500 Tacos: Tortilleria El Taquito

An Austin taco a day for 2015 — and then some
Tortilleria El Taquito
8610 N. Lamar Blvd., Austin (map), 512-490-6622, www.tortilleriaeltaquito.com
Hours: 6am-8pm daily
By Mike Sutter | © Fed Man Walking | 08.20.15
Supply and demand go hand in hand. Drug dealers know this. Tortillerias know this. If you’re pressing corn and flour tortillas by the hundreds every day, why not sell some tacos? You know, let people get a taste of your supply? On this quarter-mile stretch of North Lamar, with seven trailers and three sit-down taquerias posted up like dealers fighting for turf, you gotta hustle to survive. And Tortilleria El Taquito is a hustler.
Taco A: Borrego
Roasted lamb is a rare taqueria commodity. At El Taquito, you can buy it by the pound for $11.99 or get a $2 taco for just a taste. The taste is what you might expect from lamb: grassy, a little gamey, at its best with a dress of onions, cilantro and the shop’s creamy-hot salsa verde. The texture’s just right for a taco: rangy enough to hold together, juicy enough to convey its light chile braise, tender enough to tear away in small bites. ($2)
Taco B: Barbacoa
Tender, fatty steamed beef cheek is good in its unadorned state, but even better with El Taquito’s light chile spice. ($1.65 corn/$1.89 flour)
 Taco plate special: On weekdays, a plate of three tacos with rice, beans and a canned soda costs just $5.99. Some of the specialty meats are excluded —lengua, borrego, tripas — but settling for an adobo-rich confetti of al pastor, sturdy beef deshebrada or that lush barbacoa doesn’t feel like settling at all. Built with a sense of artistry, the plate’s finished with totopos and queso fresco for the beans, plus onions, cilantro, some boiled potato and a grilled serrano pepper.
 Tortillas: Both corn and flour tortillas are made onsite. I didn’t say “handmade,” because two machines do all the mixing and pressing. With substance and fresh flexibility, they’re better than bags from a grocery store.
 Chips and salsa: Nobody, not even the menu, mentions chips and salsa. Like they don’t want the secret getting out. But they showed up with my taco plate, and now I understand why they’d want to hoard it for themselves. The chips are cut from whole corn tortillas, thick and flaky with a hard, satisfying crunch. And the salsa is a molcajete-style fresh chop of roasted chiles and tomatoes, as if it were made tableside, just for you. There’s also a spicy cream-style jalapeno green with skins and seeds or a sweet tomatillo red with light dried chile tones.
 Programming note: This restaurant isn’t affiliated with El Taquito on Riverside Drive.
The 500 Tacos Project
(Photos by Mike Sutter © Fed Man Walking)