500 Tacos: Taqueria Matildez
An Austin taco a day for 2015 — and then some
310 E. Rundberg Lane in the Conoco lot, Austin (map)
Hours: 6:30am-3pm and 5:30pm-midnight or later Mon-Sat; 9am-3pm and 5:30pm-late Sun
By Mike Sutter | © Fed Man Walking | 08.28.15
Eat here, get gas. That was the old joke for anything we ate from a gas station. All that time, we were just going to the wrong gas station. The Conoco station at East Rundberg and North Creek hosts the Taqueria Matildez trailer, making eight or so taco-truck specialties — sopes, huaraches, tortas, quesadillas — and tacos on handmade corn tortillas.
The taco: Buche
Pork belly gets all the good press, and rightly so. Pork belly gives us bacon. But we hear so little about the other pork belly: buche. And rightly so, because buche gives us organ meat nightmares. It’s made from the beast’s actual stomach, the taco-borne southern cousin of haggis, if you will. And it’s usually ... what’s the word ... challenging. Like eating hard-boiled cheese. But in the right hands, it’s like this: as firm and bouncy as a hard-boiled egg marinated in ramen broth, with the broth reduced to a glaze, then mixed with bits of brined pork for flavor. Not entirely pretty, but delicious. ($2, with onions and cilantro)
► Tinga de pollo: I’d order more chicken tacos if the meat were cut like thin ribbons of shawarma like it is here, with a uniform sear that seals in juices and adds smoky grill notes along with the spicy chile-tomato braise. ($2, with onions and cilantro)
► Al pastor: Chopped in rubbery bits and aggressively seared a deep orange, the al pastor brings the undeniable color of the shepherd style but none of its exhilarating achiote flavor profile. ($2, with onions and cilantro)
► Bistec: Chopped, seared, salty beef is a safe choice at most taquerias, but this takes the salt so far that it burns as much as the salsa. ($2, with onions and cilantro)
► Tortillas: Flour tortillas come from a bag, then hit the grill. Corn tortillas are made in the trailer, but they’re tough and greasy.
► Salsa: Reliable creamy jalapeño verde and oily chile de arbol red, both very hot. There’s also a good pickled escabeche of onions, carrots and jalapeños.
(Photos by Mike Sutter © Fed Man Walking)