500 Tacos: Kike’s Tacos

 
 
A taco a day for 2015 — and then some
 
Kike’s Tacos
11100 N. Lamar Blvd. in the Shamrock lot, Austin (map), 512-299-1156
Hours: 7am-3pm Mon-Sat
 
By Mike Sutter | © Fed Man Walking | 09.02.15
 
Versatility is a virtue. And an unexpected one at a gas station taco trailer. At this busy working intersection of Lamar and Kramer, René “Kike” Maruri lays down breakfast tacos, yes, but there’s also a range of styles done remarkably well: Milanesa, pastor, tripas and barbacoa, so new that it’s not even on the menu yet. Maruri opened Kike’s (pronounced KEE-kayz) seven months ago, after 15 years as a grill cook at Outback Steakhouse, a place where speed counts when you have 30 steaks cooking at the same time. “You have to be fast,” Murari says. And versatile. At Kike’s, he’s both.
 
Taco A: Milanesa
We take deep fryers and their particular style of crunch as a given. But frying on the flat-top is an underappreciated art, and these thin, tender cuts of beef wear their breading like a blue-collar knight’s armor, on a warm flour tortilla decorated only with lettuce and tomatoes to lighten things up. ($2)
 
Taco B: Machacado
Dried beef is the jerky of the breakfast taco world, something to keep the eggs around long enough to think about the morning ahead. These are worth thinking about, scrambled with a fresh chop of onion, tomato and jalapeño. ($1.50)
 
Taco C: Tripas
With so many things going on in the trailer’s puppet theater of a kitchen, the multi-step process to keep tripas from tasting like what they are is a big job. At Kike’s, they’re chopped, browned and crunchy, with a clean but resonantly earthbound flavor, tempered with sweet grilled onions. ($2)
 
Taco D: Al pastor
Just when trailer pastor is starting to go sour for me, Kike’s jumps in with ribbons of tender pork bristling with adobo spice and sweet pineapple cooked in. ($2)
 
 
 Barbacoa and more breakfast: Today’s insider tip: Look like a regular at Kike’s by ordering off-menu barbacoa (above left). Your reward, besides looking like a pro, is tender beef with a clean, fatty finish interlaced with fibers cooked crisp on the grill ($2). And Kike’s passes the workingman’s breakfast test with a potato-and-egg taco that’s tender where it needs to be and crisp along the edges for character ($1.50).
 Alambre: Even a simple taco of beef and onions gets special attention here, with crisp bacon and queso fresco folded in. ($2)
 Tortillas: Kike’s flour tortillas aren’t made at the trailer, but Maruri described them as “fresh.” He’s right. They’re soft and strong, with a shimmering lard character and a thorough sunspot toasting on the grill. Doubled-up yellow corn tortillas are more straightforward storebought.
 Salsa: Both the red and green salsas have the viscosity of 30-weight oil, but each one brings big, bright, unrelentingly hot flavors.
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The 500 Tacos Project
 
 
(Photos by Mike Sutter © Fed Man Walking)