500 Tacos: Macho’s Tacos
An Austin taco a day for 2015 — and then some
12110 Manchaca Road, Austin (map), 512-291-5104
Hours: 6am-4pm Mon-Fri; 7am-4pm Sat; 7am-3pm Sun
By Mike Sutter | © Fed Man Walking | 10.18.15
In far South Austin, the sunrise is as shadowy orange as Mordor to the east, and I’m thinking that this plate of tacos could do the Hidden Pines firefighters some good. They’d be welcome here at Macho’s Tacos, a bright and clean neighborhood cafe where the staff greeted more than half the customers by name, including people from the pet spa to the left and the people spa to the right.
The taco: Carnitas
I’m accustomed to carnitas being pulled and toasted like pork floss, but the style allows for a wide range of textures. This is more like chunks of pork shoulder, or a diced pork chop, or even pork belly for the pieces with a bright white fatcap. But as long as it’s roasted pork, and as long as it’s hot and fresh, it still gets credit for being carnitas. This taco is all of those things for just $2.25 on a handmade corn tortilla.
► Pastor: A shop that understands pastor knows it can’t use the same meat as carnitas and have either one maintain its integrity. This shop takes its pastor to a leaner, more satisfyingly chewy place, grilled on the flat-top as shiny and red as a Chinese spare rib, a red that I wish would’ve delivered more intense pastor spice. ($2.79)
► Barbacoa: They use real beef cheek here, steamed so the fat and lean are the same velvet consistency, then cooked again for some crust and beef sugar on the fringe. ($2.79)
► Picadillo: Of all the great Mexican taco styles, how did picadillo come to dominate the American market? I feel sorry for the 10-year-old me when I eat ground beef like this, with no flash of tomato or onion or anything besides the barest trace of homogenized taco seasoning. ($2.25)
► Eggs and beans: Because this scramble of fresh eggs and earthy, smooth refritos is so fresh and full, I’d have confidence in the rest of the breakfast taco menu. ($1.95, plus 35 cents for cheese)
► Tortillas: Macho’s flour tortillas are “made for them,” the cashier said, but they’re just the basic waxy bag style. The corn tortillas are made in-house, and they’re thick and strong, with pronounced maíz flavor.
► Salsa: Iced-down bowls hold three solid taco-shop standards: mild and creamy jalapeño, mild puréed tomato red and a tangy chile de arbol like flinty marinara. For the bold, there’s habanero with a warning printed right on the code-red bottle, but you can take the heat.
The 500 Tacos Project
(Photos by Mike Sutter © Fed Man Walking)