500 Tacos: Counter Culture

A taco a day for 2015 — and then some
Counter Culture
2337 E. Cesar Chavez St. (map), 512-524-1540, www.countercultureaustin.com
Hours: 11am-10pm daily, with brunch from 11-3 Sat-Sun
By Mike Sutter | Fed Man Walking | 01.20.15
They’re not part of the standing menu, but Tuesdays are taco days at Sue Davis’ Counter Culture, the little vegan trailer that grew up to be a real restaurant. Real in every sense of the word. Technique, variety, flavor. Protein bases include the dense, fibrous space-pod we call jackfruit and versatile seitan — sliced thin as a cold cut, crumbled as a sausage, baked as a loaf. Cashews fill the roles we assign cheese, and beets become beetballs for an Italian hoagie. Notice that I didn’t say “substitute,” because I neither expect nor want plant-based foods to mimic the carnivoral canon. When vegan food is cooked and spiced well, it needs no substitutes. But does it belong in a showcase with 500 Tacos? No question, given the taco’s broad culinary and cultural identity. The question is whether some of the half-speed taquerias in this series deserve to be there as much as Counter Culture does.
The taco: Thai jackfruit
Taken for what they are instead of what we want them to imitate, these tacos bring together flavor, construction and abundance better than most of the tacos already covered in this series. Jackfruit has the firm bite — squash’s Crossfit cousin — and fibered magnanimity to convey a robust profile of turmeric that complements a neutral base of black beans. The taco’s finished with a lightly dressed slaw of purple and green cabbage and a bright pico, all of it deftly bookended with fresh lime. The taco changes every Tuesday. I’m crossing my fingers for the tempeh BLT or chickpea chorizo editions. ($9 for two tacos and a side)
 Tortilla: Doubled-up corn. Storebought, but with respectable corn masa taste and durable tensile strength to pull together the generous amount of jackfruit in these tacos.
 Salsa: This isn’t a chips-and-sauce place, so I’m happy with a fresh pico chop of tomato, red onion and cilantro. A side of tart Texas caviar could fill the role with cool black-eyed peas and chopped green peppers.
 The Carnivore's Holiday review: The full writeup here. 
The 500 Tacos Project
(Photos by Mike Sutter © Fed Man Walking)