500 Tacos: Taco Bella’s

An Austin taco a day for 2015 — and then some
Taco Bella’s
3006 W. Slaughter Lane in the Shell station lot, Austin (map), 512-740-2289, Facebook page
Hours: 7am-2pm Mon-Sat
By Mike Sutter | © Fed Man Walking | 12.04.15
If you were looking for “Taco Bell” and are disappointed to find “Taco Bella’s” here instead, then ... I don’t know ... we can’t be friends anymore. Because friends don’t let friends ring the Bell. We’re good then? OK. There’s no sign marking Taco Bella’s, neither from West Slaughter nor from Westgate. But like so many trailers in Austin, Bella’s been a part of this corner for so long it has its own front porch, with benches and an awning to shelter you from sun or cold. Service is fast, friendly and bilingual, and the wait never lasts for long.
The taco: Al pastor
Achiote marinade fits this taco like a vintage suede jacket, clinging in a low, leathery shag with bright, sharp flavors over pork flash-fried on the grill. A fast, efficient and effective version of the classic, finished with onions and cilantro. ($2)
 Barbacoa and bistec: Barbacoa here rides the flavor and texture line between brisket and cheek meat, with fatty density and a clean finish. Bistec is the workingman’s kind, chopped lean and seared hard. The extra flavor and grainy meal of corn tortillas makes each one of these better, even if it makes them smaller than the same taco on flour. ($2 each, with onions and cilantro)
 Breakfast tacos: Bella’s will make you a $2, two-ingredient breakfast taco straight on through 2 o’clock. Eggs and chunky peeled potatoes are cooked to order, and I’ve seen few chorizo-and-egg tacos that integrate the sausage so well, but the winner is a taco with a simple layer of dense, velvety refried beans, a crisp slice of bacon and melted American cheese on a toasted flour tortilla ($2; add 25 cents for a third ingredient).
 Tortillas: They both come from a bag, but the flour tortillas are toasted on the grill, and doubled-up corn tortillas get some time to soften up in cooking oil.
 Salsa: Skins and seeds light a fire under a runny chile de arbol salsa, and the fire’s turned up a notch for tomatillo-jalapeño verde.
The 500 Tacos Project
(Photos by Mike Sutter © Fed Man Walking)