500 Tacos: Taqueria Rio Verde S.L.P.

An Austin taco a day for 2015 — and then some
Taqueria Rio Verde S.L.P.
12195 Metric Blvd. at the Shell station, Austin (map)
Hours: 6am-3pm Mon-Wed; 6am-9pm Thu-Fri; 6am-2pm Sat
By Mike Sutter | © Fed Man Walking | 09.19.15
On one corner here at Metric and Cedar Bend in North Austin is a taqueria inside a gas station. On the other corner is a taqueria outside a gas station. Taqueria Rio Verde is the second one, a bright little two-woman trailer with one red picnic table under an awning, a table I shared with a man in painter’s clothes and two men in mechanic’s shirts. They were there for the same tacos on handmade corn tortillas as I was, but I couldn’t help noticing their tacos were loaded down with nopales and avocado, souped-up versions of the same bistec, pastor and barbacoa tacos I ordered but for which I wasn’t offered the upgrade. The benefits of being a regular? Or an unspoken güero penalty? Either way, next time I’ll ask.
The taco: Migas
Sometimes, when a taqueria makes its own corn tortillas, those same tortillas are fried and used for migas. That’s how they roll at Rio Verde, and the result is an energetic contrast of soft, steaming eggs and chewy tortilla chip crunch. They’re made to order, with tomatoes and onions cooked in. All that’s missing are jalapeños, but the trailer’s hot tomatillo-jalapeño salsa makes that an easy fix. ($2)
 Brisket barbacoa: Because I asked before I ordered, I knew that Rio Verde’s barbacoa isn’t cheek meat, but brisket instead. But it’s good brisket, with fresh flavor pulled in soft fibers, full of fat and hard-fibered lean. It’s more like a mild deshebrada, and that’s good enough for $2 on a handmade corn tortilla.
 Bistec and pastor: It’s been suggested to me that gas-station tacos are no different from any other tacos. But I’d say if you could put tacos in the pumps along with regular and diesel, then these chewy little nubs of grilled beef and orange-colored chunks of hard pork would be the same generic bistec and al pastor commodities you get at most every little gas station taqueria. ($2 each)
 Tortillas: I wouldn’t even bother with the trailer’s waxy storebought flour tortillas, based on a funny-tasting bean and cheese taco. But the handmade corn tortillas are strong, semi-transparent, full of maíz flavor and — in an uncommon touch for handmade corn — doubled up, making the outside more memorable than the inside.
 Salsa: Besides the tomatillo verde that rescued the migas, there’s a slow-warming red salsa made from chiles de arbol with a sweet disposition.
 You down with SLP?: The S.L.P. in the trailer's name stands for San Luis Potosi, the Mexican state where the city of Rio Verde is located.
The 500 Tacos Project
(Photos by Mike Sutter © Fed Man Walking)