500 Tacos: Mi Ranchito
An Austin taco a day for 2015 — and then some
1105 FM 1626, Austin (map), 512-292-8107. Hours: 6am-10pm Mon-Sat; 6am-3pm Sun
Also at: 5200 E. William Cannon Drive (map)
By Mike Sutter | © Fed Man Walking | 10.28.15
The intersection of Manchaca Road and FM 1626 brings together not just two busy South Austin thoroughfares, but a thorough melting pot of South Austin cultures at Mi Ranchito as well: men in painters’ boots, soccer dads, jogger moms, flannel beards and sundress bangs. The counter is a fast and fluid pastiche of Spanish and English, and the low-ceilinged dining room stays packed through breakfast. With dim lights and plenty of seating, this Mi Ranchito is worlds away from its gas-station cousin on William Cannon, but they both have good salsa bars and the tacos to back them up.
Taco A: Deshebrada
Take a first-rate Texas pit brisket, pull away the smoke and braise it in tomatoes and chiles, and then you’d have an idea what this deshebrada tastes like. Its fibers are long and lean, but it’s animated by beef stock and grilled onions, and it’s packed like a personal-size pot roast into twin corn tortillas. ($2.19)
Taco B: Carnitas
This pulled pork taco shares more in common with a Thanksgiving turkey than just the grassy herbs that flavor it. It’s also the same kind of long roast that leaves the meat on the dry side. But like a good roast turkey, these carnitas keep just enough juice to stay soft and carry flavors not much different than the union of light and dark turkey. Carnitas: The other white meat. ($2.19)
Taco C: Machacado and egg
Traditionally, machacado is dried and shredded beef. A breakfast taco with jerky slivers. At Mi Ranchito, machacado is more like barbacoa: fat, soft and a little bit funky. With pico, fresh eggs and two kinds of real cheese, it’s an excellent breakfast taco, even if it’s nothing like the machacado you know. ($2.25)
► Pastor: Perfumed with adobo and cut in shawarma-style ribbons, this is trompo-style pastor from a flat-top grill operation. A good value at $2.19.
► Migas and more: Breakfast tacos start at $1.69 for two ingredients. But 56 more cents gets you the machacado mentioned above or migas with something extra: crumbled bacon (or ham, or chorizo). That’s in addition to the classic formula of eggs, shredded cheese, tortilla chips and pico. Too much salt throws this taco out of balance, and the bagged chips aren’t doing it any favors, but it’s something filling and unusual.
► Tortillas: Basic waxy flour and doubled-up white corn tortillas from a bag.
► Salsa: Fresh, cold and clean, the salsa bar at this Mi Ranchito carries limes and a tart quick-pickle escabeche of carrot and jalapeño. Those are just the opening acts for one of the best salsa bars in the city. The rest goes like this:
— Two creamy green sauces; one hot like puréed jalapeno, the other sweet with tomatillo skins.
— A thick, freshly roasted tomato and chile molcajete mashup.
— Cool, sweet salsa fresca with a cheerful balance of chunky red tomatoes, white onions, cilantro and jalapeños.
— Smoky roasted tomatillo with dried red chiles and Mexican oregano.
— Chopped and seasoned pico de gallo with crisp onions, jalapeño, tomatoes and cilantro.
The 500 Tacos Project
(Photos by Mike Sutter © Fed Man Walking)