500 Tacos: Taqueria Los Altos

A taco a day for 2015 — and then some
Taqueria Los Altos
3301 N. Interstate 35 (map), 512-236-1219. Hours: 7am-11pm daily
By Mike Sutter | © Fed Man Walking | 08.04.15
If you thought the cheap taqueria breakfast days had passed you by, then look down from the upper deck of I-35 to Taqueria Los Altos. Here in the shade of the interstate, a plate of huevos a la Mexicana with beans, potatoes and tortillas is $2.99 before 11 a.m. Not a typo. Breakfast tacos? Just $2.99 for three of them. Breakfast is served all day, but the bargain-basement euphoria ends at 11, when plates rise by a dollar, and two-ingredient breakfast tacos go all the way to $1.30. Still a great value — morning, noon and night.
The taco: Huevos a la Mexicana
This is the best $2.99 breakfast plate in the city, with ice water and table service at a fast-food price. It’s not just the price. It’s the craft of a working kitchen and a seasoned floor staff. The eggs are scrambled to order with chopped grilled jalapeños, tomatoes and minced onions cooked long enough to pick up a sweet char without burning the eggs. Refried beans are salty, smooth and earthy, and the half-moon potatoes are as soft as baked spuds. If you can’t build three colorful, filling breakfast tacos out of that, you’re not trying hard enough. ($2.99 before 11 a.m.; $3.99 after.)
 Barbacoa adobada al estilo Jalisco (below left): I’m no authority on Jalisco-style cooking, but if it’s anything like this tender, fatty shredded beef in a deep red chile braise, I’m willing to move there and learn. ($1.69, dressed with onions and cilantro)
 Pastor, lengua, picadillo: The value parade marches through lunch and dinner, with well-portioned tacos for $1.69 each. Al pastor is cooked so hard that it picks up a deep-fried crust. There’s no classic pastor flavor to speak of, but fried pork is welcome on my taco anytime. If you like the unpeeled, funky flavor of roasted tongue, this lengua taco is for you. And if your tastes veer more toward Ameri-Mex, you’ll dig salty, straightforward ground beef picadillo dressed with lettuce and tomato.
 Tortillas: Waxy commercial flour and steamed, doubled-up white corn tortillas.
 Salsa: A dish of excellent onion-fortified salsa fresca is joined by squeeze bottles of good creamy jalapeño green and sweet chile de arbol red.
The 500 Tacos Project
(Photos by Mike Sutter © Fed Man Walking)