500 Tacos: Elida’s Sazon Tropical
An Austin taco a day for 2015 — and then some
Elida’s Sazon Tropical
Hours: 8am-4pm Mon; 8am-8pm Tue; 8am-6pm Wed; 8am-8pm Thu; 8am-6pm Fri; 8am-9pm Sat
By Mike Sutter | © Fed Man Walking | 09.08.15
Car washes and gas stations are magnets for taco wagons, even in the eclectic North Loop neighborhood, where Elida’s parked its trailer at the Espuma car wash the first week of August. Across the street is the Vegan Nom trailer, and the two form a kind of yin and yang of taco culture. The Nom with its disciplined vegan ethos and Elida’s, with the childlike abandon of raspas, aguas frescas and mangonadas and a mix of Honduran and Mexican street foods dripping with butter and cheese and beef and pork, all of it served on picnic tables under a long, shaded canopy.
The taco: Al pastor
If Elida’s is channeling a tropical vibe, pineapple’s one way to get there. It’s added as a condiment to chewy nuggets of pork shaggy and salty with mild adobo seasoning, pork that would have benefited from pineapple juice in the marinade and the fruit cooked in rather than added later. Dressed with fresh onions and cilantro, it’s still a decent $2.50 street taco.
► Beef fajita: This might seem like a default taco for the misadventurous eater, but beef is a test of any kitchen, and Elida’s gets by with a C-minus, chopping the meat too small and working it over until dryness and salt take the upper hand. ($2.50, with lettuce and tomato)
► The Honduran side: I’ve come to regard the simple Honduran baleada — mashed beans, stinky cheese, butter and crema on a flour tortilla — as respectable comfort food, a comfort derived from the baked-bread flavor and texture of thick, handmade flour tortillas. So when it comes instead on a wide, flat commercial-style tortilla, it’s just a bean and cheese taco with day-old dairy breath. ($2.50)
► Tortillas: Stiff storebought flour and mealy double-layer commercial corn tortillas.
► Salsa: Elida’s salsa fresca is a sweet balance of onion, tomatoes and peppers with a nice vinegar twang. There’s also a creamy jalapeño verde with medium heat and a thin, scorching habanero sauce.
► Mangonada: If you like sour, sweet and salty all in one glass, this is your mangonada. And you are welcome to the rest of mine. The mangonada is juice, crushed ice, fresh cubes of mango and chile salt spiked with a straw that’s covered in the sour fruit rollup paste called chamoy. The chile heat saps the ice of its power, and the salty-sour aftertaste reminds me of Gatorade from the losing bench. ($4)
(Photos by Mike Sutter © Fed Man Walking)