500 Tacos: Taqueria Don Chuy

A taco a day for 2015 — and then some
Taqueria Don Chuy
948 Payton Gin Road (map), 512-719-3990
Hours: 9am-8pm Mon-Tue; 9am-2pm Wed; 9am-8p Thu-Fri; 10:30am-8pm Sat-Sun
By Mike Sutter | © Fed Man Walking | 05.21.15
The folk art drawing of a mustachioed Don Chuy on the sign of this thrown-together taqueria looks like it could have come from an undermotivated art student at Lanier High School across the street. Framed photos of Guanajuato line the walls, Univision blares from a TV with a blown speaker, and kids scream at the gumball machines, littering the floor with little plastic capsules. You order at the counter from a chalkboard menu. It’s all kind of a mess. Until the food shows up. And the rest falls away.
Taco A: Higado
Higado doesn’t show up on menus enough for me to know what it is without asking. Liver, so long as you’re asking. A taco with liver and onions is a dare in the wrong hands. But Don Chuy puts a crisp caramel sear on liver trimmed to the approachable size and texture of fajitas and grills it with onions for a rich carnivoral sweetness that puts the iron fist in a velvet glove. ($2.54)
Taco B: Tripas
Speaking of dares, I’ll stay with the “other” meats long enough to talk about these chewy little nubs of ... insides ... with their crispy edges and a flavor like a cookout in a summer pasture without tasting like the natural fertilizer in that pasture. With their extend-a-chew beef bubble-gumminess, Don Chuy’s tripas aren’t for everybody. But the somebodies who get it? They’ll get it. ($3, with onions and cilantro)
Taco C: Carnitas
The word “carnitas” means “little meats,” and Don Chuy takes it literally, with chopped and shredded bits of pork both fat and lean tangled with crispy skin. It’s roasted first, then pan-fried to distribute a crunchy glaze through the willowy meat, balanced with a fresh chop of onions, tomatoes and cilantro. ($2.54)
Taco D: Al pastor
Texture’s the key to this al pastor, diced into pieces the size of black-eyed peas and seared all over for the dynamic tension of tenderness and crunch, finished with onions, cilantro and key limes. ($2.54)
 Tortillas: You’ll want the sturdy storebought flour to rein in the liver and onions. It’s a tossup. really, because the single-layer handmade corn is as stiff as parchment and prone to soak through.
 Salsa: They bring out a little flip-top pint bottle of molcajete-style salsa, dominated by freshly roasted and crushed peppers. Please try to leave some for the rest of us.
The 500 Tacos Project
(Photos by Mike Sutter © Fed Man Walking)