500 Tacos: Best Stop Food Market

An Austin taco a day for 2015 — and then some
Best Stop Food Market
1130 Airport Blvd., Austin (map), 512-928-1010
Hours: Tacos 6am-2pm Mon-Sat; 7am-2pm Sun
By Mike Sutter | © Fed Man Walking | 11.29.15
The Dallas taco writer José R. Ralat of Taco Trail and Texas Monthly renown has some good advice for ordering at taco counters like Best Stop, where everything comes from a steampan: Get whatever pan has the least amount of stuff in it, because that’s what everybody else is getting. So simple, so true. And avoid whatever’s been sitting long enough to form a greasy film over the top. Also true. Just two of the things I learned from a writer whose taco glossary and pursuit of the stories behind taquerias throughout the Metroplex have helped me travel my own taco trail in Austin. In Ralat’s defense, coming to Best Stop was my idea, not his. And in my defense, I’d hoped for better tacos from a place where the towering “Tacos” sign overshadows every other clue to the mission of this combination gas station, beer cooler, taqueria and convenience store.
The taco: Fajitas rancheras y papas
Ralat and I violated one of his prime directives: We ordered from the most overflowing pan on the steamtable, the one full of beef fajitas. We did it despite clear evidence that the line of regulars in front us had skipped over the tough, dry, strands of shaggy meat in favor of beans and cheese. Blame it on the french fries.
“The reason I violated my own rule,” Ralat said, “is I was enchanted with the idea of putting fries on steak, a common pairing at Mexico City taco stalls.” But Best Stop was having no part of the enchantment. Instead of a hot tomato braise, fajitas “rancheras” here just means onions and peppers, and so our french fry diplomacy only compounded the meat’s cottony dryness. ($2.29 plus 25 cents for fries)
 The other rancheras: The best taco at Best Stop is papas rancheras. Or more to the point: french fries steeped in the kind of hot tomato sauce with onions and peppers that would’ve made those fajitas 100 percent better. ($1.59)
 Breakfast tacos: The fastest mover at Best Stop on a weekend morning was refried beans, the thick and salty kind with pieces like ore in a mining slurry. But there’s only so much a bean and cheese taco can accomplish with flour tortillas from a bag. Still, I prefer that to a premix of scrambled eggs and ham from a pan. ($1.59 each)
 Carne guisada: There’s enough chili powder in here to make this roast beef and gravy more like ... chili. “A big bowl of Texas gray” doesn’t have quite the same ring, does it? ($2.29)
 Tortillas: Commercial-grade flour tortillas turn gummy pretty fast in their tight foil wraps. They’re the default on this assembly line, so talk fast if you want doubled-up storebought corn tortillas.
 Salsa: They’re not big on comfort at Best Stop. Nowhere to sit, hardly anywhere to stand at the crowded counter and no fussy little salsa bar. Just a loose, medium-hot, tangy jalapeño-tomatillo verde from little snap-cups, and that’ll have to do.
The 500 Tacos Project
(Photos by Mike Sutter © Fed Man Walking)