500 Tacos: La Buena Market

A taco a day for 2015 — and then some
La Buena Market
10014 N. Lamar Blvd. (map), 512-494-4501. Hours: 6am-10:30pm daily; breakfast served all day
By Mike Sutter | © Fed Man Walking | 07.19.15
From one culture’s durable culinary standby to another’s, this building on North Lamar abides. In its recent former life, it hosted dim sum as T&S Seafood. But after a plastic surgery regilding of red and gold, it’s now the home of La Buena Market, a convenience store with a kitchen in the back that makes Mexican and Honduran food.
The taco: Spicy carnitas
I’m leery of steampan taquerias, for a reason. Who knows how long all those shimmering stewpots have sat bubbling and congealing? And who dips carnitas out of something like that in the first place? The answers in this case are “just long enough” and “carnitas can be many things, including a hot green peppery stew full of shredded pork roasted hard at its corners but soft enough in the center to absorb the braise like beans absorb pot liquor.” Order it on double corn with onions and cilantro, then eat it quick, before it melts back into a primordial soup on the plate.  (No taco prices on the menu; no receipt. My plate of four tacos cost $8 and change.)
 Barbacoa: The steampan gives and the steampan takes. For barbacoa, it gives moisture and knocks down the gaminess. But it takes away from the sticky, fatty, cheek-meat character that draws us to barbacoa in the first place.
 Spicy chicken: This looked good being spooned onto the quesadilla the guy ahead of me ordered. Irregular chunks of chicken painted with thin red sauce, dotted with pepper seeds. Tastes as good as it looks, with firm texture, light and dark chicken flavor and lingering heat.
 Eggs and beans: Smashed red beans on a flour tortilla reminded me of the baleadas I had at Antojitos Hondureños, if those premier league baleadas had a junior team. No coincidence here: La Buena also makes baleadas.
 Tortillas: Doubled-up, soggy corn tortillas straight from a bag. Thin, greasy flour tortillas go from bag to grill for a little color. The cook said she pats tortillas by hand “only for the plates.”
 Salsa: The jalapeño-tomatillo salsa verde was spoiled badly enough for a spit take. A sluggish, stemmy hot red salsa helped wash away that awful taste.
The 500 Tacos Project
(Photos by Mike Sutter © Fed Man Walking)