500 Tacos: La Hacienda Market

An Austin taco a day for 2015 — and then some
La Hacienda Market
1812 Payton Gin Road, Austin (map), 512-973-3110
Taqueria hours: 7am-8pm daily
Also at: 2410 E. Riverside Drive (map); 6425 S. Interstate 35 (map); 7517 Cameron Road (map)
By Mike Sutter | © Fed Man Walking | 11.08.15
I like Mexican grocery stores with taquerias. I don’t like La Hacienda on Payton Gin. The market part is fine — colorful produce, the butcher counter’s squared away, piñatas, reasonably clean. But the taqueria’s a trainwreck of pre-made meats sweltering in steampans, with an ordering system that almost guarantees you won’t get what you asked for and a staff that made me feel invisible. I don’t care about any of that if the tacos are good. They’re not. And with the market’s poor ventilation, you’ll carry that reminder in your clothes the rest of the day.
The taco: Borrego
The taco so nice they gave it to me twice. I ordered one each of borrego, barbacoa, fajitas, al pastor and tripas. What I got was two fajitas, two borrego, one al pastor, one tripas and no barbacoa. The problem is, you order at the cash register without a menu. Not just by how many corn or flour tortilla tacos you want like at other markets, but the whole taco order, meat by meat. The cashier heard one thing, wrote down another; then the kitchen saw one thing and made another. How many degrees of separation does that make? Not enough to get me away from dried out, gamey, stringy roasted lamb in the cheapest flour tortilla they could find. My advice: Head south to Quinta Caporales, where they’ve figured out how a grocery store taqueria takes care of business. ($2.29 flour/$1.89 corn)
 More bad tacos: Fajitas, al pastor and tripas all suffered the same malady: the slow, dry march to steampan purgatory. The fajitas — even dressed with peppers and onions — were stiff as a Slim Jim and tasted like cigarette ash. The pastor wore its sugary pineapple like a shield against acrid overcooking, and the tripas managed to be dry, greasy and rubbery all at the same time. ($1.89 corn/$2.29-$2.39 flour)
 Tortillas: In a grocery store that sells 10 brands of tortillas better than these gummy factory flour and tasteless white corn numbers, there’s no reason they couldn’t trade up to a better class of tortilla.
 Salsa: A tidy little salsa bar carries limes, onions, cilantro and three salsas: creamy-hot jalapeño green, medium-hot chile de arbol and a slurry of viscous tomatillo overrun by onions and cilantro.
The 500 Tacos Project
(Photos by Mike Sutter © Fed Man Walking)