500 Tacos: Quinta Caporales Meat Market

An Austin taco a day for 2015 — and then some
Quinta Caporales Meat Market
730 W. Stassney Lane, Suite 105, Austin (map), 512-702-1200
Hours: 7am-9:30pm daily
By Mike Sutter | © Fed Man Walking | 10.26.15
This Stassney Lane shopping center harbors two obvious taco places: El Pollo Rico and Las Lomas. A third option hides in plain sight beneath the understated Quinta Caporales Meat Market sign, and the taqueria inside this Mexican grocery is the best of the three by far, and one of the better places for straightforward roasted meat tacos in the city. You order and pay at the checkout aisle by telling the cashier how many corn or flour tortilla tacos you want, then present the receipt at the taqueria counter. Here’s what to order:
Taco A: Moronga
A guy at the salsa counter said he used to eat moronga all the time when he was a kid. He mimed licking his fingers, then shook his head. “Until my mom told me what it was,” he said. “Then no more.” Hard to sell pig’s blood sausage to kids of any age, really. But his loss is my gain, because this sausage radiates an almost Mediterranean herbal glow beneath its layers of intense chile pepper heat. The finely chopped meat has the semi-soft texture of a paté terrine and some of the same iron overtones, rendered in oxidized shades of antique brick salvaged from a meatpacking district. ($1.99)
Taco B: Carnitas
The cook chops big blocks of roasted pork to order, with the cleaver marking time on the cutting board, shiny from the meat’s generous fat cap. The meat shears away in fibers; the fat falls away in neat ribbons like sauteed onions. Greasy, lean, tender and rangy, it captures the ideal push-and-pull texture of carnitas, with a clean, salty pork taste like a shoulder roast after a proper rest. Among the best carnitas in this series. ($1.99)
Taco C: Borrego
It’s hard to believe a taco full of roasted lamb can cost less than $2. What’s more remarkable is how good it is, with lamb’s distinctive grassy aura and a proper ratio of lean to fat in generous knots of meat with a warm chile braise still radiating coral pink in the center. ($1.99; weekends only)
 Salsa: Along with fresh onions, cilantro and limes, the salsa bar carries a chopped salsa verde with lots of heat and cilantro, plus a salty chile de arbol and a bright orange sauce that starts as sweet as salad dressing before an eye-watering habanero ambush.
 Tortillas: Doubled-up white corn and thin, buttery flour tortillas are made — if not exactly by hand — at least on a tortilla press inside the store.
 Al pastor (bottom left): The texture and chop fall in line with trompo pastor. Not bad for pastor cooked on the flat-top grill. The similarities stop there, with a spice profile more like a dose of seasoned salt. ($1.99)
 Cabrito (bottom center): This gamey goat is a reminder that even a good shop can let one get away when they’re trying to do so many things at once. ($1.99, weekends only)
 Barbacoa (bottom right): The counter was way too busy for the gringo food critic to be asking if the barbacoa was true cabeza de res. But I’ll roll the dice and say no, because it pulls in lean fibers like brisket, with the same straightline beef taste. A good taco, but not the one to satisfy your craving for face-time with traditional barbacoa. ($1.99)
The 500 Tacos Project
(Photos by Mike Sutter © Fed Man Walking)