500 Tacos: Papalote Taco House, Part 1

A taco a day for 2015 — and then some
Papalote Taco House
2803 S. Lamar Blvd. (map), 512-804-2474, www.yumpapalote.comHours: 7am-10pm Mon-Fri, 8am-10pm Sat, 8am-8pm Sun
Also at: 13219 U.S. 183 N., Suite 100 (map), 512-840-0745
By Mike Sutter | © Fed Man Walking | 02.24.15
Papalote threw a curve into this series: How do I properly represent its vegetarian roster and still get a good sampling of its carnivoral gifts? Split the report in two, that’s how. And so this little sister taqueria to the Azul Tequila Mexican restaurants will go vegetarian this time, with a carnivores’ feast from the new Papalote up north later in the series.
Taco A: Aquacate con queso
Papalote can’t touch the tempura wonder of fried avocado from Mellizoz Tacos, but this taco delivers a simple, creamy crunch, with two lightly breaded avocado slices resting on good refried black beans. Crisp pico gives it color and acid, and queso fresco adds depth for a well-rounded vegetarian citizen. ($3.25)
Taco B: Hongos y epazote
Anybody can sauté mushrooms and slice an avocado. But Papalote adds a Mexican flair with hominy, queso fresco and epazote — an herb that marries cilantro’s vaguely corporeal funk and parsley’s grassy bitterness. Not always a happy union, but this taco makes it work, with the added benefit of epazote’s calming effect on the digestive system. Not a bad idea in the middle of a taco series. ($3.25)
Taco C: Tortas de coliflor
When I wrote “30 Tacos, 30 Days” for the Statesman in 2010, this fried cauliflower creation took the prize for novelty. At its heart is a breaded puck of minced cauliflower spiced and fried like a crabcake, dressed with shredded cabbage, queso fresco and avocado, then hit with a sweet-hot guajillo pepper sauce. This time, the cauliflower cake was burned and soggy at the same time. ($3.25)
 If this were a vegetarian taco experiment — and it is, kind of — nopales and egg would be the control taco: a bland median, ticking neither above nor below the line. The eggs are folded like an omelet, the chopped cactus is like steamed green beans, and the white cheese has no character of its own. On flour, of course. We don’t want to contaminate the test results with flavor. ($1.95)
 Tortillas: Boutique tacos with convenience store tortillas.
 Salsa: The Goldilocks formula: Too hot, too cold, just right. In this order: Smoky dried-chile red with more heat than flavor, a cold and creamy but bland jalapeño green and an oxidized red that starts sweet and finishes ... just right.
The 500 Tacos Project
(Photos by Mike Sutter © Fed Man Walking)