500 Tacos: Cherrywood Coffeehouse

An Austin taco a day for 2015 — and then some
Cherrywood Coffeehouse
1400 E. 38th 1/2 St., Austin (map), 512-538-1991, www.cherrywoodcoffeehouse.com
Hours: 7am-midnight daily
By Mike Sutter | © Fed Man Walking | 11.30.15
A friend’s band was playing a gig the first time I came to Cherrywood, a band that embraced the nerdy intricacies of prog rock mixed with edge-pop. It was family night in the courtyard, with sandwiches and beer and the kids running around. Cherrywood leans hard into its neighborhood identity, taking on the challenging dual roles of seven-day diner and coffee-beer-laptop hangout.
The taco: Texas cheesesteak
Cherrywood’s ambitious taco menu includes pulled pork, fish, shrimp, veggie and breakfast tacos, served all day. But the draw for this series is a Texas spin on Philly cheesesteak, a style left untouched for the past 333 days. It starts with ribeye shaved thin and seared hard and sweet, with sautéed red and green bell peppers, onions and jalapeño rings and a glaze of cheese in a collagenous state between merely melted and fully queso-ed. Does it work? It’s not sloppy enough to fully evoke the Philly spirit, with meat too lean and cheese too polite to drip. But the jalapeños make “Texas cheesesteak” more than an idle threat. Sub fries for chips if you dare: mine were cooked in grease so dirty I thought they were sweet potato fries until the burned, acrid taste assured me they were not. ($9.49 for two with chips or cucumber salad; sub fries for 92 cents)
 Chorizo: At a coffeehouse-slash-bar-slash-grill, it’s hard to imagine anything being made “in-house,” but that’s the territory chorizo stakes out here. It’s as loose as taco meat and spiced about the same, and Cherrywood rolls it, omelet-style, in a thin sheet of eggs and smothers it with hot, crisp shoestring fries and colby-jack. But the bitter, overworked fryer grease undercuts any comparison to a classic chorizo and potato taco. ($3.70)
 Migas: If you concentrate on flavor instead of texture, migas here are a full-strength blend of tomato, sautéed onion, chopped jalapeno and fresh eggs blanketed with cheddar. So what’s missing? The phantom half-crunch of tortilla chips. They’re folded in, but they’ve gone mushy and taste like last night’s chip basket, and the result doesn’t support the taco’s $3.70 price.
 Tortillas: Take a pass on the dishrag corn tortillas, doubled up or not. Storebought flour tortillas get some time on the grill to bring out their pliant, doughy character.
 Salsa: Just a basic tomato red, a half-chunky onion cipher OK for chips but an afterthought for tacos.
The 500 Tacos Project
(Photos by Mike Sutter © Fed Man Walking)