500 Tacos: La Cocina de Consuelo
A taco a day for 2015 — and then some
La Cocina de Consuelo
Hours: 7am-3pm Mon-Fri, 6pm-9pm Tue-Fri, 8am-2pm Sun, closed Sat
By Mike Sutter | Fed Man Walking | 01.07.15
If 2004 could be called pioneer days, Consuelo Arroyo Martinez could be called a pioneer. That’s the year she opened La Cocina de Consuelo, in those hungry days before Burnet became Austin’s hottest Restaurant Road. La Cocina is a neighborhood Mexican cafe, where regulars might holler “Happy New Year, Connie” (they do) to the owner as she pats out fresh flour and corn tortillas in the back.
The tacos: Beef picadillo
This being a pioneer place and all, a classic Tex-Mex taco is the right choice. Ground beef and chili powder, a little potato and onion. It holds together with just the right fat ratio, staying put in the tortilla — whether crispy or soft — for a balanced bite finished with cool shredded lettuce and chopped tomato, a formula copied by so many over time that the original seems all the brighter by comparison. Connie will give you rice and beans if you like, but she rises above the combo-plate template with options like fideo — angel-hair spaghetti in an oil-rich broth with greens beans, corn and peas — and a refreshing, albeit wilted, salad of mango, crunchy jicama and cilantro. ($8.99 for a plate with two tacos and two sides). La Cocina also makes big, three-ingredient breakfast burritos for $3.29 before 11 a.m.
► Tortillas: A friend on Twitter figured out my subtext for this series: finding Austin’s best tortillas. Here are two: Thick, hand-patted flour like an abstract canvas painted with toasted brown and the sheen of integrated shortening. And resilient corn tortillas with heft and crackled edges, good on their own or fried to the shape of a friendly embrace for an old-school picadillo taco.
► Salsa: Both are green, but one is “red,” influenced by tomato but dominated by jalapeño and cilantro. The “green” green one is all tomatillo and sunshine over a spring garden of cilantro and soft onion. Both get the green light.
The 500 Tacos Project