500 Tacos: Cool Beans

A taco a day for 2015 — and then some
Cool Beans
Location updated April 2014: 2614 E. Cesar Chavez St. at the Friends and Neighbors boutique (map), 512-887-8139, Facebook page
Hours: Noon-6pm Wed-Fri; noon-8pm Sat; noon-4pm Sun 
By Mike Sutter | © Fed Man Walking | 03.15.15
Rolando Garza and Priscilla Jerez came to Austin from Brownsville to open Cool Beans last December. He grew up in Brownsville and she in Los Angeles, and together the couple went vegan two years ago, looking for a healthier lifestyle. With that change came the pursuit of good Mexican cooking to go with it. There’s a reason their quinoa chorizo — Q-rizo — has the robust spice of volcanic orange Mexican sausage: It’s a recipe from Garza’s grandmother, note for note, with the wonder grain standing in for pork. Jerez went to work on tortillas, learning by trial and error to transform spelt flour into proper taco jackets. And they fit just fine. Good tacos that are good for you, too? I won’t tell if you won’t.
The taco: The Native (top)
How can a vegan Brownsville boy and an Angeleno survive without tacos al pastor? Like this, with chunks of garbanzo tempeh like a half-sweet yam, cloaked in a sauce that incorporates their handmade achiote paste — made from ground annatto seeds — with guajillo sauce, pineapple and garlic. With cooked onion and fresh seared pineapple on a corn masa shell, it’s an al pastor that stands on its own. ($3.75, or two for $7; add rice and beans for $2 more)
 The Warrior (above right): Garza’s grandmother could be proud of her reinterpreted recipe at Cool Beans. The little grains of quinoa take to the peppery glow of chorizo like they were born for it. It’s sautéed with potatoes, then finished with fresh onions and cilantro. So good that I wish there’d been more of it; it looked lonely on that full-sized tortilla. ($3.75, or two for $7)
 Tortillas: Cool Beans makes its own tortillas to suit the individual tacos. For the Warrior, it’s a thin, adobe colored spelt flour tortilla toasted to a crackly oiled sheen. It tastes and crumbles with the charm and airy lightness of a pastry shell. In true al pastor style, the Native thrives atop a corn masa cake rolled to a thick but flexible, grainy texture like fried skillet cornbread.
 Salsa: Cooked tomatoes and roasted jalapeños make a sundown red salsa that’s warm and sweet.
 Street corn: The twin funk of mayo and stinky cheese is what gives Mexican street corn its incongruous appeal. That tennis shoe bouquet is missing from Cool Beans’ interpretation, but it does bring crisp, sweet kernels of fresh corn and a light, vegan, creamy finish. ($3)
 Best use of a Crystal Gayle record since the ‘80s: Plates at Cool Beans are shaped from LPs molded like black vinyl blossoms. I wonder how “Don’t It Make My Brown Eyes Blue” would sound with all that rollercoaster waffling.
The 500 Tacos Project
(Photos by Mike Sutter © Fed Man Walking)