500 Tacos: Taqueria 7 Estrellas
A taco a day for 2015 — and then some
Taqueria 7 Estrellas
8631 N. Lamar Blvd. (map), 512-803-7176. Hours: 7pm-3am Mon; 7pm-4:30am Wed-Thu; 7pm-5am Fri-Sat; 7pm-4am Sun
By Mike Sutter | © Fed Man Walking | 07.09.15
In the late-night taco trailer culture of North Lamar near U.S. 183, Taqueria 7 Estrellas is the most semi-permanent, with trailers abutting one another beside a canopied concrete patio in the lot of a sprawling tire shop. As the night spools up, a man changes lightbulbs around the awning and hoses down the gravel lot to knock down the dust. The menu is a column on the left listing styles — tacos, enchiladas, gorditas, sopas, pambasos, tortas — and a column on the right with what goes in them: pastor, bistec, suadero, fajita, asada, tripas and more. There are no prices, no pleasantries, no little cups for salsa, no choice of tortilla and no English. All five of my tacos came piled on the same flimsy plate, smothered in cabbage and radishes. But the results say that all those little things don’t matter much if the food’s right. It is. And it isn’t.
The taco: Al pastor
There are trompo pictures on three different signs, but the rotisserie station inside the trailer is bare, another empty promise of true al pastor. These electric orange bits of pork have the big achiote twang of the trompo, but none of its juicy, ribboned flair. Pineapple? Forget it. And cabbage is a pale substitute for chopped onions. ($2)
► Pineapple pacification: If I can’t get my pineapple fix with pastor, I’ll take it in a tall, cold glass of agua piña as sweet as Kool-Aid. ($2)
► A little face time: Where the pastor flames out, the cheek meat steps up. Laid out in tender knots as big as the tortillas holding it, the cabeza de res is rich, appropriately fatty and value-priced at $2.
► Gut feeling: These are the most grill-blackened, gritty and crunchy tripas I’ve had in this series. And some of the best. Not the delicate shells of El Secreto De La Abuela nor the rubbery funk of Don Chuy, but somewhere in between, with that flat-top detritus providing color commentary. ($2.50)
► Bistec two ways: By itself, 7 Estrellas’ bistec has more in common with boiled beef than grilled steak. Paired with chorizo in a campechana, the bistec gives some good structure to the loose, greasy sausage. ($2 each)
► Tortillas: Small storebought corn tortillas, doubled up and softened in hot oil.
► Salsa: 7 Estrellas’ red is runny and mellow, with flakes of dried pepper. The jalapeño green is as watery and hot as the spray of the hose steaming from the summer asphalt.
The 500 Tacos Project
(Photos by Mike Sutter © Fed Man Walking)