500 Tacos: Little Mexico
A taco a day for 2015 — and then some
2304 S. First St. (map), 512-462-2188. Hours: 7am-10pm Mon-Sat; 8am-9pm Sun
By Mike Sutter | © Fed Man Walking | 07.05.15
The last time I sat in this booth at Little Mexico, I had a big bowl of caldo with Austin artist Laura Jackson in 2000. Lunch was our reward for walking the stretch of South First Street known as the Tex-Mex Mile, with her sketching each of the 10 Mexican restaurants on that mile to illustrate a map when I was art director at the Statesman’s XL magazine. The map of that Tex-Mex Mile has changed in 15 years, but the caldo’s still on the menu at Little Mexico, along with enchiladas, mole, fajitas, Tex-Mex antojitos and a long list of breakfast and lunch tacos for less than $2.
The taco: Picadillo
They’re big on decoration at Little Mexico. Note the patchwork of red, green and orange paints, the Mexican blankets on the windows and the plastic pennants that crisscross the courtyard. They save their austerity for tacos, which come with no frills. No onions, no cilantro, no limes, no garnish of any kind save for the red salsa, or green sauce if you ask nicely. But I’d trade the lettuce, tomato and shredded cheese on most of the tired ground beef tacos in Austin if they’d use picadillo like this: beef with a loose balance of grease and lean, cooked with tomatoes and onions and salt by someone who tastes their food before it leaves the kitchen. It’s good all by itself. ($1.99)
► Less is more or less what you’d expect: The dry, stiff chunks of carnitas and tired tangle of barbacoa both make me miss the civilities of onion and cilantro ($1.99 each). Bell pepper and onion lively up a simple, well-priced beef fajita taco at $1.99. And for breakfast, which is served until 3 p.m., Little Mexico packs fresh eggs, jalapeños, tomatoes, onions and value into a flour tortilla for eggs a la Mexicana at $1.50.
► Tortillas: Commercial flour and single-layer white corn tortillas.
► Salsa: The red table salsa is a basic jar-style picante. Salsa verde, available on request, is a mild and salty whirl of tomatillo and jalapeño.
The 500 Tacos Project
(Photos by Mike Sutter © Fed Man Walking)