500 Tacos: Paola’s Kitchen
An Austin taco a day for 2015 — and then some
1700 W. Anderson Lane inside the Chevron station, Austin (map)
Hours: 8am-2pm Mon-Sat
By Mike Sutter | © Fed Man Walking | 12.14.15
Hospitality comes in small forms, even at a gas station taqueria. At Paola’s Kitchen, hospitality is a plate of grilled jalapeños straight from the flat-top, free for the taking. Or cheese at no charge when you didn’t expect it. Hospitality also means good food at a decent price, and Paola’s delivers on both.
The taco: Campechanos
Steak and chorizo need each other like winter needs spring. One for gravitas, one for personality. These knotty strands of seasoned beef achieve a rare state for taqueria bistec: medium-rare. Then the chorizo rolls in with hot red spice and attitude. Neither goes greasy, and their union is blessed by tangy, freshly shredded queso blanco. ($2.25)
► Al pastor: This adobo-marinated pork doesn’t even try to be trompo-style pastor — the texture, for one, chopped to bits rather than sliced — but it’s cooked to order on hot corn tortillas with onions and cilantro, and sometimes that’s enough ($2.25).
► Breakfast: Paola’s will make a breakfast taco right up until closing time, and this is the one to get: chorizo, potatoes and eggs. The same chorizo that animates the campechanos brings life to freshly scrambled eggs, and the potatoes add weight and earthy starch for a satisfying single-taco breakfast. ($2.25, plus cheese for 25 cents)
► Tortillas: Flour and doubled-up corn tortillas come from a bag, but they’re warmed on the grill. On Saturdays, they make their own corn tortillas — and menudo.
► Salsa: Just one, but it counts: A jalapeño puree with grit, garlic and satisfying heat.
The 500 Tacos Project
(Photos by Mike Sutter © Fed Man Walking)