500 Tacos: Taqueria La Tapatia

A taco a day for 2015 — and then some
Taqueria La Tapatia
13450 U.S. 183 N. (map), 512-219-5008. Hours: 6am-11pm Mon-Sat, 7am-11pm Sun
By Mike Sutter | © Fed Man Walking | 06.08.15
A spring thunderstorm heavy enough to form whitecaps on 183 chased me into the beer-sign sanctuary of La Tapatia, a blue-collar taqueria with wooden floors, orange brick walls, fútbol on the TV and the complete works of Jenni Rivera, Luis Miguel and Alicia Villareal on the jukebox. There’s barbacoa and lengua and the full one-two of breakfast tacos, but nothing says taqueria comfort food like a plato combinado from the grill, enough to roll four tacos with an avocado salad on the side.
The taco: Beef fajita
Between the crispy char of the flour tortillas and the ribbon-shaved skirt steak, this could pass for a thin-man’s gyro. The meat’s oily and salty and ... steaky, with an assertive, peppery sear. And there’s lots of it on this combination plate, a crowded dish it shares with rice, creamy refried beans, a whole roasted jalapeño and a salad of shredded lettuce and slices of tomato and avocado — along with a second choice of meat, which I blew (see below). The taco’s a do-it-yourself project, and a little of everything goes a long way. Except for that iceberg lettuce, which belongs on no plate, combination or otherwise. ($8.99)
 #ComboPlateFail: Of all the meats I could’ve picked to round out my two-meat combo plate — pastor, lengua, pierna, barbacoa, carne guisada, chicken, more beef fajita meat — I drew the short straw this time: pastor. It was mealy, chopped too fine and had no more flavor than textured soy protein. Al Fauxstor?
 Tortillas: If you’re going to use storebought corn and flour tortillas, this is the way to do it: Toasted on the flat-top, with craters, sunspots, creases and crackles.
 Salsa: The mild, sweet, pureed tomato red is the template for taqueria table sauce. They hold back a salty, creamy jalapeño-and-oil salsa verde by special request.
The 500 Tacos Project
(Photos by Mike Sutter © Fed Man Walking)