500 Tacos: Rita’s Mexican Restaurant
An Austin taco a day for 2015 — and then some
Rita’s Mexican Restaurant
1934 Rutland Drive, No. 100, Austin (map), 512-834-0999
Hours: 6:30am-8pm Mon-Fri; 6:30am-3pm Sat
By Mike Sutter | © Fed Man Walking | 11.03.15
It’s always Miller Time somewhere, but starting at 2 o’clock, it’s Modelo Time at Rita’s. From 2-6 Monday-Friday, a cold bottle of Modelo is just $2.50, an after-work escape — or late-lunch retreat — for the light industrial anthill that surrounds this 23-year-old Tex-Mex cafe. But cheap beer might not be enough to take the edge off these overpriced tacos.
The taco: Carne guisada
Carne guisada hasn’t taken the lead in many of these reports. Beef in shiny brown gravy is rarely sexy enough for a closeup. To be honest, neither is this taco, but this time substance wins out over style. Because this roast beef is the right balance of salty, savory, fatty and lean, with black pepper and chile pepper notes in a thick Sunday gravy. And it has to try harder, because at $3.10 in this spartan lunchroom, it’s priced about 25 percent above the market rate.
► Carnitas: With a hard caramelized sear over chunks of pork, this taco’s double-shot of herbal roastiness and sweet, crunchy crust almost forgive a fat-to-lean ratio that makes it hard for this carnitas to button its pants. ($3.10)
► Al pastor: An adobo marinade that’s as sweet and sticky as diner ketchup isn’t doing its job right. More like a chopped pork Sloppy Joe. ($3.10)
► Migas: Throwing leftover tortilla chips into scrambled eggs is the mission of migas. Whether those chips are the same crumbled bits from the basket or something fried just for your taco is what sets the best of them apart. The eggs are scrambled soft and fresh with tomato and onion under hot queso in this taco, but Rita’s doesn’t run with the best. Not with these tabletop chips, not with a storebought tortilla and not without jalapeños. ($2.15)
► Breakfast tacos: The best value at Rita’s are two-ingredient breakfast tacos for $1.80.
► Tortillas: Gummy flour tortillas and doubled-up white corn straight from the bag to your taco.
► Salsa: A serviceable jar-style tomato red with high jalapeño heat.
The 500 Tacos Project
(Photos by Mike Sutter © Fed Man Walking)