500 Tacos: El Charrito

A taco a day for 2015 — and then some
El Charrito
7100 U.S. 290 Frontage Road (map), 512-467-9394. Hours: 7am-10pm Mon-Sat; 8am-10pm Sun
By Mike Sutter | © Fed Man Walking | 06.29.15
When even the bathroom graffiti is in Spanish, you must be in the right place. The rest of El Charrito is like a country diner, insulated from the racket of Highway 290 as it flies by just a parking space away from the door. The clapboard walls are painted sunflower yellow, a poinsettia boa still hangs in June, and elbows have rubbed most of the finish from the front counter. A well-worn place, with tacos that explain why.
The taco: Al pastor
This taco won’t win the Adobo Prize, especially compared with the best twangy trompo pastor around town. Forget the label and appreciate instead a fresh corn tortilla generously filled with tender, lightly seasoned pork fried to order, dressed with onions and cilantro. ($1.65 on corn tortilla; $1.85 on flour)
 Carnes, both guisada and asada: Beef and gravy join together in carne guisada for a thick, fork-tender coalition like roast beef cloaked in Tex-Mex chili. Carne’s grilled cousin asada was dry, unseasoned and tasted old. ($1.65 corn; $1.85 flour)
 Barbacoa: Salty, fatty, pulled in short, steamy fibers that stick together like family. I don’t always get along with this barbacoa family, but we’ll have breakfast together now and then. ($1.65 corn; $1.85 flour)
 The breakfast test: If a place can put down a freshly scrambled egg with velvety refritos in a warm flour tortilla for $1.50 and make it all taste good, it passes the breakfast test. El Charrito passes, with 25 cents to spare. Breakfast is served all day. ($1.25)
 Tortillas: El Charrito makes some of Austin’s best handmade corn tortillas. They have the layered strength and size of the storebought flour tortillas, with toasted flavor like skillet cornbread.
 Salsa: The onion’s still crisp in the bright blended red salsa that incorporates jalapeño, tomatillo, tomatillo and cilantro in good balance. There’s salsa verde by request, too, in a squeeze bottle straight from the fridge, with a flavor so fresh and green it’s as much an herb pesto as a salsa.
The 500 Tacos Project
(Photos by Mike Sutter © Fed Man Walking)