500 Tacos: El Gallo

A taco a day for 2015 — and then some
El Gallo
2910 S. Congress Ave. (map), 512-444-6696, www.elgallorestaurant.com
Hours: 11am-10pmTue-Thu; 11am-11pm Fri; 8am-11pm Sat; 8am-9pm Sun
By Mike Sutter | © Fed Man Walking | 06.27.15
Hard to believe, but there were restaurants in Austin long before digital cameras and the Food Network made us so picky about our food. Ell Gallo is one of those restaurants, serving Tex-Mex to the non-discerning for more than 50 years. It’s colorful and friendly, with teal and pink and blue paint and nice tiled floors and an iconic neon sign by the street. But that all seems like a showboating rooster calculated to distract you from what’s on your plate.
The taco: Crispy beef taco
Don’t let the photo fool you: This taco was a mess of video game proportions. Or at least the field hospital in a multiplayer shooter. Lying next to an enchilada, rice and beans, the part of the shell touching the hot plate had melted away like candle wax. Gone. Only the top of the shell remained intact, a lean-to for unseasoned ground beef, shredded lettuce, chopped tomato and processed cheese. I ate it like a languid taco salad, along with a Tex-Mex cheese enchilada constructed with a limp corn tortilla from the same family as the taco shell, chalky refritos and hard-grained orange rice. (Part of the lunchtime #12 Combo Plate with enchilada, rice, beans and tea for $7.95; $3.39 a la carte)
 Carne guisada: At first I couldn’t imagine how this flat foldover of a taco could support its almost $4 pricetag. I still can’t fully, but its concave dish hid some of the bulk of the tender beef tips inside, coated in thick ochre gravy flavored with bell pepper and onion. Much better than the crispy taco. ($3.89 a la carte)
 Tortillas: The most basic commercial flour and white corn tortillas. But even they look good compared to that crispy taco shell disaster.
 Salsa: The blended basic red table sauce had a piece of wet chip in it from wherever it had been before it came to me.
 At least I got candy: The bill came with two surprises: a 75-cent charge for the half-teaspoon of chopped jalapeño on my enchilada — and a little piece of pecan praline like a free mint on my pillow at a cheap hotel.
The 500 Tacos Project
(Photos by Mike Sutter © Fed Man Walking)