500 Tacos: Costa del Sol

A taco a day for 2015 — and then some
Costa del Sol
7901 Cameron Road (map), 512-832-5331, www.restaurantcostadelsol.com
Hours: 8:30am-9pm Mon-Thu; 8:30am-10pm Fri-Sun
By Mike Sutter | © Fed Man Walking | 06.17.15
The taco forces us to reconsider our limitations. Want to specialize in food from El Salvador? Take a look at the neighborhood, the clientele, the businesses around you, then make room for tacos. They share a common language with fried plantains, pupusas and yuca. At Costa del Sol, they share a menu, too. And everybody gets along just fine.
The taco: Carnitas
Peacemaker, translator, bridge-builder, lunch. The humble pig is a busy beast at Costa del Sol, bridging Mexican and Salvadorian styles with carnitas — roasted, chopped and grilled for a taco with cilantro and onions ($2), or left in bigger pieces and fried hard and crunchy with yuca ($7.99). The taco experience is only half the story at Costa del Sol. To get the full story, save the rest of the plate for a Salvadorian sampler (below).
 The Salvadorian sampler: For $9.99, Costa del Sol brings its best-sellers together. The pupusa is a self-contained quesadilla, a thick corn masa purse filled with cheesy gold. Fried yuca puts a little fiber in your starch, a thick root with the bulk of a potato, the fiber of a yam and a taste with echoes of leeks, ramps and parsnips. And finally, the plantain is a double agent, both a caramelized dessert and a starchy banana sidecar to creamy refried beans and tart sour cream. The trio comes with a lightly vinegared chop of cabbage and tomato, with a whole quart jug of the stuff and a set of tongs if you need more.
 More tacos: A chalky al pastor taco with cumin and chili powder can’t touch the carnitas for style. Costa del Sol’s ground beef taco is like a salty drive-through burger on a tortilla, with crisp lettuce and tomato on top and potatoes chopped right in. ($2 each)
 Tortillas: If only the thick, handmade pupusas wrapped the tacos, too. Something for Taco Bell to work on? What we get instead are common commercial flour and white corn tortillas, which Costa del Sol knows to double up.
 Salsa: The table sauce that comes with free tortilla chips is a zesty salsa fresca. The Salvadorian food gets a sauce of its own: a tart and sweet squeeze bottle of thin, vinegary mop like Cholula after anger management therapy.
 Programming note: Breakfast stops at 11 a.m.
The 500 Tacos Project
(Photos by Mike Sutter © Fed Man Walking)