500 Tacos: Chupacabra Cantina

A taco a day for 2015 — and then some
Chupacabra Cantina
400 E. Sixth St. (map), 512-703-4628, www.chupacabracantina.comHours: 11am-2am daily
By Mike Sutter | © Fed Man Walking | 05.06.15
Yesterday taught me that Cinco de Mayo is St. Patrick’s Day for any bar remotely associated with Mexico. Just add red and white to the wearing of the green. Chupacabra adds a Halloween element to the party. Witness the Girls Gone Wild starter kits drinking a jumbo margarita through footlong straws. Scary. Even more shocking? The tacos here look like they came from anywhere but Sixth Street. And that’s a good thing.
The taco: The Chupacabra
If you name your cantina after a goat killer, you might as well put him to work, right? But this taco goes far beyond novelty with lean, long-fibered meat that respects the tradition of roasted goat. It’s rangy, sure, but not gamey or tough, and it’s in good company, loaded with roasted red and green peppers, crisp slaw and radishes and a ranch-style aioli with slow-building heat. Truly surprising for its layered flavors and sheer size. ($4.75)
 More tacos: Brisket is a more familiar medium than goat and subject to closer critique. And so it is with Chupacabra’s Orange Chipotle Brisket taco ($4.75), which sacrifices bigger flavor for a more tortilla-friendly texture. A long way of saying roast beefy. But there’s a lot of it here — close to a third of a pound — and it draws flavor from some unlikely sources: a pico studded with pineapple chunks, a tangle of sauteéd peppers and onions and spicy sour cream. It shouldn’t work, but it does, a big, sloppy beautiful disaster. Neither pineapple pico nor sweet, crunchy slaw could redeem the Yucatan, a tangle of shredded carnitas with a pork-rind aftertaste ($4.25).
 Tortillas: Chupacabra makes its own corn-and-flour-hybrid tortilla. It’s as flexible and strong as a neoprene bodysuit, impervious to the grease and sauce and sheer weight of Chupacabra tacos.
 So-so queso: It’s almost reassuring that the queso at Chupacabra is exactly what you’d expect from a Sixth Street bar: An overpriced, watered-down imitation of the real thing. $6.50 for a small cup with tortilla chips and salsa, which had some problems of its own.
 Salsa: The table salsa is a simple chop of tomato, onion and pepper. The rest is too terrifying to tell, a story of tomatoes gone cadaverously bad. I suspect chupacabras.
The 500 Tacos Project
(Photos by Mike Sutter © Fed Man Walking)