500 Tacos: Jalapeño’s Taco Bar

A taco a day for 2015 — and then some
Jalapeño’s Taco Bar
1940 W. William Cannon Drive (map), 512-645-0133. Hours: 7am-10pm Sun-Wed; 7am-11pm Thu-Sat
By Mike Sutter | © Fed Man Walking | 06.07.15
“Taco Bar” is only part of the story at Jalapeño’s. This is a full-press Tex-Mex joint, where enchiladas are the most popular order — so says the waiter — and the menu swerves from steaks and tortas to caldos and shrimp cocktails. And there’s an actual bar. But for this series, “Taco Bar” isn’t just part of the story. It’s the whole point.
The taco: Machacado and eggs
Machacado is one the egg’s best friends in a breakfast taco, bringing an equal measure of protein savoriness and texture with its hard-chip beef pedigree. Jalapeño's Taco Bar adds a layer of flavor with cooked onions and tomatoes, and I add a few of my own with divorciados-style splashes of red and green salsas. The whole menu is available throughout breakfast, but breakfast ends at noon. ($1.89)
 Tortillas: Jalapeño’s fights the good fight by making its own corn tortillas, but even the good guys come in second sometimes. These corn tortillas are strong and ripple with air pockets like bubbles in beer. But they’re bland and undercooked, no match for the flour tortillas, which overcome their storebought pedigree with a thorough turn on the grill to bring out good oil and toastiness.
 More tacos: My waiter recommended carne asada, and with good reason. It’s as plain as they come, just thin grilled steak on a tortilla for $2.99. But the meat is seared hard and left tender inside for a backyard barbecue flavor. Al pastor gets roughly the same treatment, but the result is only half as good, unredeemed by recessive adobo spice, a questionable value at $2.99. A much better value at $1.89 is a breakfast taco with tender cactus scrambled into eggs with onion and tomato with sharper acids to temper the sour nopalytic afterglow.
 Salsa: The well-blended tomato red has higher than average heat and good flavor. Creamy green jalapeño draws out the pepper’s best flavors then kills them with salt like snails on the sidewalk.
The 500 Tacos Project
(Photos by Mike Sutter © Fed Man Walking)