500 Tacos: Tacos Ivan

 
 
An Austin taco a day for 2015 — and then some
 
Tacos Ivan
7007 Village Center Drive inside the C-Mart, Austin (map), 512-795-0899
Hours: 7am-2pm Mon-Sat
 
By Mike Sutter | © Fed Man Walking | 12.16.15
 
This being Northwest Hills, maybe I was surprised to find a Mexican-style taqueria inside a convenience store. But this being Northwest Hills, maybe I wasn’t surprised to find as many varieties of kombucha as Mexican soda. The cultural disconnect of the community notwithstanding, Tacos Ivan stays true to its roots for respectable breakfast and lunch tacos.
 
The taco: Machacado and egg with nopales
Dried beef and scrambled eggs are textural rivals, which in the food world makes them natural allies. The sole order-taker, cook and cashier piles them on the flat-top with pico de gallo for little sharp notes of acid, sweetness and crunch. I added sautéed nopales for their squeak, color and twang. ($2. Two-ingredient breakfast tacos are $1.75 before 11 a.m., $2 after, plus 25 cents for extras.)
 
 The price is what?: This is a common taqueria complaint, but take all of these “prices” as suggestions, because they’re not listed on the menu, and the cashier seemed to make them up as she went along. In fact, she rang the whole order twice and got two different totals.
 Al pastor: This isn’t adobo-marinated and grilled pork so much as it is a greasy chopped pork stew of indeterminate ... redness. ($2, I think)
 Lengua and barbacoa: Some roasted lengua goes gamey and strange, with every bristle of the beast’s raspy tongue intact. Some is like tender roast beef, carefully butchered and peeled. This is somewhere in-between, and all the better for it. The barbacoa is a warm flour tortilla pocket of cheek-meat comfort, served steaming hot with fat and lean in equal measure. ($3 for lengua; something like $2.75 for barbacoa?)
 Tortillas: Storebought flour and doubled-up white corn, each one pressed and toasted on the grill.
 Salsa: Taco-stand salsa is usually the opposite of a traffic light: Red means go in peace and green means stop making my tongue a living hell. Tacos Ivan flips it back: Green means go get some more of that roasted tomatillo-chile, red means stop blocking the kombucha cooler, I’ve got a chile de arbol emergency.
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The 500 Tacos Project
 
 
(Photos by Mike Sutter © Fed Man Walking)