500 Tacos: Pelons Tex-Mex

A taco a day for 2015 — and then some
Pelons Tex-Mex
802 Red River St. (map), 512-243-7874, www.pelonstexmex.com
Hours: 11am-10pm Sun-Thu; 11am-11pm Fri-Sat
By Mike Sutter | © Fed Man Walking | 05.10.15
Almost everywhere used to be somewhere else. That’s just Margarita Philosophy 101. But Pelons used to be a somewhere else that everybody used to go: Jaime’s Spanish Village. Covered with UT frat photo collages, the crumbs of Tex-Mex plates by the thousands and the abiding aroma of over-use, Jaime’s bugged out in 2010, and Doug Guller moved in two years later, the breastarauteur who brought us Bikinis and the bald head from which “Pelons” draws its name. To its credit, Pelons bears resemblance neither to that horndog sports bar nor the grubby dive it replaced, swapping Jaime’s red upholstery and Hell Week mementos for fresh wood floors, new white paint, intimate rooms and a shaded patio adjoining the 508 Tequila Bar.
The taco: Cuatro Mini Tacos sampler
A sampler is a salesman’s toolkit, whether the product is machine parts, marijuana or Mexican food. Pelons offers a four-part introduction to its taco menu with a plate of mini-tacos with black beans and cilantro rice. I’ll say this: the rice and beans are just fine. The tacos are Trouble with a capital T and that rhymes with B and that stands for Bad. Bad value, bad execution, bad portion sizes. Sour cabbage with steak that was inedible, gristled, almost raw and sour in its own right. Achiote seasoning that beat up on tiny bites of white fish. The shredded pork carnitas and grilled chicken, each dressed with jicama slaw, were OK in their two-bite moments, but I’ve had much better street tacos and much better values at similar and humbler places: MiJo’s, La Familia, Takeria DF, even Kesos. If this is the sampler, tell the Glengarry salesman that coffee is for closers and second prize isn’t even a set of steak knives. ($10.99)
 Tortillas: Stiff, single-layer, storebought 3-inch corn tortillas.
 Salsa: Pelons’ table sauce is a rich, smoky, chipotle and tomato red. Its sidekick is a tomatillo-serrano green as mellow as sour cream.
 Something to take the edge off: I know — frozen swirled margaritas are for tourists and college kids. But mango and tequila brought some liquid sunshine to an otherwise cloudy day at the table.
The 500 Tacos Project
(Photos by Mike Sutter © Fed Man Walking)