco knowledge and great tacos is a multifaceted one. There are just so many types of tacos developed during millennia of history to maintain an unwavering focus. Lately, I’ve been fascinated by tacos of the fish and puffy variety, and during a trip to Austin for the Austin Chronicle Hot Sauce Festival, a friend and I got to indulge in some of the latter at Vivo.
A restaurant surrounded by a dusty lot along Manor Road—one of two locations—near standard-bearer El Chilito, Vivo is difficult to enter. Don’t go around the front. Turn to the rear of the eatery in a converted bungalow. Then, find a business easy to enjoy your first time.
The interior dining room is dominated by warm burgundy, contemporary art and a labyrinth to the graffiti bombed bathroom. It’s a lounge space for delectable Tex-Mex: cheese enchiladas, fajitas or chile con queso. Outside, where my lunch companion and I sat, was a verdant space filled with mosaic tile-topped cafe tables, wobbly metal chairs, plotted ferns, evergreens, vines and succulents concealed from the street, all the better for us to enjoy our puffy tacos. Continue reading