500 Tacos: Casa Arandinas

A taco a day for 2015 — and then some
Casa Arandinas
9001 Brodie Lane (map), 512-292-1822, www.casaarandinasaustin.com
Hours: 7am-10pm Sun-Thu; 7am-11pm Fri-Sat
By Mike Sutter | © Fed Man Walking | 04.27.15
The button-tufted booths and chairs are crafted from coopered barrels, with the agave-crowned logo of Casa Arandinas stitched into each seat. Every chairback is airbrushed with a scene of village life, and the bar pours Patron and Herradura tequilas and good Mexican beer on draft. This well-lit space with frescoed adobe walls and broad tile floors is the cosmopolitan cousin to the more blue-collar Taquerias Arandinas. Yes, there’s a molcajete mixed grill for two at $25 and a pineapple stuffed with octopus and shrimp for $16, but they still have enchiladas, chilaquiles, $6.99 lunch specials and — most important for this series — tacos on fresh corn and flour tortillas.
The taco: Pierna de puerco
When I order the Jalisco-style pig leg called pierna, I like to picture those prized legs of jamon Iberico in a Spanish restaurant, where a few paper-thin slices cost as much as a bottle of cava. Pierna is that pampered pig’s scruffy country cousin, with the meat trimmed away in thick tiles and cooked rough on the outside, a chimera of chicharron, ham and bacon. It’s dry and crisp and tastes great on a corn tortilla with lettuce and tomato. And it costs less than a bottle of Bud Light. ($2.10)
 The breakfast test: I’m as extravagante as the next guy, but I still want eggs and beans for breakfast. Casa Arandinas delivers them lightly salted in hot flour tortillas for $1.79. Or machacado for more formal mornings, with dried shredded beef and a Mexican flag trio of peppers, tomatoes and onions for $1.99. A big, bottomless mug of Community Coffee is just $1.99.
 Barbacoa and al pastor: Beef cheek and marinated pork are always at home in a taqueria, no matter how fancy that home. Casa Arandinas is a taqueria at heart, and its barbacoa clings together in shreds with half-rendered fat and a big iron bouquet. And those are good things. The al pastor is sweet, pale and crunchy, more of a grilled textural indulgence than a tender rotisserie street homage. ($2.10 each)
 Tortillas: Casa Arandinas makes its own corn and flour tortillas. In size, color and texture, they’re indistinguishable from one another. Both are warm, stretchy and strong, but only the corn has flavor to speak of, a suggestion of masa right at the end of the bite.
 Salsa: The presentation of this salsa trio in a three-chamber ceramic dish makes each of them taste better. And they’re pretty good to begin with: creamy hot jalapeño green, a sharp tomato salsa fresca and a roasted tomatillo with a bright vinegar finish. Served with tortilla chips in a cute yellow wicker basket.
The 500 Tacos Project
(Photos by Mike Sutter © Fed Man Walking)