Category Archives: Austin

Ten Joints With Great Breakfast Tacos

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Breakfast in Texas means tacos, and breakfast has been on my mind a lot lately. So, I’d thought I’d offer my current top 10 places for the proper way to begin a day—anywhere, not just in the Lone Star State.

Taqueria La Salsa Verde
Although its appearance shows otherwise, the taquera working this Richardson gas-station counter claims the taco de cabeza (above) is prepared al vapor. Whatever its preparation, the taco is still excellent. Which is really all that matters to me first thing in the morning. The choriqueso is the cabeza’s equal. 14225 Coit Road, 972-330-0403

San Juanita
The chorizo and cheese at this South Congress shack offers buckshot heat in a large tortilla, giving any road trip a fiery start. 4406 S. Congress Ave., Austin, 512-443-9308 Continue reading

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Filed under Austin, Best of, breakfast tacos, DFW, East Dallas, North Texas, Oak Cliff, Plano, Richardson, San Antonio, Tex-Mex, Texas

Vivo Restaurant

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

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Filed under Austin, Reviews, Tex-Mex, Texas

Chi’Lantro Sets Houston Roll-Out Date

Chi’Lantro/Facebook

Better than a scrumptious taco from my favorite Austin Korean taco truck, Chi’Lantro BBQ, is news about said truck. Yesterday, Chi’Lantro BBQ’s Iris Han dropped me a quick note. In it, she wrote that a Houston Chi’Lantro truck will be serving kimchee fries, burritos and its signature tacos mid-February 2012. Continue reading

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El Chilito (Austin)

While covering Austin City Limits Festival in September, I crashed with family friends living near El Chilito—if you can call a walkup window/kitchenbox surrounded by sticky picnic tables a restaurant.

Each morning before ACL, I’d stop at El Chilito (now absent the mustache seesaw), the middle child of owner Carlos Rivero (El Chile, Red House Pizzeria) and business partner Orlando Sanchez, with the same order. Eating there was cheap and staved off the rumblings that would require the consumption of overpriced, sub-par pabulum at the Austin Eats food court.

While the pleasantly chewy flour tortilla absorbed the vermillion grease released by the chorizo, on one occasio, the liquid, as delectable as it was, could have been reduced by cooking the egg with the chorizo. It was too messy. Still, it was a zippy means of starting my day. On another visit, the chorizo was browned to a muddy hue, extracting all but the slight alkalinity. It wasn’t bad. It was just disappointing considering that on my third visit the chorizo and egg was spot on.

The barbacoa had humble, earthy notes. Chunks of beef, interspersed with threads of stewy meat separated into threads themselves. It was of consistent quality and warmed my insides, preparing me for the onslaught of tens of thousands of music fans, the crowds I so dislike.

For the final day of ACL, I included a bacon, egg and cheese taco and a cochinita pibil in my order. The soft eggs revealing crunchy fragments tied together with sharp cheese increased my enjoyment of the chorizo and egg.

The pibil was a respectable example of the style. The achiote-stained meat offered no resistance to my bite. As a matter of fact, I was oblivious to how quickly I ate the taco. The onions, as plentiful as they were, skirted acridity, adding bit without inducing a wince, while the corn tortillas stayed out of the way, imparting no punchy sweetness.

Indeed, the pibil taco did its job well. Isn’t that more than I could ask for? I patronized El Chilito for expediency and nourshiment and found food beyond the necessary.

El Chilito
2219 Manor Rd., Austin
512-382-3797

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Filed under Austin, breakfast tacos

Garrido’s & Maudie’s Tex-Mex: Two ACL Tacos

When the day job told me I was going to cover the 2011 Austin City Limits Festival, the first thing I did was scour the music and culture happening’s edible options. Smack dab in the middle of the list were the tacos from Garrido’s and Maudie’s Tex-Mex. Continue reading

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Is Chi’Lantro BBQ Coming to Dallas?

My favorite Korean taco truck in Austin, Chi’Lantro BBQ, will be rolling out a truck in Dallas sometime next year, according to SideDish’s food-truck maven, George Lewis, who tacked on the claim at the end of his weekly truck schedule post.

