500 Tacos: Mi Rancho Meat Market
A taco a day for 2015 — and then some
Mi Rancho Meat Market
603 W. Ben White Blvd. (map), 512-383-5486. Hours: 5am-midnight daily
By Mike Sutter | Fed Man Walking | 01.12.15
I like the carnival montage of a Mexican grocery store, with banks of tomatillos and prickly pears, 10 kinds of jarred mole sauce and pulpy Boing sodas, the Pantone bakery cases and anatomical diversity of the meat counter. Mi Rancho has all of those things, but the colors have faded a shade. Nowhere did I feel that more than at the taqueria counter, where 11 kinds of premade taco fillings lay waiting for rescue from the Island of Misfit Meats.
The taco: Chicharrones
There’s no way this doesn’t look like science gone wrong, a morass of jellied tissue in protoplasm — with cilantro. Welcome to stewed chicharrones, made from the same pork rinds we crunch when all the other snacks are gone. Except now it’s making the tortilla as slick as a fleshtone wetsuit. Sight and touch. Two senses down. Things aren’t looking good for taste. Except that taste is really more about smell, and this taco smells like green chile pork stew’s poor country cousin, which is more or less what it tastes like, too — if the pork were nothing but fat and served in a pork rind bag like soggy Frito pie.
Stewed chicharrones at Mi Rancho are like the AV kids of the high school taco club. If you haven’t talked to anyone about chicharrones before, don’t start with these guys. The conversation didn’t go much better with al pastor, harboring the char of overcooked sugars and hard chunks of pineapple core in plain view of a an empty vertical trompo rotisserie that should have known better. I’ll say this for tacos filled with dried-out tubes of tripas gone crunchy at the edges: They kept the bathroom humor to themselves at least. ($1.79 for chicharrones and al pastor; $2.59 for tripas)
► Tortilla: Just because the flour and corn tortillas come from the market's own tortilleria, that doesn’t mean they’re anything like homemade. Even at a place where 25-pound buckets of lard are sold right next to 25-pound bags of masa harina, this flour tortilla never stood a chance against the primordial ooze of the chicharrones.
► Salsa: The cashier tossed a few servings of cold green salsa in the bag, one of two green salsas set out in squeeze bottles on the tables near the taco counter. It tasted fine. Then I sat down at the cleanest table, the one with the fewest gummi bears and homeless men sleeping in it. The other salsa verde had spoiled in place like a dirty diaper on the table. And so ended my salsa explorations here.
The 500 Tacos Project
(Photos by Mike Sutter © Fed Man Walking)