500 Tacos: Tacodeli | Gracy Farms

An Austin taco a day for 2015 — and then some
Tacodeli | Gracy Farms
12001 Burnet Road, Austin (map), 512-339-1700, 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 | 09.23.15
As Austin pushes northward and ever outward, little shopping centers pop up, trying to capture central-city soul. Take the new Austinville 78750, for example, with North Austin outlets of Papalote Taco House, Soup Peddler, Amy’s Ice Creams and Phil’s Icehouse. Five miles to the northeast, at the Gracy Farms retail strip, Tacodeli shares real estate with Moonie’s Burgers and Mangia Pizza, across the service road from a mountain of construction rubble stacked as high as a Transformer next to MoPac. Judging from the line snaking along the sidewalk, North Austin is hungry for a little South Austin in its soul.
Taco A: Delibelly
Wednesdays and Saturdays are special at Tacodeli, because those are the days this gloriously fatty, seared, crunchy, sweet, unapologetic pork belly taco’s on the menu. Laid out in twin blocks like bacon bodybuilders, the pork belly’s lush bluster is tempered by a brisk salsa of tomatillo and serrano sweetened with honey. It’s finished with fresh avocado, onions and cilantro for a sensory ride of fatty low notes and hot, herbal high notes. ($4.50)
Taco B: Papadulce
This might be a standout vegetarian taco if it had been built as advertised: Roasted sweet potatoes, grilled corn, peppers, caramelized onions, toasted pumpkin seeds. Sounds good, no? And the potatoes are remarkable, cooked through but still firm, with earthy Thanksgiving sweetness set in crisp relief against fat pumpkin seeds with shells in burnished shades of green and brown. An excellent base. But Tacodeli, which tends to pack too light in the first place, brought barely enough peppers and onion to list them in the first place, and the corn didn’t bother to show up at all, leaving the potatoes to do all the heavy lifting. ($3.25)
 The Cowboy: If the Frontera Fundido Sirloin taco is the flinty Marlboro Man of the Tacodeli outfit, then the Cowboy is the guy visiting the dude ranch. First off, tenderloin instead of sirloin, because he can afford it. Then a spangled costume of grilled corn, red and green peppers and guacamole, with queso fresco like conchos. It’s the “City Slickers” sequel where I’d rather hang out with Billy Crystal than Jack Palance. ($3.95)
 Tortillas: Tacodeli and Torchy’s share what would be a fatal flaw in lesser hands: basic storebought tortillas. The waxy, gummy flour is an especially bad fit for the Delibelly. The wheat is surprisingly good with the underachieving Papadulce.
 Queso and salsa: Tacodeli caters to the queso people by offering a small size for $3.75, with thick, crisp tortilla chips sealed in plastic bags. The shop’s baseline queso — the one not tricked out with guac and ground beef and pico for twice as much — suffers from delusions of blandeur. But here’s a three-step turbo-boost, for free: add one little serving cup of zesty tomato salsa roja, half a cup of fiery green Doña, then a quarter-cup of tangy habanero. Swirl together. Dip away.
The 500 Tacos Project
(Photos by Mike Sutter © Fed Man Walking)
More Tacodeli in this series
► Crestview   Gracy Farms  ► Spyglass