500 Tacos: Taco-Mex
A taco a day for 2015 — and then some
2611 Manor Road (map), 512-524-0860. Hours: 6:30am-10pm Mon-Thu, 6:30am-11pm Fri, 8am-10pm Sat, 9am-3pm Sun
By Mike Sutter | © Fed Man Walking | 03.28.15
I’ve been inside the hot little kitchen at Taco-Mex, back when it was Alayna’s, just a walk-up taco window next to a laundromat on Manor Road. It’s still a little walkup window, with tacos starting at $1.75. There’s nowhere to sit — unless you’re washing clothes next door — but the RBM Food Mart two doors down has beer from Karbach and Independence and GoldTop Cider from Austin Eastciders to pass the time.
The taco: Al pastor
In the absence of the vertical rotisserie called the trompo, al pastor is usually just dusted with adobo or achiote spices and grilled on the flat-top. Same here, but Taco-Mex gives the pork an aggressively caramelized crust, a courtesy they extend to pineapple, if you like. The union of sweet, savory and crunch makes this one of the biggest-tasting tacos you can get from such a tiny window. ($2, plus 25 cents each for pineapple and onion/cilantro)
► Mas y messy: Chicharrones, chicken mole and stewed tinga de res tacos make up the messiest trio of tacos I’ve ordered for this series. The rubbery pork rinds of the stewed chicharrones are like cupping your hands in water, they’re so runny. And the neoprene afterglow is mostly what you’ll taste. The mole’s thick brown gravy saturates strands of chicken as fine as a mophead with a sweetness bordering on cleaning-product florals. For the tinga de res, think beef and potato stew left on the stove all afternoon. I wouldn’t come back for any of them, nor would I want another taco made from silty-tasting whitefish. It was well-cooked and dressed with sweet, colorful slaw and fresh avocado, a full spectrum of colors. But now that I’ve tasted that rainbow, I’ll hope for the rain to come wash it away. ($2 each; fish $2.25)
► Tortillas: The most basic storebought flour and doubled-up white corn money can buy.
► Salsa: Standard semi-sweet mild red and creamy-hot jalapeño green.
(Photos by Mike Sutter © Fed Man Walking)