500 Tacos: Cheko’s

 
 
An Austin taco a day for 2015 — and then some
 
Cheko’s
1304 W. Koenig Lane , Austin (map), 512-407-8480, www.gotchekos.com
Hours: 6:30am-10pm daily
 
By Mike Sutter | © Fed Man Walking | 10.07.15
 
This stretch of Koenig isn’t the same madhouse it was before First Texas Honda moved out a few years back, but businesses and neighbors can still count on a full Mexican menu, table service and a margarita at Cheko’s from before sunup to past sundown.
 
The taco: Combo Plate Custom
There are no showboat tacos here, no singular styles that rise above a serviceable flatline. And so I built my own from a two-meat combo plate: smooth and salty refritos, mushy rice, avocado, beef fajita and pork al pastor. On its own, the pastor plays loose with the style, more like a stew or tinga instead of a more traditional roasted or grill-finished pastor, with chalky meat under a thick chile braise that tastes like the bottom of a stewpot. It serves as a textural counterweight to hard little knuckles of beef masquerading as fajitas, for a taco that at least gives you something to do as you watch the clock for lunch to be over. ($7.75 for a two-meat combo plate with rice, beans and tortillas)
 
 
 Tortillas: I thought handmade corn tortillas would rescue the combo plate experience, but they’re as waxen and neutral as storebought. At least the factory flour tortillas pick up some color and toast on the grill.
 Breakfast: The best thing about dried beef machacado and egg is the price before 11 a.m. — just 99 cents; still a value when it goes to $1.29 after 11. A $1.49 migas taco is small, like a travel-size sampler of eggs, onions, tomato and fried chips with cheese. Breakfast is served all day.
 Barbacoa and lengua: Cheko’s ambitious lineup of taco meats includes barbacoa and lengua, neither of which make much of those ambitions, with barbacoa at once wet and overcooked and desiccated tongue that looked and tasted like it had just startled awake after a bender. ($1.75 each)
 Salsa: A jar-style red burns with onion, peppers and tomato, in that order. A squeeze bottle of creamy green salsa starts cool then rises to full whirled jalapeño fury.
 On the scene: My day at Cheko’s included EMS wheeling out a customer who collapsed in the back (he’s OK) and a cook who sang while he worked, a song in Spanish as plaintive and neverending as “Tuesday’s Gone.”
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The 500 Tacos Project
 
 
(Photos by Mike Sutter © Fed Man Walking)