500 Tacos: Amaya’s Taco Village

A taco a day for 2015 — and then some
Amaya’s Taco Village
5804 S. Interstate 35 (map), 512-458-2531, www.amayastacovillage.com;
also at 9900 S. Interstate 35 Frontage, #100 (map), 512-696-1468
Hours: 7am-9pm Mon-Thu, 7am-10pm Fri-Sat, 8am-9pm Sun
By Mike Sutter | Fed Man Walking | 01.24.15
This is the same Amaya’s taco I’ve followed from its old home at Capital Plaza, then to a long-gone satellite in Oak Hill, and now beside a La Quinta on I-35 and its sister outlet at Southpark Meadows. Behold the power of the fried tortilla.
The taco: Village Taco with chicken (top) and ground beef
The signature Amaya’s taco is a textural production, brought to you by a thick corn tortilla made in-house, then fried to a suspended state between chewy and crunchy. (Chewunchy? Crewy? Call the marketing department.) It’s not a classic puffy taco, but rather a leatherbound peasant’s pocketbook, folded around formulaic Tex-Mex ground beef or shredded chicken, chopped red tomato and shredded lettuce. Aside from their color and the fact that one crumbles and one pulls apart, the beef and chicken are indistinguishably bland. The tomatoes add nothing but color, and the lettuce leans too heavily on the head’s paler leaves, leaving behind a wet, grassy bitterness. It’s a formula that seems to work for the families who flock here and for the captive audience from the hotel next door. ($2.89 single or as a plate of one, two or three with rice and beans from $6.89-$10.39)
 Tortilla: This fried corn tortilla shell was the reason to visit Amaya’s 20 years ago. It’s still the reason today, even if memory tastes better than reality. It has real weight in the hand — and it’s made by hand — to create the Village Taco’s give-and-take personality.
 Salsa: The table salsa that comes with free chips is a reassuring, basic red sauce, blended almost to marinara consistency, with jalapeño where the garlic would be. It’s the bowl that comes to mind when you hear “chips and sauce.” But ask for Amaya’s green. It’s served warm, and the seeds of tomatillos and jalapeños form a flavor coalition with the viscosity of an enchilada sauce.
The 500 Tacos Project
(Photos by Mike Sutter © Fed Man Walking)