500 Tacos: La Flor
An Austin taco a day for 2015 — and then some
4901 S. First St. in the Hula Hu market lot, Austin (map), 512-417-4214
Hours: 6am to 2 or 2:30 pm Mon-Sat
By Mike Sutter | © Fed Man Walking | 09.25.15
A food writer whose opinion I respect said this about La Flor: “They serve the best picadillo I ever had in Austin. Hand-patted tortillas, too. After El Taco Rico shuttered, I reckoned they went into the #1 spot for carts in town.” That writer is R.L. Reeves, who was Austin’s top under-the-radar food scout before he took off for New Orleans last year. Meanwhile, Reeves is on a quest of his own now: 500 Po Boys. Getting to that number in In New Orleans shouldn’t be a problem, just like 500 Tacos in Austin.
The taco: Picadillo
A confident collective of juicy ground beef, cooked tomatoes, mild chile spice and soft potatoes, this picadillo finds a steady line between America’s pop-culture co-option of the taco and a respectable Mexican street snack that prefers onions and cilantro instead of lettuce and tomatoes. So far, Dos Chivos has the picadillo edge in this series, but Reeves wasn’t here to see that one open. ($2)
► Tortillas: This series still has three months to go, but these thick, dusty, velvety corn tortillas will easily make the Top 10, made by hand and speckled with color from the grill. Even the storebought flour tortillas are brought to life with a crackled flat-top toasting.
► Deshebrada (above left): Reeves talked up the picadillo at La Flor, but it’s another of his favorite topics — deshebrada — that best represents this trailer. A true standard-bearer of braised beef, pulled in long silky fibers with tomato and chile tanginess, finished on the grill for crisp edges like beefy breakfast toast, dressed simply with onions and cilantro. ($2)
► Carnitas: This shredded and pulled pork has all the textural gifts of deshebrada, with salted pork fat in place of the braise. ($2)
► Carne guisada and beef fajitas: In La Flor’s hands, the gravy is built right into the carne guisada. No need for a gloopy brown gravy salt bath. It’s just tender, slow-braised stew beef with pico de gallo, onions and cilantro. In rarefied company like this, the trailer’s beef fajitas can’t get away with being this fatty and tough, even when they’re dressed with caramelized onions and peppers. ($2 each)
► Breakfast: You can really taste the eggs in a ham-and-egg taco. In part because the ham’s chopped into bland little cubes and there’s not much of it. But also because the egg is hard-fried, with a broken-yolk separation of white and gold, draped with a molten slice of American cheese. Not the trailer’s best work. ($2).
► Salsa: Salt makes a caustic ruin of both the mild tomato red and hotter tomatillo verde.
The 500 Tacos Project
(Photos by Mike Sutter © Fed Man Walking)