500 Tacos: Taco-Mania Los Atrevidos
An Austin taco a day for 2015 — and then some
Taco-Mania Los Atrevidos
704 E St. Johns Ave. in the Valero lot, Austin (map). Hours: 7am-2:30pm and 6pm-11pm Mon-Sat
By Mike Sutter | © Fed Man Walking | 09.21.15
Two hundred sixty-four days into this series, I still marvel at what taco trailers will do for $2. For that amount at Taco-Mania Los Atrevidos, they make tortillas by hand, fill them with beef or pork or chicken, then dress them out with onions, cilantro, queso fresco and avocado. As cheap and bedazzled as those tacos are, they’re eclipsed by the simple joy of a breakfast taco with beans and cheese. $1.50 buys a lot of joy.
The taco: Eggs, beans and cheese
My Wikipedia entry for Austin breakfast tacos might set this as a baseline: a fat, toasted flour tortilla, a salt-and-pepper egg scrambled to order, a spoonful of salty refried beans and a crown of melted queso fresco for $1.50, served all day. (Actually, my Takopedia page would have armadillos, bats and cobras. But that’s a story for another time.)
► Tortillas: The kind woman at the window pats out thin, fresh corn and thick, dusty flour tortillas to order, then gives them a speckled toasting on the grill. They’re the kinds of tortillas that make better tacos than their modest fillings might suggest.
► Barbacoa: This is regular roast beef instead of cheek meat, but there’s a lot of it for just $2, served on the dry and salty side with a sage-like herbal profile. ($2)
► Al pastor and carnitas: A taco filled with white-meat pork sliced long and thin and spiced like chicken fajitas is fine for what it is, but it’s unrecognizable as al pastor. Shredded pork carnitas are as dry and salty as the roast-beef barbacoa, but they carry a good balance of light and dark pork character. ($2 each)
► Chicharrones: This complex, fiery stew of green chiles, onions and pork skin on a fresh corn tortilla is the king of the pigpen. ($2)
► Salsa: Sharp, hot and sweet, Taco-Mania’s chile de arbol red is as good as real pitmaster’s barbecue sauce. The trailer’s choppy roasted tomatillo salsa verde gets lost in a sour vinegar wash.
► Bonus corn: Pepe’s Fruit Cup Shop lies on the other side of the lot from Taco-Mania. And that means you’re a short walk away from a side-dish of elotes — sweet kernels of corn in mild Mexican crema with a dusty crown of not-so-mild cotija cheese and chile salt. It’s not as good as Valentina’s Mexican street corn, but at least you can say you ate your vegetables ($2.50/small). Pepe’s also sells fresh fruit, raspas, tortas and a rainbow of aguas frescas: watermelon, cucumber, papaya, strawberry, tamarindo and seven others.
The 500 Tacos Project
(Photos by Mike Sutter © Fed Man Walking)