500 Tacos: Janitzio

A taco a day for 2015 — and then some
600 W. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. (map), 512-322-0040. Hours: 7am-9pm Mon-Fri; 8am-5pm Sat-Sun
By Mike Sutter | © Fed Man Walking | 03.27.15
JULY 2015 UPDATE: Janitzio has closed and will be replaced by a second location of Kesos Taco House.
Janitzio has been part of Austin since 1995, and it’s taken me 20 years and a 500 Tacos series to finally make it here. For years, its only calling card was a weathered “Al Estilo Michoacan” taqueria sign out front. But a recent facelift has given Janitzio a fresh blue paint scheme and a deck out front. And with breakfast tacos all day, let’s hope UT students do a better job finding it than I did.
The taco: Beef milanesa
In more than 100 taco-shop visits for this series, this is the first milanesa taco I’ve run across. “Like chicken-fried steak in a tortilla” is how the waitress described it with pinpoint accuracy. It’s a texture more satisfying than grilled steak, a crunch with more flavor than fried chicken. Janitzio slices it wafer thin, pounds it out for tenderness, hits it with pepper and gives it a loose dredge that sheds crunchy flakes like breakfast cereal ambassadors for the savory side. Dressed with fresh pico and cool iceberg lettuce, it’s an unexpected indulgence. ($2.75)
 Migas: With a grilled pico de gallo chop, crisp tortilla chips, melted cheese and eggs scrambled like a construction worker’s lunch, these $2.50 migas are the shop’s top-selling breakfast taco. I can see why.
 Barbaco and al pastor: You can tell a lot about a place by its barbacoa and al pastor, and what you can tell about Janitzio is that the barbacoa never sleeps. It’s been fussed over long enough to be fatty and tender, with most of the cheeky funk eased out. The al pastor says that it may not have the pineapple twang of the classic style, but you get a lot of it in a taco for just $2.75.
 Tortillas: Thin, grilled commercial flour and storebought white corn, doubled up.
 Salsa and queso: There’s a red salsa fresca with sweet, chopped tomatoes, lots of onion and moderate heat, and a jalapeño verde that’s too thin and watery to do any damage, good or bad. I gambled and lost on thin, processed cheese queso for $3.50.
The 500 Tacos Project
(Photos by Mike Sutter © Fed Man Walking)