It wasn’t planned. Our Austin taco stop on the return trip from a Brownsville taco tour weekend was supposed to be El Taco Rico. Unfortunately, it was closed. El Taquito, a fast-casual chain outpost on Riverside Drive, was a backup-backup choice. We were there for pork, specifically al pastor from a trompo, after consuming almost nothing but beef in the Rio Grande Valley. A couple tacos al pastor from some joint off the highway would be all that was needed to hold us over until we got home.
As it turned it out, I had been to El Taquito before. On my first visit, midway through an East Austin taco crawl, Roberto Espinosa tried to warn me about the fried tripe before I bit down on a substance that was more PVC tubing than edible offal.
But it wasn’t time for tripe. It was time to leave behind cow country and the border for a pork preparation. Except it wasn’t. El Taquito was founded in Tamaulipas, a border state where Matamoros and Reynosa are located. The original of the three Central Texas outposts, the official company line claims, was the first to introduce avocado and queso fresco, common taco garnishes on both sides of the Rio Grande, as topping options to Austin.
I had just come a trip where I ate such tacos almost exclusively. It was time for pork. The trompo, clean and dry, stood tucked away in a corner of the kitchen barely visible from the ordering counter with no sign of it having supported chile-citrus dressed meat. Perhaps it was being held in a warming box. That would explain why the taco al pastor was dry. The pastor-bistec combination of the taco campechana wasn’t any better. The same with the barbacoa. Far better were the beef preparations I ate in the Valley.
The yellow corn tortillas were as coarse as a man’s beard a day after his last shave without the scratchiness, and they were sweet. At least they got the tortillas right.El Taquito
1713 E. Riverside Dr.
Austin, TX 78741