500 Tacos: El Torito
A taco a day for 2015 — and then some
6616 S. Congress Ave. (map), 512-462-6010. Hours: 7am-4pm Mon-Fri; 8am-4pm Sat-Sun
By Mike Sutter | © Fed Man Walking | 05.07.15
El Torito’s humble storefront gets lost in the glare of the more polished Taqueria Vallarta next door. But with handmade flour and corn tortillas, towering aguas frescas and bean-and-cheese tacos for 89 cents after 10 a.m., the Little Bull fights like it has something to prove.
Taco A: Bean and cheese
The least expensive taco in this series so far — and one of the best. A hot, salty blend of velvet-smooth and whole-bean pintos with deli quality shredded cheddar and jack cheeses just staring to melt into a fresh flour tortilla grilled on the flat-top. (89 cents after 10 a.m.)
Taco B: Chicharron and eggs
The spongy, fatty enigma of stewed pigskin is an acquired taste. This is how you acquire it, with a reduced stock of tomato, onion and peppers scrambled into fluffy eggs that match the chicharrones texture-for-texture on a hot flour tortilla. ($2.75)
Taco C: Gringa
The Zen taco, as in “make me one with everything.” El Torito lays on brisk adobo spice with fresh pineapple twang over tender pork sliced in thin waves, shawarma-style. It’s finished with tangy jack cheese, cilantro, onion and fresh avocado on a fresh flour tortilla. It’s al pastor for the hard-to-please. ($3.50)
Taco D: Barbacoa
The lush fattiness of real cheek-meat barbacoa meets the slow-food taste of a well-seasoned roast. On fresh corn with onions and cilantro. ($2.95)
► Tortillas: Peeking through the kitchen pass, I saw tortillas being rolled and patted out by hand. The result is a flour tortilla with firm, flexible body and satisfying breadiness. Corn tortillas get the same handmade care, pulling in steamy layers with mellow maiz low notes.
► Chips and salsa: Chips worth paying $2.79 for, freshly fried for a jaw-affirming crunch and the weathered brown patina of the ancient recipe from which they might have sprung. They come with an aggressively hot, creamy jalapeño green and a tangy, sweet tomatillo and dried chile red with a slow-building, welcoming fire. Among the best red salsas in this series.
► Cool the fire: A 24-ounce glass of cold, pulpy piña agua fresca casts a sweet sunrise glow over the whole enterprise. ($2.50)
(Photos by Mike Sutter © Fed Man Walking)