500 Tacos: Arturo’s Underground Cafe

A taco a day for 2015 — and then some
Arturo’s Underground Cafe
314 W. 17th St. (map), 512-469-0380. Hours: 7am-2pm Mon-Fri; 10am-3pm Sat-Sun
By Mike Sutter | © Fed Man Walking | 05.25.15
From the outside, Arturo’s is a two-window coffeeshop with a garden-supply green vibe. Inside, as if conjured by a Harry Potter tent spell, lies a sunken warren of tables and booths washed in broad blocks of color and decorated with impressionistic paintings of Marilyn Monroe and Johnny Cash. Aesthetically, there’s more than meets the eye. Culinarily, there’s only what meets the eye at Arturo’s: garden-fresh salads, sandwiches, quesadillas and tacos, dappled with colors of the harvest in earnest if not exactly compelling combinations.
The taco: Southwest chicken
Five of the 10 tacos on Arturo’s menu employ chicken. Spicy, chipotle, Southwest, adobo, spinach. The Southwestern treatment means simply seasoning and grilling the white-meat chicken, then letting the ingredients do the rest. There’s corn, black beans, tomatoes and sour cream, each adding its own acid, earth and sweetness for a safe, balanced, feel-good taco. ($3.25)
 More lunch tacos: Held back by a storebought tortilla, a basic black bean and cheese taco comes across with dull vegetarian sincerity ($1.85), a pendulum swing away from a robust veggie taco packed with sliced, julienned and chopped broccoli, carrots, tomatoes and mushrooms cooked just past crisp in a simple brown sauce ($2.77). Arturo’s adobo chicken with lettuce, tomato and caramelized onion hews more to the sweetness and soy of the Eastern idea of adobo rather than the powdery red chile spice of the Mexican model ($3.25).
 Breakfast: Weekdays until 11 a.m., Arturo’s makes plates of migas, huevos rancheros and chorizo and eggs with black beans and homefries for $7.39. Two-item breakfast tacos are $1.85, and breakfast specialty tacos with shrimp, migas, veggies, chicken and “The Works” run $2.77-$3.70.
 Tortillas: Storebought flour and doubled-up yellow corn, which fell apart under the weight and moisture of the chicken tacos.
 Salsa: A fresh, polite puree of tomato, onion, pepper and garlic.
The 500 Tacos Project
(Photos by Mike Sutter © Fed Man Walking)