500 Tacos: La Moreliana Meat Market
An Austin taco a day for 2015 — and then some
La Moreliana Meat Market #1
3600 S. Congress Ave., Austin (map), 512-851-2909
Taqueria hours: 6:30am-8pm daily
By Mike Sutter | © Fed Man Walking | 10.25.15
They were burning incense to cover the smell inside La Moreliana the last time I was here, but it still smelled like somebody had tipped over a porta-potty. It was a Friday night, and I walked in to find the taqueria counter closing up, so I went to the El Paisa trailer outside instead. And I made a mental note to stay away from La Moreliana, turned off both by the smell and the general disarray of a grocery store that looked like it had been bounced a foot off the ground and left that way. But on a wary second trip at lunchtime on a quieter weekday, the smell was gone, the shelves were squared away and the taqueria was going full steam.
The taco: Deshebrada
La Moreliana’s taqueria serves from stewpots and steampans, a recipe for uneven results. Deshebrada is the high point, because the knots of shredded beef get better the longer they simmer in sweet tomato and warm chile spice. It’s as juicy as stew meat, as dense as brisket and as pull-apart tender as pot roast. ($1.99 corn/$2.29 flour)
► Know the drill: Your first stop is the front cashier to pay for your tacos, which are priced by whether you want corn or flour tortillas. The smaller corn tortilla tacos run $1.99; the larger flour costs $2.29. Both are worth it. Then you present the receipt to the cook and tell her how you want those tortillas filled.
► The steampans giveth: Lean barbacoa — an oxymoron, really — benefits from the long, slow steam of the holding pan. Roasted tongue does not, a condition La Moreliana remedies by stewing it with a spicy chile verde.
► And the steampans taketh away: Chicharrones come out even more slick and gooey than you’d imagine stewed pork rinds to be. And al pastor is a salted wreck of pork that’s gone as mealy as its adobo marinade has grown bitter.
► Breakfast tacos: Yes, they do breakfast, but you have to get there before 11.
► Tortillas: There’s a butcher counter and a produce section. Nobody said anything about a bakery, so you get commercial flour or doubled-up white corn.
► Salsa: You want your scorch runny or thick? For the first, pick watery habanero; for the second, go with emulsified jalapeño. Best of all is a thick chile de arbol with sweetness, heat and a trace of something like sesame.
The 500 Tacos Project
(Photos by Mike Sutter © Fed Man Walking)