500 Tacos: Las Palomas

A taco a day for 2015 — and then some
Las Palomas
3201 Bee Caves Road, Suite 122, West Lake Hills (map), 512-327-9889, www.laspalomasrestaurant.com
Hours: Lunch 11am-2pm Tue-Sat; dinner 5-9:30pm Tue-Thu, 5-10pm Fri-Sat
By Mike Sutter | © Fed Man Walking | 10.27.15
The Corona family founded Las Palomas 32 years ago, and it’s still one of the few independent table-service restaurants in West Lake Hills. The founders’ daughter, MariCarmen Dale, still runs the place, offering alternatives to Tex-Mex from the Mexican heartland like cochinita pibil, mole, rellenos and ceviche. But this is West Lake, so Las Palomas also makes fajitas, nachos, crispy tacos and margaritas — because Westlake kids and their Westlake grownups want what they want.
The taco: Beef fajitas
For about the same price as a taco plate with rice and beans at Las Palomas, I can get a hot skillet of beef fajitas with grilled onions and a cool plate of guacamole, pico, cheese, lettuce and sour cream. They seal the deal with rice and beans and a steamer full of tortillas. From that sizzling plancha, I can make three or four tacos from thick skirt steak with a healthy sear, if not exactly the grill flavors that come with it. The flavor comes instead from a finishing sauce that leaves just a trace of mild or spicy smoky chile afterglow. Dressed with cool guacamole that carries a fresh onion crunch and pico de gallo with lots of cilantro and a sharp jalapeño bite, these are tacos I’m happy to build myself. ($13)
 Tostada trio: Las Palomas shows its true colors with an unassuming appetizer plate. The Tostada Trio is a satisfying tour of interior styles conducted with three small, freshly fried corn tostadas spread with beans and topped with cochinita pibil, chicken mole and ceviche, with guacamole on the side. The cochinita is pulled pork with a tender bite, pink onions and achiote twang. The mole takes a minute to find its voice over the low buzz of refritos and plain white chicken, but it eventually sings out with sweetness, chile spices and a cinnamon baseline. And while I question the wisdom behind serving ceviche on a warm tostada on a plate too hot to touch, it’s gone too quickly to matter, with firm white fish, avocado and pico in a brisk wash of lime. That’s a lot of fuss over a $7 appetizer, but it’s a satisfying meal by itself, and the best way to get a taste of what Las Palomas does best.
 Sleeping with the fishes: Silty, over-sauced and underprovisioned, fish tacos were poor ambassadors for Las Palomas earlier this year. ($12 for two with rice and beans)
 White on rice: I respect Las Palomas for serving white rice instead of the pale orange stuff that passes for “Mexican” rice around town. But still, when it comes to rice and plain refried beans, it seems like they’re not even trying.
 Tortillas: Basic storebought flour and white corn tortillas.
 Salsa: Las Palomas is a free chips and sauce kind of place, and the sauce is built for that purpose, a loose blender red defined by tomatoes, onions, cilantro and jalapeño, in that order.
The 500 Tacos Project
(Photos by Mike Sutter © Fed Man Walking)