500 Tacos: Matamoros Tacos
A taco a day for 2015 — and then some
10304 N. Lamar Blvd. beside the Metro Star Food Mart (map), 512-997-7822. Hours: 6am-11pm daily
By Mike Sutter | © Fed Man Walking | 06.22.15
If I wrote up the same taco every time, we’d all be bored to death 500 ways before this taco series ended. As much as I love al pastor, I’ll jump all around the tortilla Twister mat to get a handle on places like Matamoros Tacos, where an old Statesman colleague said his favorite taco is buche, the lining of a pig’s stomach. I’ve had buche at El Tacorrido as part of a three-meat revuelto, but never on its own. And so the Twister needle spins to a different part of the wheel today. A segment marked by duct tape, colored gray with “other meats” scrawled in Sharpie. Oh, and their al pastor is just fine. And my total for the six tacos in this report? $12.75.
Taco A: Buche
Buche is pig’s stomach, and it takes a strong stomach to get past the smell: like a cheesemonger at the fish market. But like blue cheese, it’s one of those foods that smells bad but tastes good somehow, when the richness and soul-stirring fattiness overtake the initial funk. At Matamoros, it’s boiled and chopped, then fried on the flat-top, creating a firm outer layer and an inner layer like luncheon loaf, then finished with onions and cilantro. I borrowed fried onions from another taco, then finished it off with chopped radish and lime. Your kids won’t touch it, but I’ll try anything once. And to quote Lynyrd Skynyrd: “Things I like, I’ll try ’em twice.” You got that right. ($2.50 on corn; $2.75 on flour)
Taco B: Tripas
A little farther along the GI tract but on a different animal, beef tripas are boiled, chopped and fried bits from the small intestine. They’re less aromatically challenging than buche, with a smell like beef stew simmered in bone marrow, no more challenging than country sausage. They’re cooked dark brown here, not quite crispy, but enough to start rendering the fat inside the tiny tubes, creating a curd like savory cottage cheese. ($2.50 on corn, $2.75 on flour)
Taco C: Bistec
Rest easy. The offal man has gone away. Just grilled beef, fried onions, fresh avocado and queso fresco on corn tortillas. A simple, savory street taco at a giveaway price of $2.
► The scene: Matamoros Tacos is connected to the Metro Star Food Mart, but it has eight small tables of its own and a rail along the wall with a few more chairs. To order, you window shop at a steam table of pans filled with carnitas, fajitas, tripas and other taco meats, plus bubbling chicharrones and bistec ranchero. Eggs are cooked to order, and breakfast is served all day. They also sell tortas, sopes, gorditas, quesadillas, fish and enchilada plates. Cash only. Drinks — including a big selection of Jarritos sodas for $1.49 — are sold in the convenience store next door.
► For breakfast: From 6-11 a.m. Monday-Friday, a two-item breakfast taco is just $1 ($1.50 otherwise), and I’ll recommend freshly scrambled eggs and creamy frijoles on a grilled flour tortilla. Matamoros also makes dense, fatty barbacoa for $2.25 on flour.
► Tortillas: Commercial flour and doubled-up small white corn tortillas are toasted on the flat-top.
► Salsa: A free salsa station holds five iced-down pans. Green tomatillo-jalapeño salsa is hot and bright, while a red chile de arbol is low and smoky. There’s fresh pico and chopped radish, and best of all, a bin of onion-carrot escabeche more sweet than hot, with whole pickled jalapeños.
The 500 Tacos Project
(Photos by Mike Sutter © Fed Man Walking)