500 Tacos: El Jacalito

A taco a day for 2015 — and then some
El Jacalito
2030 E. Oltorf St. #110 (map), 512-445-4109
Hours: 7am-9pm Mon-Thu, 7am-10pm Fri-Sat, 7am-3pm Sun
By Mike Sutter | © Fed Man Walking | 02.08.15
The intersection of East Oltorf and Douglas is a square block of tough Mexican food competition. There’s a Taqueria Chapala on one corner, a trailer called Tacos Ricos on another — and El Jacalito on the other. Chapala cooks Jalisco-style food and the trailer channels Mexico City. But El Jacalito — the little hut — walks the familiar, simple Tex-Mex line of enchiladas, nachos, chalupas, tacos, burritos and chalupas, with a few specialties thrown in. The same line it’s walked for more than 20 years. When you’re looking for everyday fajitas, that might be all you need.
The taco: Fajita combo
Marinated steak and chicken thrown on the grill with a few onions and bell peppers is a universal culinary formula. Every meat-eating culture has some form of it. If you’re looking for a hard-core Mexican interpretation, you’ll want to keep looking. Even if they blaze no new trails by relying on beef and chicken with a light sear, some chile-salt seasoning, caramelized onions, soft peppers and the sour cream-guacamole-pico trinity from the borderlands playbook, these fajitas have their place. And their place is on a recurring Tuesday lunch special at 40 percent off, with charro beans that taste like pork-and-beans from a can and rice that might have come from a can, if rice came from a can. ($8.45 during the Tuesday fajita special; normally $13.99)
 Save me, barbacoa: My server — who said she’s been with El Jacalito since the early ‘90s and is staying on with the new owners, who took over a few months ago — steered me toward El Jacalito’s house-made barbacoa. It’s fatty and fibrous, as thick as peanut butter and mild, at least by big barbacoa standards. ($2.75 with pico de gallo)
 Tortillas: Standard food-service flour and doubled-up corn, both as pale as the day they were packaged.
 Salsa: The house salsa is a more interesting version of chips-and-sauce red, like a cross between smoky chile de arbol and classic tomato-onion-jalapeño. On request, they’ll bring out a warm, mild tomatillo green with cilantro and lime. Request it.
The 500 Tacos Project
(Photos by Mike Sutter © Fed Man Walking)