500 Tacos: The Peached Tortilla
An Austin taco a day for 2015 — and then some
The Peached Tortilla
Hours: 5-10pm Tue-Thu; 5-11pm Fri-Sat; 10:30am-2:30pm Sun for brunch, 5-10pm for dinner
Truck schedule: Check the Peached Tortilla's Twitter feed for mobile hours and locations
By Mike Sutter | © Fed Man Walking | 09.10.15
A truck window in a monsoon breeze. An Austin City Limits booth in a withering scirocco heatwave. The Peached Tortilla was always an outdoors adventure for me. But Eric Silverstein’s street-fusion food held up under duress, beating Chi’Lantro in a head-to-head Food Fight at ACL 2013, then coming up with a winner again at last year’s festival. Now, in the AC and out of the elements in the restaurant Silverstein opened in December last year, the Peached Tortilla is showing how well tacos can blend Asian, Mexican and American elements into a full-service Austin experience.
Taco A: Banh mi
Salt and spice. It’s the two-step at the core of Mexican taqueria culture. What this banh mi adds to that culture is sugar and swerve — the kind you might get from a good Mexican mole. But the banh mi gets its personality from star anise, rice vinegar, soy and five-spice powder. They go to work on rich, well-rendered pork belly in a slow braise, which in turn gets a Vietnamese sandwich dress of daikon and carrot and fish sauce. A storebought flour tortilla is no baguette, but this taco works hard to channel the best of a sandwich and a taco. And what’s more American than that? ($12 for three mix-and-match tacos; $3 a la carte during Social Hour and all night Tuesday)
► Do it yourself: After last year’s ACL success, Silverstein told Fed Man Walking readers how to make the Peached Tortilla’s banh mi taco at home. Here’s the recipe
Taco B: Kalua pork
It might be hot enough outside to cook Hawaiian-style kalua pork on the sidewalk, but the Peach settles for slow-roasting it in banana leaves. This taco’s only available during Social Hour, from 5-7 Monday-Friday in the bar (and all night Tuesday in the bar and patio). But I’m including it in this series as an inspired interpretation of carnitas, the bits-and-pieces Mexican pork that celebrates the torpid, fatty splendor of the beast. With a simple dress of slaw, cilantro and mild wasabi aioli, this taco can stand among Austin’s best carnitas in its silky, earthy simplicity. ($3)
► Getting the Peached Tortilla off the streets: Tacos outsell everything at the restaurant, Silverstein said, a natural extension of the street brand he cultivated in the PT cruiser — a brand that's still rolling. But Silverstein said that for the Peached Tortilla to thrive beyond the truck and the catering jobs it generates, the restaurant is building a neighborhood presence with a full bar, with a progressive but playful decor and with dishes like Southern Fun (below right). The long bowl builds from a base of soft rice noodles and tender shredded brisket, layering flavors with fried shallots, Thai basil, mint, cilantro and a sauce that deploys sweet soy like a secret everybody already knows, a secret that fights to a draw with tacos for my attention. ($13)
► Meanwhile, back at the Taco Trio: The banh mi taco is the star, but it has strong backup. One is a taco of rich brisket with apple slaw and fruity peach barbecue sauce. The other is a clean tilapia taco dredged in cornstarch and fried crisp in pristine oil with that same crisp green-apple slaw. ($12 for three mix-and-match tacos; $3 a la carte during Social Hour and all night Tuesday)
► Tortillas: Flour and doubled up corn tortillas from a bag. I recommend the strength of flour for banh mi and BBQ, the streetwise bite of corn for fish and kalua pork.
► Salsa: Peach barbecue sauce, wasabi aioli, chile mayo. These are the built-in salsas of the fusion world. The restaurant adds a tabletop trio of sriracha, sweet hoisin barbecue sauce and earthy red gojuchang with smoked sesame seeds.
► You can take the kid off the streets... : But you can’t take the Bacon Jam Fries (below) out of the kid. Stubborn skin-on french fries with a shag sweater of sweet bacon, zigzags of chile mayo and a fried egg for a crooked crown work really well in the truck-worn wilderness. They work just as well with a knife and fork indoors, even better with a habanero-infused margarita. ($8)
(Photos by Mike Sutter © Fed Man Walking)