500 Tacos: Joe’s Bakery
A taco a day for 2015 — and then some
By Mike Sutter | © Fed Man Walking | 04.10.15
How close is the relationship between customers and crew at Joe’s Bakery? The whole front of house staff stopped to serenade a guy at the counter with a Spanish canción de cumpleaños by the light of a single candle in a pastry, led by Maggie Flores, who’s been a waitress here for more than 40 years. For its own 50th birthday, Joe’s gave itself an old-fashioned diner counter by the bakery cases up front, and founder Joe Avila’s granddaughter — co-owner Regina Estrada — rehung the dozens of framed photos and print articles that tell the story of Joe’s, a place where everybody knows tu nombre.
The taco: Bacon, eggs, beans and cheese
Two things define breakfast at Joe’s: flour tortillas and bacon. The flour tortillas come hot and fresh from Joe’s own kitchen, and the bacon’s dredged in flour before it hits the flat-top — not the deep-fryer, as Regina Estrada will tell you — for a crunch that holds up from tip to tip, no matter what else it shares a taco with. The best way to appreciate the artistry is to keep it simple: bacon and eggs with beans and cheese to hold it together. This is one of Austin’s very best breakfast tacos. ($2.39)
► Tortillas: Joe’s shifted years ago from hand-rolling their flour tortillas to using a machine to do the heavy lifting. But they’ve fine-tuned that machine to make tortillas that are light and fluffy but as durable as El Stretch Armstrong. Why make flour instead of corn? Estrada said that when families get together to make tortillas, they’re generally making flour, not corn. And Joe’s is, above all, a family pace.
► Mas tacos: You come to Joe’s for a taco with bacon, but if I had to name the next three, they’d be carne guisada (made with pork, not beef, in a light chili gravy, $1.99), barbacoa (mild and fatty cheek meat with cilantro and onions, $2.39), and migas con todo (because eggs, tomatoes, onions and peppers are a natural match for tortilla chips and cheese, $2.49).
► Menudo: Just once before you die, try the soup that smells like death is on the way. But with a fortifying rehydrating, salty broth, Joe’s cow-belly stew can also bring you back to life the morning after.
► Salsa: What you see in the dripcut jar on the table is what you get: hot jalapeño salsa verde.
(Photos by Mike Sutter © Fed Man Walking)