500 Tacos: Raul’s Taqueria Al Pastor

An Austin taco a day for 2015 — and then some
Raul’s Taqueria Al Pastor
677 E. Rundberg Lane, Austin (map), 512-902-9316. Hours: 7pm-3am Mon-Thu; 7pm-4am Fri-Sun
By Mike Sutter | © Fed Man Walking | 08.23.15
The information gap between signmakers and signbearers is at its apex in the taco truck world. Menus with outdated prices, or no prices. Breakfast served in another lifetime, but not in this one. And the sign at Raul’s off Rundberg and I-35 that shouts “4 Tacos Al Pastor $5.99!” Here on the actual hot asphalt in front of the truck window, the deal is actually five tacos, not four. And it’s $7.50, not $5.99. And the al pastor trompo rotisserie inside the truck — the one pictured on the menu board — sits cold and bare, making me wonder whether this is all just a sign of heatstroke. Somebody splash with me adobo; it’s time to get back to work.
The taco: “Five Tacos Al Pastor $7.50!”
If al pastor is this trailer’s specialty, things aren’t looking good for the rest of the show. Because these candied little knobs of pork might have started off with good intentions, but they taste like an adobo afterthought. With pineapple. The meat, shorn in confetti tabs, is as sticky and tough as diced Slim-Jims, which renders obsolete the deft toss of grilled onions and fresh dress of cilantro and fresh onion. The tortilla — just a storebought single-layer yellow corn tortilla softened with grill oil — adds to the disappointment and disconnect. Now repeat all that five times.
 Barbacoa and bistec: This little wad of bubblegum barbacoa tastes like bad breath on a tortilla. And I was all set to rant about bistec ranchera that looked like chopped Swiss steak, until I tasted it. The grainy texture’s wrong for grilled bistec, but the ranchera gives it twang and sweetness and depth, and I remember now that I actually liked Swiss steak as a kid. But like street kids in prep school clothes, there’s no disguising that these tough little tacos — at $2.50 apiece — are wearing pricetags a size too big.
 Tortillas: The storebought corn tortillas for the al pastor are joined by flour tortillas that seem to go straight from bag to plate, which is not one of the new fashionable food trends.
 Salsa: The creamy jalapeño green and flaming chile de arbol red are both decent taco-truck standards.
The 500 Tacos Project
(Photos by Mike Sutter © Fed Man Walking)