500 Tacos: El Tacorrido

 
 
A taco a day for 2015 — and then some
 
El Tacorrido
2316 S. First St. (map), 512-912-1939, more locations at www.eltacorrido.com
Hours: 7am-midnight daily
 
By Mike Sutter | Fed Man Walking | 01.13.15
 
Even before the first bite, El Tacorrido gives you options, the first of which is when and where to have your El Experience. Late night on North Lamar at Rundberg with the high school kids, at a strip mall off Berkman Drive in Northeast Austin or in a drive-through at South First and Oltorf. This report covers the drive-through option. The second option is how to dress out your taco, and that’s how this report went from one taco to four. You deserve to know just how good your options are at El Tacorrido, with a lineage that stretches back four decades to the taco truck run by Alberto De Loera. His son, Jose, carried on the family tradition by starting El Tacorrido, then opening Takoba on the East Side in 2010.
 
Taco A: Al pastor
A good al pastor isn’t afraid to tag tortilla and fingertips alike with orange spice and oil. And a good al pastor finds a balance between tangy tropical sweetness and slow-cooked pork. This is good al pastor. ($2)
 Tortilla: Doubled-up storebought corn
 
Taco B: Carne guisada
I expected roast beef and sloppy brown gravy. What I got was more like tri-tip in an herb-infused slow braise with skin-on potatoes. A handheld Sunday dinner. ($2)
 Tortilla: Grilled storebought flour
 
Taco C: Revuelta
The taco in general is one way to exercise a nose-to-tail philosophy. This taco in particular uses the pig from the inside out: stomach, shoulder and skin. The shoulder is familiar enough: carnitas in its simple, sturdy pork-choppiness. The skin (cuerito) and stomach (buche) demand a more studied reckoning, with one like folds of flesh-tone innertube, the other like half-melted gummi pigs. Taken together with onion and cilantro, their pas de trois is a rich dance of texture and flavor that makes this taco more than a butcher’s sampler. ($2)
 Tortilla: Doubled-up storebought corn
 
Taco D: Barbacoa
Just as cheese and wine have their puzzling positive descriptors (mold bloom and kerosene, respectively), to call barbacoa gelatinous, greasy and gamey is to pay it a compliment. Because that’s what makes beef’s cheeky outrider special. This barbacoa — with its chopped tangle of fiber and fat — deserves all the backhanded compliments you can throw at it. ($2)
 Tortilla: Doubled-up storebought corn
 
Not pictured (for a reason): Pescado
New-car smell? Delicious. New-car taste? Disastrous. With cabbage, mayo, pineapple and grilled tilapia, this fish taco squandered its potential by tasting like a test drive in a sunbaked Kia Sorrento. ($2.50)
 
 Salsa: Avocado, tomatillo, cilantro and jalapeño come together for a fresh jolt of deep grassy green and easy heat in El Tacorrido’s salsa verde, one of Austin’s best. Its molcajete salsa is a chunky celebration of jalapeño and roasted tomato with mellow, slow-building heat. Salsa roja is the weaker of the three, speckled with the stiff skins of all the chilies and tomatoes who met their fiery ends here.
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The 500 Tacos Project
 
 
(Photos by Mike Sutter © Fed Man Walking)