500 Tacos: La Fuente’s
An Austin taco a day for 2015 — and then some
Hours: 8am-9pm Mon-Thu; 8am-10pm Fri-Sat; 8am-3pm Sun
By Mike Sutter | © Fed Man Walking | 09.27.15
The last time I mentioned a longstanding taqueria I’d managed to miss all these years, things didn’t go so well (see Janitzio). So I’ll just mention in passing that La Fuente’s has been serving Tex-Mex in a low, ranch-house bungalow on Circle S Road off South Congress since 1970 and leave it at that.
The taco: Crispy beef
Here’s a missed opportunity. La Fuente’s takes salty, juicy ground beef with a light chili powder profile, dresses it to overflowing with fresh tomatoes, crisp green lettuce and good ol’ American cheese, then throws it into a brittle, acrid premade crispy shell. If they fried their outstanding handmade corn tortillas instead, this wouldn’t just be the crispy taco with the No. 12 dinner; it’d be an event. ($8.39 as part of the No. 12 plate, with two enchiladas and a guacamole salad/$2.49 a la carte)
► The rest of No. 12: The dinner that brought the crispy taco along for the ride is the kind of thing that keeps you in business for 45 years. The guacamole on the taco plate is cool and fresh, just a mash of avocado and a generous dose of lime juice on good tomatoes and decent iceberg. Then comes a pair of freshly rolled enchiladas in mild brown gravy with melted cheese, served on a plate you should not touch until it cools down. The cheese is the appropriately processed kind, and the ground beef doesn’t make waves, but together they make a classic Tex-Mex plate.
► Tortillas: They do something special with handmade corn tortillas here. They’re thick and strong like a flour tortilla, but with a pronounced maîz flavor brought out by a sunspot toasting on the grill. Flour tortillas and crispy taco shells are commercial-grade.
► Carne guisada: It’s listed first on the “Especialidad de la Casa” page of the menu: The Fuente’s Special of carne guisada. “Beef tips in gravy” doesn’t tell the whole story, though, because this fork-tender meat is saturated throughout with a rich tomato braise dotted with bell pepper and dried chiles. ($10.99 with rice, beans and a guacamole salad/$2.59 as a taco)
► Breakfast: Except for Sunday, the wider breakfast menu shuts down at 11, but you can get a migas plate anytime. Huevos a la Mexicana is a good ambassador of that breakfast menu, with lightly scrambled eggs and a fresh chop of tomatoes, onions and peppers on a fresh corn tortilla.
► Salsa: A light chop of tomatoes, peppers and onions with a chili powder topnote.
The 500 Tacos Project
(Photos by Mike Sutter © Fed Man Walking)