500 Tacos: Porfirio’s Tacos
A taco a day for 2015 — and then some
1512 Holly St. (map), 512-476-5030. Hours: 6am-1pm Mon-Sat
By Mike Sutter | Fed Man Walking | 01.19.15
A parking lot with five parking spaces and eight no-parking signs will tell you how tight things get at Porfirio’s, which shares the corner of Comal and East Cesar Chavez with the Breadbasket Food Store. Fortunately for parkers, Porfirio’s is not a place to linger, with a spare walkup counter and a few tilty tables on a beat-up saltillo floor. It’s a place to grab the bag and go, and the staff — from counter to kitchen — moves at that inexorable pace. Porfirio’s has made a name for itself as a cheap, blue-collar neighborhood taco joint, but its prices have crept up with the times to meet its more urbane counterparts. While those head-to-head comparisons aren’t always flattering for Porfirio’s, a simple bean and cheese taco is still the shop’s best ambassador.
The taco: Bean and cheese
The first soft taco I ever had? I was 6 or 7 years old, visiting colleagues of my Dad’s, the Cantu family. The 2 p.m. hangry hour struck, and where I would’ve poured a bowl of Quisp and watched a “Gilligan’s Island” rerun, the Cantu girls rushed the kitchen for flour tortillas spread with refried beans and melted cheese. I ate four of them, my brother even more. They became part of our snacktime lexicon from then on. Porfirio’s bean-and-cheese taco is exactly that taco, with refried pintos a shade thicker than mashed potatoes but salted the same, bearing bouncy orange cheese with an oily sheen, finished with a steamy soft flour tortilla.
Porfirio’s also makes a respectable fatty barbacoa, and the ground chorizo it scrambles with eggs is like hot crumbled breakfast sausage rather than the angry, greasy magma of chorizo’s wilder years. The carnitas taco was a dried mophead of pork fiber, bringing only the flavor that could be added with do-it-yourself pico de gallo. I’ll just have three more bean and cheese, in honor of the Cantus. ($1.50; chorizo and egg $2.25; carnitas $2.50; barbacoa $2.75)
► Tortillas: Warm boilerplate flour and corn tortillas from a bag.
► Salsa: Porfirio’s green salsa is a grassy, watery jalapeño bracer with medium heat, like Tex-Mex Powerade for maximum carnitas hydration. The pico de gallo is a charming build-your-own project: individual minicups of onion, cilantro and chopped tomato for mixing together, with the green sauce on the side to regulate heat levels.
The 500 Tacos Project
(Photos by Mike Sutter © Fed Man Walking)