500 Tacos: Tio Dan Puffy Tacos

 
 
A taco a day for 2015 — and then some
 
Tio Dan Puffy Tacos
409 Round Rock Ave., Round Rock (map), 512-246-7733
Hours: 5am-9pm Mon-Sat, 8am-2:30pm Sun
 
By Mike Sutter | © Fed Man Walking | 04.01.15
 
Tio Dan’s is a low-slung place built for speed, with an open kitchen in the center that keeps the place collar-wringing hot no matter the season. In a city like Round Rock — so full of new — Tio Dan's could have stepped out of the Yellow Pages from decades ago, a bustling diner built on the reputation of its namesake puffy taco.
 
 
The taco: Crispy tacos
When fried masa puffs up tall as sliced bread, it forms a three-circle Venn diagram of tortilla, frybread and cornbread. That shaded zone in the center’s a good place to be, with crispy edges and a warm center of dough and grease and hot air. Whereas some puffy tacos are hollowed-out shells, this thick masa airbag is folded around beef like school cafeteria meatloaf or nondescript shredded chicken, neither of which is remarkable on its own. But with that crispy-soft shell and a dusting of lettuce, tomato and guacamole, the sum is a more satisfying San Antonio food buzz than the parts. ($7.95 for two with rice and beans; $2.65 a la carte)
 
 
 But I don’t want the puffy tacos, Uncle Dan: My server’s smart recommendation was a carne guisada taco with big chunks of beef and thick, salty gravy ($1.99). I also liked a fat, chunky al pastor ($2.39) and a real barbacoa taco with fatty, chipped beef cheek ($1.99).
 Tortillas: Corn tortillas aren’t made here, but they puff up nicely in the fryer, smoothing out the inadequacies the same way we tell ourselves that at least the fat pushes out the wrinkles. Tacos not lucky enough to be puffy use stiff storebought flour and standard white corn.
 Salsa: The dusky red table sauce that comes with free chips after 11 has a warm chili powder personality. Watery tomatillo verde available on request.
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The 500 Tacos Project
 
(Photos by Mike Sutter © Fed Man Walking)