500 Tacos: Las Trancas
A taco a day for 2015 — and then some
1210 E. Cesar Chavez St. (map), 512-701-8287. Hours: 11am-midnight Tue-Sun, closed Mon
By Mike Sutter | © Fed Man Walking | 03.02.15
Weird food enthusiast Andrew Zimmern (As Seen on TV!) likes Austin. A lot. And he likes Austin chef Paul Qui. A lotter. When Zimmern asked Qui where he eats in Austin, Qui came back with the expected: Franklin Barbecue, Justine’s, his own Qui and East Side King operations. And the unexpected: a $1.50 taco trailer at Cesar Chavez and Attayac called Las Trancas. “I like ordering all the offal tacos extra crispy.” Turns out I like them, too. A lot.
The taco: Tripas, extra crispy
Cleaned, boiled and chopped into rings the size of Cheerios, tripe is no more intimidating than tortellini. It plays out much the same: a firm, resilient bite with a cheesy twang at the finish. Still with me? Now take those rings and fry them crisp on the flat-top. With cilantro, onions and a squeeze of lime, the result is a loose, salted crunch and crumble suspended somewhere between the texture and taste of fat and lean. And while it won’t take the place of popcorn shrimp in the hearts of little norteños, it’s a normalizing antidote to our apprehensions about the Weird World of Food. ($1.75; most other tacos $1.50)
► Size matters: Not saying these tacos are too little and too light even for their small price, but six of them fit on a plate. And a gust of wind blew two of them right off that plate. Guess I’m saying that after all.
► Keep Tacos Weird: Dig deeper outside your comfort zone with buche (pig’s stomach) for fatty nuggets like a cross between pork rinds and marshmallows. For some, the tongue and cheek of barbacoa is too much. At Las Trancas, “barbacoa” is mainstream shredded brisket, mild and familiar. Cabeza is the bolder choice, pulled from cheek meat for shorter, fattier fibers with a more robust flavor. ($1.50 each)
► Take a walk on the mild side: If you just can’t with the organ meat, Las Trancas has tough little ribbons of carne asada or a charred approximation of pork al pastor. Both of them combined aren’t half as interesting as any one of the offal alternatives. ($1.50 each)
► Tortillas: Storebought, 3.5-inch flour and doubled-up corn
► Salsa: Do you like your medium-hot tomatillo salsa green with jalapeños? Or red with tomatoes? You’re covered either way. Apply liberally in accordance with your organ-meat sensitivities.
The 500 Tacos Project
(Photos by Mike Sutter © Fed Man Walking)