500 Tacos: Tacodeli | Crestview

An Austin taco a day for 2015 — and then some
Tacodeli | Crestview
7301 Burnet Road, Austin (map), 512-467-9999, www.tacodeli.com
Hours: Breakfast 7-11am and lunch 11am-3pm Mon-Fri; 8am-3pm Sat-Sun with breakfast all day and lunch starting at 11am
By Mike Sutter | © Fed Man Walking | 11.10.15
This is the last of five reports from Tacodeli in Austin. I could do six, but I’d have to drive to Dallas, where Tacodeli formed its first expansion team last month. In that respect, Tacodeli is aligning with Austin exports like Torchy’s, Chuy’s and Hopdoddy. Tacodeli in Crestview is part of a resurrected strip mall, a sleek union of wood, glass and steel, with a shaded artificial turf courtyard offering the illusion of refuge from Burnet Road roaring by just a dozen yards away. And because this is still Austin, there’s a taco trailer called La Fogata a block south of this Tacodeli, where four tacos cost about half the $16 that the four tacos in this report cost. Which leaves the question Old Austin forever asks: Are places like Tacodeli really twice as good as the tacos that came before them?
Taco A: Banh mi
Experimentation is one of Tacodeli’s strong points, and Tuesday is Banh Mi day at the lab, the day it fuses Vietnamese sandwich elements with taco DNA. There’s grilled pork indigenous to both cultures, then a sour-sweet escabeche of daikon radish and carrots, finished with concentrated tomatillo relish and a chop of basil and cilantro. Those core elements try hard, but a banh mi is as much about the baguette as what goes inside, and these factory-made corn tortillas don’t hold up their end of the fusion equation. And like it is with so many of Tacodeli’s $4 tacos, I need more of everything — more pork, more carrots, more sauce, more swerve — to help this taco live up to its Weird Science ambitions. ($3.95 plus 15 cents for an extra corn tortilla)
Taco B: Mojo fish
For quality of fish, for spicing and for dress-out, this is one of the better fish tacos in this series. But that’s not terribly strong company. At least Tacodeli starts with line-caught drum instead of farm-raised tilapia, if the menu’s accurate. The fish is cut in fat, flaky tenders and cooked to the right bouncy firmness for a taco. Mojo garlic sauce is a more elegant way of describing the flavor of seasoned salt, but it adds a layer of protection between meat and heat. Red onion pico de gallo and guacamole create a fresher, more colorful picture of a fish taco that works harder than most. ($4.25)
 Guacamole: With avocado, cilantro and tomatillo, Tacodeli’s guacamole is a ringer on every taco it touches. By itself with chips, it’s more like dipping from the salsa bar. ($3.95/small)
 Tortillas: Neither the factory-made white corn, waxy flour nor leathery whole wheat tortillas are much more than taco taxis.
 Chicken mole: With hard lumps of white-meat chicken and a mole that tastes like bottled barbecue sauce, this taco fails to capitalize on either element. ($3.95)
 Tacoloco: You might think this taco had something to hide under a thick blanket of adobo sauce that tastes like Tex-Mex chili gravy. It’s the opposite, really. The lean, long-fibered brisket tries hard to compensate for the sauce’s sunburned bitterness. It has some help: mushrooms, caramelized onions, queso fresco. But next time we throw this brisket party, how about nobody tell the adobo guy. ($3.95)
 Salsa: Tacodeli’s mild roja, tangy tomatillo, and green devil Doña salsas are all reliable players, but the whistleblower habanero was the star of this group, playing hot-tempered wingman to the mission-ready banh mi.
The 500 Tacos Project
(Photos by Mike Sutter © Fed Man Walking)
More Tacodeli in this series
Crestview   Gracy Farms  ► Spyglass