This is a surprising but welcomed development, as Chi’Lantro owner Jae Kim told me in a July 13, 2011, correspondence that a Dallas truck was a goal, a long-term goal. “We would love to go to Dallas but we have been busy here in Austin. We think Houston will come along before Dallas, but serving at Dallas would be awesome someday!” (Chi’Lantro had a presence at last year’s Art in October Block Party.)
Anyway, taking Lewis’ bait, I reached out to Kim, who confirmed the news. “Our plan is to open up in Dallas next year sometime in the middle of the year,” he noted. Kim and company believes there’s room in the Metroplex’s fusion-taco sandbox for Chi’Lantro, alongside Ssahm BBQ, Kor-BQ and Goghee to Go. “There’s an opportunity for us to share our food with people in Dallas.” 
I’ll put that opportunity in my mouth.

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At Slashfood: Breakfast Tacos – Required Eating in Austin

Tacos are as synonymous with Austin, Texas, as the South by Southwest Festival. The breakfast taco, the energizing early rising big brother, is to Austin what the bagel is to New York. A breakfast taco is required eating in Austin, available at regional fast-food chains and mom-and-pop shops to mini-empires and trailers. They are Austinites’ go-to, on-the-fly morning meal.
Read the rest of the story at Slashfood.

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Meet and Eat: Tacodeli’s Roberto Espinosa

Taco Tour

“Meet and Eat” is series about congregations and adventures with food writers, food bloggers and others orbiting the food world. 

Recently, I had the pleasure to go on a taco tour with Roberto Espinosa, owner of Tacodeli, one of Austin’s stellar taco emporiums. The meet-and-eat was a product of one of my Slashfood posts, Where are America’s Best Tacos? – Brooklyn’s Sunset Park vs. Austin, Texas, and the subsequent conservation Roberto and I engaged in. For the piece I compared a selection of Austin taco joints with those of my former home, Sunset Park, Brooklyn. Among the establishments was Tacodeli and included quotes from the taco tsar. While I did enjoy what I ate at Tacodeli, I had reservations (what I called “gringo fancy” and recanted in a follow-up post.). Roberto was understanding and offered to take me on a tour of Austin’s taco offerings.

There was no hesistation. I took Roberto up on his offer. And away we went.

At Rosita’s Al Pastor, a truck in a strip-mall parking lot, we had lengua, al pastor, carnitas and chicharron. The hit and miss were the lengua and the chicharron. The former melted refreshingly, like an ice cube on the tongue during a steaming New York City summer day when the  air conditioner isn’t working. The chicharron, well, let’s just say, I’ve never had the pleaure of sampling a delectable chicharron taco.

Taco Tour

“Don’t eat that. Seriously, you don’t want to eat that,” said Roberto about the fried tripe taco we had ordered at Taquito’s. Of course I took a bite, a big one at that. And, of course, he was right. A regrettable decision that had the texture of hard plastic and left the taste of silly putty in my mouth.

Our last stop, Piedras Negras, was a truck I had been to before, and has a menu most closely resembling the taco joints I frequented in Brooklyn. As much as I wanted to eat my carnitas standby, I went with the al carbon taco. It was an against-type choice, with sauteed onions and raw onions, tomatoes as well as green bell peppers. Crunchy and juicy, I wanted to ingest it in its entirity, but after more than a dozen tacos, I apologized to it.

Taco Tour

Between destinations we talked about Mexican food and tacos, natch; Austin; cyclicing (we’re both enthusiaists); and, most importantly, why open a taco restaurant in Austin. A Mexico City native, Roberto told me that his decision to open Tacodeli was influenced by his desire to eat what he grew up eating. “There wasn’t anything like it in Austin; it was all steam-table stuff. I wanted to cook what I wanted to eat.” Now, after 10 years, he has two shops, with a third set to open next year. Then there is the Doña Maria salsa, a creamy, neon-green sauce concocted by one of Roberto’s original—and current—employees from Veracruz. “When I opened, I asked my staff to bring in some salsas. Doña Maria brought in something she learned to cook in Veracruz. I was blown away. It was like opening a treasure chest.” Everyone I’ve met who has tasted the salsa swears fealty to it. I’ve never been one for spicy foods, but I have to agree with the loyalists: Doña Maria makes some delish salsa. Roberto obviously reciprocates his customer’s feelings. “I have a responsibility to my customers.” Note, the homemade mole taco suggested by one patron. His passion for tacos and diners is as infectious as the Doña salsa. Whenever I go to Tacodeli the shop is filled elbow to elbow and the pay-off disintegrates any claustrophobia you might have.

I can’t wait to munch on some Tacodeli grub when I return to Austin for Thanksgiving. The Cowboy and Mole tacos are calling me. Who wants to join me?

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