500 Tacos: Casa Vallarta

A taco a day for 2015 — and then some
Casa Vallarta
6002 Burleson Road (map), 512-326-1213. Hours: 6am-9pm Mon-Sat; 7am-9pm Sun
By Mike Sutter | © Fed Man Walking | 07.18.15
From the front room of Casa Vallarta’s low-slung, three-room ranch house, I can see the booth where I sat on another quest not long ago: 50 Burgers, 50 Days. This building was Mariana’s Kitchen then, and my prize was a burger stuffed with chorizo. My prize at Casa Vallarta? Knowing so many other places to get better tacos at better prices, where the staff, kids and basic-cable cartoons aren’t fighting over who can be the loudest.
The taco: Migas
I’m tired of waxy commercial flour tortillas, so I violated a rule for this breakfast taco: I ordered it on corn, because they make their own. That was the one good decision in a string of tired choices: overcooked eggs, crushed bits of bagged tortilla chips, processed cheese and a lazy stripe of ranchera sauce. In a city where migas make the rules, you can’t afford to blow this one. ($1.99)
 Another broken rule: If you’re going to charge almost $4 for a single fajita taco, you’d better bring something more than pale chunks of beef from the flat-top. To be fair, there’s “more,” in the form of undercooked onions and bell pepper. But that’s not the kind of “more” I mean. This would be “alambre” at most other places, and cost half as much. ($3.89)
 Getting closer: A simple taco with refried beans and processed cheese on a handmade corn tortilla almost gets it right, but still costs about 25 percent more than the market rate. ($1.99)
 Tortillas: Ignore the rules of flour and corn and always order fresh, hand-pressed corn tortillas at Casa Vallarta. As thin and average as they are by handmade standards, they’re still better than storebought flour.
 Salsa and agua: This part, they get right: Cool salsa fresca with tomato, cilantro, a little jalapeño heat and lots of onion, plus a salty green puree with bits of jalapeño flesh and seed for immediate and lasting warmth. Enjoy it with another Vallarta high point: a cold mango agua fresca, still over market at $2.99.
The 500 Tacos Project
(Photos by Mike Sutter © Fed Man Walking)