500 Tacos: Ñoño’s Tacos
An Austin taco a day for 2015 — and then some
102 W. Powell Lane, Austin (map), 512-609-8601. Hours: 6am-9pm Mon-Fri; 9am-9pm Sat-Sun
By Mike Sutter | © Fed Man Walking | 11.04.15
When you take over El Pollo Rico’s old spot next to the Sunrise Mini-Mart, you don’t just ignore the charcoal grill. At Ñoño’s, they’re hauling giant bags of charcoal from a pickup bed out front, then using them to grill whole chickens in the back. The result isn’t just good pollos asados, it’s a value-priced taco menu that’s solid from breakfast on through dinner.
The taco: Grilled chicken
Like the pollos Regio and Rico, a grilled chicken dinner at Ñoño’s comes with rice, beans and grilled onion. But if you’re not up for a whole chicken, or even half, Ñoño’s will chop fresh chicken into a tortilla with grilled onions for just $2. It’s not as lusciously fatty as the one you’d build yourself from a whole bird, but you can taste the spice rub and the smoke all the same. The onions add sweetness, backed up by red and green grilled peppers, finished with lettuce and tomato. ($2)
► Breakfast tacos: Because Ñoño’s makes its own corn tortillas, those tortillas show up fresh from the fryer in migas with freshly scrambled eggs, tomatoes, onions, peppers and cheese ($1.85). Breakfast is served all day, and two-ingredient breakfast tacos are $1.75, which is still too much for a taco barely painted with lean, spicy chorizo and grill-fried potatoes.
► Barbacoa and al pastor: Real beef cheek (cachete) goes into Ñoño’s barbacoa, and it’s dark and fatty and muscular all at the same time, steamed until the fat starts to render, then finished on the flat-top for a beef-doughnut glaze ($2.25). Al pastor here leans hard on a shaggy marinade, one that tries hard with heavy adobo spice to make up for gristled pork from the flat-top ($2).
► Tortillas: Ñoño’s makes its own wide, thin corn tortillas with reliable tensile strength and mild corn flavor. The story here is a flour tortilla that’s shipped uncooked, ready for Ñoño’s to bring out its windowpane gloss and pull-apart layers with a good toasting on the grill.
► Salsa: They did more than just recycle the former tenant’s salsa. Both the silky-hot jalapeño verde and the smoky-hot chile de arbol red are better than their counterparts at El Pollo Rico.
The 500 Tacos Project
(Photos by Mike Sutter © Fed Man Walking)