500 Tacos: Mi Tienda
An Austin taco a day for 2015 — and then some
8007 Gessner Drive, Austin (map), 512-382-1915. Taqueria hours: 9am-10pm daily
By Mike Sutter | © Fed Man Walking | 08.19.15
Mi Tienda is tucked so squarely among massive apartment complexes off 183 that it looks like a bungalow holdout next to a skyscraper. But it’s here because the anthill around it needs a bodega, with produce and check cashing, with a butcher counter and beer and cigarettes and Capri Sun. Mi Tienda — “my store” — has all of those things, plus a steam-table taqueria with three tables in the back. There’s no English and no credit cards, but there’s a surprisingly full menu of tortas, sopes, gorditas, tacos and full plate lunches with pork chops and carne asada.
The taco: Deshebrada
You know how when you buy a new car and you suddenly start seeing that car everywhere? I had some good deshebrada at Las Delicias a few days ago, and now it’s materializing on taqueria menus as if they were controlled by “Truman Show” technicians. Braised shredded beef. At Mi Tienda, it’s like carne guisada’s more interesting friend: just as juicy and beefy as that brown-gravy frump, but with dried chile and tomato twang. ($1.75 on flour/$1.50 corn)
► Pastor, barbacoa and tinga de pollo: Pastor is about shawarma-fu technique first, followed closely by adobo or achiote tanginess, This pastor has neither. Just pork and salt and color. The barbacoa is full of tubes and fibers bound by congealing fat, but it’s salty and lush and delicious. Chicken at Mi Tienda doesn’t try to be more than it is: pulled white meat in a lightly spiced tomato braise. For this taco, that’s enough. ($1.75 flour/$1.50 corn, finished with chopped onions and cilantro)
► Tortillas: Both flour and doubled-up white corn tortillas come from a bag, but the flour gets a little color and crackle on the grill.
► Salsa: I spent a night in the kitchen at Restaurant Jezebel for a story in 2013. My job was to push pounds of pureed spinach through cheesecloth to collect the few ounces of intense concentrate it left behind. Mi Tienda’s green salsa reminds me of that, cool and bright as chlorophyll, with cilantro in place of spinach, joined with onions, half-ripe tomatillos and fierce chile pepper heat. It starts as your friend and finishes as your enemy, and that’s why you’ll treat it with equal parts love and respect.
(Photos by Mike Sutter © Fed Man Walking)