500 Tacos: Capital Taco
An Austin taco a day for 2015 — and then some
1817 S. Lamar Blvd. next to Austin’s Pizza, Austin (map), 512-457-9992
Hours: 7am-2pm and 6:30pm-1am Mon-Sat; 7am-3pm Sun
By Mike Sutter | © Fed Man Walking | 08.30.15
In Austin, even a bright red trailer next to a pizza place can sell tacos with salmon, fried avocado and ginger chicken. But to make it along this working stretch of South Austin roadway, you also have to cover the basics: pastor, beef and breakfast. Capital Taco aspires to do it all.
The taco: Ginger chicken
Flavor layering is something we reserve for white tablecloths, but even a red picnic table can play host to creative cooking that brings together sweet blocks of mango with sweet peppers, cilantro and the Asian twist of ginger. The sweet sharpness energizes grilled white meat chicken that would be lost without it. ($3.25)
► Migas: With this fresh, balanced collection of eggs, pico, cheddar, corn tortillas and avocado, Capital Taco joins the mighty Veracruz in the top ranks of Austin migas. ($2.25)
► Fried avocado: Like fried ice cream, the notion of bringing crisp and hot together with cool and creamy is a fun idea when it works. But sometimes it doesn’t. The avocado isn’t as crispy or thickly breaded as it should be to hold its own against refried black beans that are both loamy and unseasoned. The mozzarella cheese and poblano sauce cancel each other out, and the lettuce and tomato are just along for the ride. ($3.75)
► Steak and al pastor: The trailer had run out its popular Nofaya Steak taco with bacon, poblanos and cheese, but its Chuys taco (below right) showed some skill with grilled beef, dressed with grilled onions, jalapeños, queso fresco, black beans and lettuce ($3.50). I liked the sweet choreography of onion and minced pineapple in the al pastor taco (below left), but the pork was cut too big and cooked a shade too dry to take full advantage ($3.25).
► Plate lunch: With lunch tacos running $3.25-$4 apiece, Capital Taco’s prices are on the high side. So a plate lunch special of two tacos with rice and refried black beans for $7 looks like a bargain. The upside for me: They were out of rice, but they subbed with guacamole so chunky and colorful you might call it an avocado pico. I propose that all the rice-and-beans places run out of rice and go with avocado pico instead. (Need a better weekday lunch plate bargain? Try three tacos, rice and beans and a drink for $5.99 at Tortilleria El Taquito on North Lamar.)
► Tortillas: Storebought plain white flour and color-enhanced doubled-up yellow corn tortillas.
► Salsa: Capital makes a sweet, mild tomato red for breakfast tacos, but lunch heats up with a brisk tomatillo-jalapeño green and a smooth chile de arbol hotter than a matchhead.
► Coming soon: Brisket tacos: Capital Taco sits next door to one of Austin’s Top 10 BBQ places, Brown’s Bar-B-que. I ran into Daniel Brown at Capital Taco (he eats there all the time, he said), and he said Capital Taco is planning a taco using Brown’s smoked brisket.
(Photos by Mike Sutter © Fed Man Walking)