500 Tacos: La Adelita Meat Market
A taco a day for 2015 — and then some
La Adelita Meat Market
Taqueria hours: 6:30am-7pm daily. Store hours: 7am-9pm daily.
By Mike Sutter | © Fed Man Walking | 12.20.15
The manager at this small Mexican grocery in Cedar Park told me half his taqueria clients are Anglo. That surprised me, because most of the business is conducted in Spanish. And as my country aunt would say, “This ain’t Taco Bell,” with an array of steampans filled with Mexican specialties like mollejas, deshebrada, borrego, barbacoa and tripas. But after five tacos built on fresh corn tortillas, my surprise turned into something more like hope — hope that my people are discovering the same great foods I’ve spent the last year discovering myself.
The taco: Guisado de puerco con nopales
Beef is the usual suspect for this cooking technique, which can take the form of a chile braise or a thick gravy. Pork works just as well, especially the way La Adelita does it, with a reduced chile guajillo braise that leaves behind a balance of salt and the pepper’s herbal heat. The meat is pulled and torn in fibers and knots with most of the fat rendered down, the moisture replaced in part by little green nubs of nopalito. Build out this taco with excellent pickled cabbage escabeche from the salsa bar. ($2.19)
► Discada: Of 354 taquerias in this series so far, this is the first discada I’ve seen, that mixing together of sausage, chorizo, tripas, pork and whatever else might be left around from who knows when. The name sounds something like “discards,” but it comes from the harrow discs upon which food was sometimes cooked and served in the farm fields. Whatever’s lost in freshness is made up for by the carnivoral congress of disparate spices, sauces, textures and personalities. Is it pastor, guisada, deshebrada or pibil? Um, yes. ($2.19)
► Barbacoa: There’s something about seeing chunks of beef cachete in a steaming pan that makes barbacoa better. More chunks, more texture, less sticky glaze from the fat. This is some of the best barbacoa of this series, with a clean taste that still shows respect for the style. ($2.39)
► Carnitas and pastor: Neither of these tacos showed well after who knows how long in the steam pans. The meat had started to dry; the fats congealed. Both the fall-apart carnitas and the achiote-infused pastor were OK, but they were shadows of what could have been. ($2.19 each)
► Breakfast: The taqueria makes two-ingredient breakfast tacos for $1.69, but breakfast stops at 10 a.m.
► Tortillas: La Adelita makes some of the fluffiest, mellow-textured, best-tasting corn tortillas in this series. Eat them fast; their delicacy comes at the expense of their strength. Flour tortillas come from a bag.
► Salsa: Even some of the fanciest taco places in Austin can’t touch the salsa bar at this humble Cedar Park tiendita. Four salsa bins to start with, from mild tomatillo to shimmering hot chile de arbol and emulsified jalapeño to a punishing habanero. Condiments include whole chiles de arbol, Mexican oregano, fresh cilantro, chopped onions, pickled jalapeños, sliced radishes, fresh pico de gallo and one more: an ecabeche of cabbage, carrot, red and green peppers and oregano that’s one of the best all-around garnishes in this series.
► A note on hours: Like so many places, it pays to call ahead here. While the stated taqueria hours go until 7 p.m., they had broken down and cleaned the serving line and closed at 4:30 the day I was there.
The 500 Tacos Project
(Photos by Mike Sutter © Fed Man Walking)