500 Tacos: El Meson | South Lamar

An Austin taco a day for 2015 — and then some
El Meson | South Lamar
2038 S. Lamar Blvd., Austin (map), 512-442-4441, www.elmesonaustin.wordpress.com
Hours: 11am-10pm Mon-Thu; 11am-11pm Fri; 9am-11pm Sat; 10am-10pm Sun
By Mike Sutter | © Fed Man Walking | 12.29.15
El Meson on South Lamar isn’t quite the happy hour bonanza it was when the restaurant made my Top 55 restaurants in Austin. Where the whole appetizer menu used to be half-price between 2 and 7 on weekdays, now it’s just quesadillas, tlacoyos and a few taquitos. This isn’t a casual taqueria like the original on Burleson Road, but rather a sit-down place for interior Mexican specialties like mole and cochinita pibil. But you can still get a house margarita with a bounty of fresh lime for $3.50 during happy hour, and at least one taquito plate that hasn’t forgotten its roots.
The taco: Taquitos de carnitas
With roasted pork this juicy, flossy, half-sweet and toasted, this more urbane El Meson — in the same complex as Henri’s Cheese and Lick Ice Creams — pays proper tribute to the carnitas on Burleson Road. Served three to an order with onions, cilantro and smoky chipotle salsa on fresh corn tortillas. ($4.50 for three; on the menu only during happy hour 2-7pm Mon-Fri)
 Taquitos de pastor: The pineapple will pull you in, but pork as dry as yesterday’s pork chop will push you right back out. Achiote’s hiding in the background, overwhelmed by burned fat and dessicated pineapple. The best part of the plate is a spicy green salsa of whirled avocado and roasted chiles. ($8 for three/$4 happy hour)      
 Tortillas: El Meson makes its own charmingly irregular corn tortillas for taquitos. They’re soft and fresh, but strong enough even in single layers. Flour tortillas are also made by hand.
 Chips and salsa: The restaurant’s handmade corn tortillas pull double duty as totopos, the word we reserve for thick Mexican resort-style chips fried in-house. A basket with molcajete-style roasted tomato salsa, tomato-jalapeño salsa as thick as marinara and an oily escabeche of carrots, peppers, onions and cauliflower is $3 — a luxury you can afford for chips and salsa this good.
 Guacamole: El Meson serves some of the best do-it-yourself guacamole in town, with bowls of mashed avocado, pico, escabeche, jalapeños and salsa with those house-fried totopos. ($7.50)
The 500 Tacos Project
(Photos by Mike Sutter © Fed Man Walking)