500 Tacos: Taqueria Montenegro

A taco a day for 2015 — and then some
Taqueria Montenegro
11300 Pollyanna Ave. beside the Citgo station (map), 512-228-4555
Hours: 5:30am-4pm Mon; 5:30am-8pm Tue-Thu; 5am-11pm Fri-Sat; 7am-1pm Sun
By Mike Sutter | © Fed Man Walking | 04.21.15
The tiny vestibule at Taqueria Montenegro makes ordering from the wall-sized menu board something like sitting front row at the IMAX. But more than that, this cramped blue room feels like a check-cashing place, with only a small window in the wall through which the business happens, in clipped one- or two-word queries: “Maiz? Salsa? Ocho.” Meaning: “Corn tortilla OK? What kind of salsa? Eight dollars.” There’s no fancy salsa bar and no clever graphics, just the blue and white of the Cruz Azul football club in Mexico City in a taqueria built for speed beside the Citgo station.
The taco: Mollejas de res
Montenegro’s not big or fancy, but they found room for sweetbreads. And “mollejas” sounds so much more appetizing than “thymus gland,” no? They sell them in a quesadilla, but it’s really just a single tortilla folded over on itself. You know, like a taco. A blanket of thick white panela cheese lays the foundation for chopped beef sweetbreads in a red chile braise. The cheese and sweetbreads share the same velveteen texture, but the subtle flavor of neither survives the aggressive red tide of sauce. ($2)
 Three more: Machacado and huevos is just a simple breakfast taco of scrambled eggs and chipped beef, except that Montenegro throws in a fresh mince of jalapeño and onion to wake things up ($1.50). Carne guisada delivers better roast beef and gravy than most ($1.75). And because sometimes a güero wants what a güero wants, I wanted a crispy beef taco. The shell wasn’t much, but it was stuffed with chopped chili meat and a sturdy thatch of shredded yellow cheese and lettuce ($1.75).
 Tripe-l threat: If you’re a fan of the rubbery tube-steak funk of boiled intestine, then these are the tripitas you’ve been dreaming of. Here’s a Tic-Tac, Dreamer. ($1.75)
 Tortillas: Storebought stiff flour and doubled-up white corn tortillas.
 Salsa: A sweet tomato salsa fresca stands ready to administer first aid, like the Red Cross counterpart to the Cruz Azul soccer crest on the wall. There’s also a high-fiber hot green tomatillo salsa.
The 500 Tacos Project
(Photos by Mike Sutter © Fed Man Walking)