500 Tacos: Taquito Aviles
A taco a day for 2015 — and then some
701 W. Braker Lane (map), 512-775-3792. Hours: 7am-10pm Sun-Thu; 7am-midnight Fri-Sat
By Mike Sutter | © Fed Man Walking | 03.24.15
When Mario Aviles talks about his barbacoa de chivo and consome de chivo, you can hear the respect for the main ingredient. “The old goats, they’re tougher. The cabrito, it just melts away. But the older ones, they hold on.” And that’s good, as far as personality goes. Not so good when it comes to cooking. But in the same way that a good French cook can work wonders with an old rooster for coq au vin, Mario Aviles can turn an old goat into lean, long-fibered chivo with a radiant, aromatic braise and mellow afterglow. Wisdom tastes good.
The taco: Barbacoa de chivo
The young goats get the glory; the old ones do the work. The braise makes them tender-hearted and a little sweet, but never weak. You can still taste a hint of ruminant omnivore gaminess, but it’s tempered by dusky red pepper spice, fresh white onions and chopped cilantro for a grown-up taco with nothing to prove. ($2)
► Tacos with a backstory: Before opening Taquito Aviles two years ago, Aviles was a kitchen manager for On the Border Cafe in the Arboretum. Hardly an authentic Mexican experience; for that, Aviles has his own life in Mexico to draw from. The knotty pork in his al pastor has a pronounced pineapple-achiote twang, and his beef fajitas play out like steak and onions from the grill. They’re a bargain at $2 each. His barbaco stands ... um ... head and shoulders above them all. Aviles makes his from whole cows’ heads roasted 4-5 hours for meat and fat just starting to melt together.
► Watermelon bomb: A sweet, cold 32-ounce agua fresca makes a surge of warm spring weather even more welcome. It’s blended into a froth from fresh watermelon the minute you order it. ($3)
► Consome de chivo: The old goat gets a post-modern throwback spin from stock made with roasted bones. This is a fortifying, iconoclastic stew of meat, onion and cilantro that would make young cooks with handlebar mustaches famous. (Small $3; $6-9 for larger sizes with tortillas)
► What a dollar will buy: Bacon and eggs — or any other two-ingredient breakfast taco at Taquito Aviles.
► Tortillas: Storebought corn and flour, but they’re soft and shimmering with lard.
► Salsa: Aviles makes a delicious cool green sauce from avocados and jalapeños, and a respectably dry and flinty chile de arbol salsa. But the adobe-colored habanero sauce he simmers down and blends from fresh roasted peppers is one of the best-tasting high-heat salsas in this series, starting sweet before its branding-iron finish.
(Photos by Mike Sutter © Fed Man Walking)