500 Tacos: Juan in a Million

 
 
A taco a day for 2015 — and then some
 
Juan in a Million
2300 E. Cesar Chavez St. (map), 512-472-3872, www.juaninamillion.com
Hours: 7am-3pm daily
 
By Mike Sutter | Fed Man Walking | 01.05.15
 
Juan Meza was the dapper don coming out of his restaurant on a cold, wet Friday, in a thunder gray topcoat the color of his hair, swept in a screen idol’s wave that lends him an air of sly mischief. He had time for one last handshake of the day, his signature hammer of the gods downstroke that calls for the same brotherly timing as a high-five. Meza wears his fame well, a fame born of the media’s adoration of the Don Juan, the supersized taco that turned his little breakfast and lunch taco shop into a made-for-TV cause celebre. Been there? Done that? Get the T-shirt.
 
The taco: The Don Juan
There are better tacos at Juan in a Million than the Don Juan. The dried beef machacado with egg and tomato, a respectable beef fajita, even simple eggs and nopales (all pictured below). Each has more flavor and sense of place in a convivial East Side taco shop. The Don Juan takes that neighborhood integrity and smothers it in a homogenous hillock of eggs, potatoes, overcooked bacon, cheese and salt. If it weren’t sitting on a tortilla, the Don Juan Juan could be a mound of breakfast hash from Anywhere, USA. Yes, there’s enough food piled on one tortilla to make a half-dozen tacos, but the Don Juan trades authenticity for overstuffed novelty. And novelty tastes a lot like mediocrity. ($4.60)
 Tortilla: Think of flavorless, mass-market flour tortillas on the shelf at Brookshire’s. Now imagine paying 20 cents apiece for three or four of them to fortify the Don Juan. With four extra tortillas, the Don Juan came to $5.40. For that, I could get two smaller — and much better — breakfast tacos.
 Salsa: A cold, thick, reliable taco-shop red with medium heat and a twang of white onion. You’ll need it if you plan to taste anything but the color beige.
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The 500 Tacos Project