500 Tacos: Torchy’s Tacos (Trailer Park)

An Austin taco a day for 2015 — and then some
Torchy’s Tacos – Trailer Park
1311 S. First St., Austin (map), 512-366-0537, more locations at www.torchystacos.com
Hours: 7am-10pm Mon-Thu, 7am-11pm Fri, 8am-11pm Sat, 8am-10pm Sun
By Mike Sutter | Fed Man Walking | 01.29.15

With 18 signature tacos, the infinity of breakfast, a not-so-Secret Menu, 11 Greater Austin locations with another on the way, killer queso and a revolving Taco of the Month, Torchy’s Tacos is worth a yearlong conversation. We’ll have one every month of this series, starting with the first Torchy’s, the trailer Michael Rypka started in 2006 on South First, the one that got the wheels rolling on a future Austin institution.
The taco:
Trashy Trailer Park (top photo)
Torchy’s is a regular at the Austin City Limits Festival. Even in that environment, they managed to pull off the Trailer Park’s hot fried chicken and cool lettuce and tomatoes. I guess it helps if your business was born in a trailer. Out here in the no-wristband world, the Trailer Park is hot and reliable, with seasoned and salty Kentucky breading that holds in the juice, chopped mild green chiles, melting ribbons of white cheese and cool pico de gallo dressed with light green poblano ranch. It’s the taco for Middle America, and while I resent the negative connotations it lends to an already condescending name, I like my Trailer Park “Trashy,” with Torchy’s class-leading queso in place of lettuce. Because no matter your breeding, who wouldn’t choose queso? ($3.75)
Taco of the Month - January:
Tuk-Tuk (inset photo)
With 12 reports from Torchy’s comes a year’s worth of Taco of the Month reports. January’s late start is a Thai-inspired collective dominated by beef, cucumber, peanuts and sugar — so much sugar. Too much sugar. Because sugar is so often used to fill in the flavor gaps left by cheap, carb-heavy fast food, the candied sauce that clings like wet Sugar Smacks to this $5.50 taco is a criminal trespass on tender, fatty, well-grilled fajita beef and crisp banh mi slices of cucumber and carrot. Taken with the collective power of crushed peanuts, mint and slaw, the cloying aftergoo is an intrusion on my exotic little garden party. Bring on February. ($5.50)
 Tortilla: Like barbecue places — Franklin included — who have sausage made “to their recipe” by someone else, Torchy’s tortillas are outsourced. The result is flour tortillas that, while warm and glossy and stretchy, don’t belong in the same conversation as the creations they cover.
 Salsa: Where to start when Torchy’s has half a dozen salsas? We’ve got a year’s worth of Torchy’s to cover them all, so I’ll pick one best-suited to the featured taco. It’s Roja for the Trailer Park. The  TP already has a creamy poblano ranch sauce. But what it needs to balance that and the grease from the fried chicken is an astringent shot of roasted tomato, onion, garlic and lime juice. The Roja delivers on all those points, which makes it good therapy for the Tuk-Tuk, too.
The 500 Tacos Project
(Photos by Mike Sutter © Fed Man Walking)
More Torchy’s in this series
► Round Rock  ► South First  ► Spicewood