500 Tacos: Valentina’s for breakfast
An Austin taco a day for 2015 — and then some
Valentina’s Tex Mex BBQ
Hours: 8am-9pm or sold out Mon; 8am-10pm or sold out Tue-Sun; breakfast 8-11am daily
By Mike Sutter | © Fed Man Walking | 12.02.15
Two things inspired a return to Valentina’s. One is that the trailer moved from the Star Bar to a gas station on Brodie. The other, and the most important, is that Val’s started doing breakfast tacos not just on weekends, but every morning. And considering that some of the city’s best barbecue tacos — and hell, some of Austin’s best barbecue — come from that trailer window, the prospect of barbecue for breakfast is an irresistible force.
The taco: Real Deal Holyfield
At the top of Val’s breakfast taco pyramid is the Real Deal Holyfield. It starts as all good tacos should, with a handmade flour tortilla. From there, a base of San Antonio beans and skin-on homefries supports a soft fried egg and a thick slice of bacon. What makes it pure Valentina’s is a slab of full fat-and-bark brisket with mesquite smoke like a harlot’s blush and black pepper eyeliner. One bite pulls together fatty brisket, golden yolk, the loam of beans and potatoes, the snap of bacon and a cloud of tortilla fluff. Pitmaster Miguel Vidal said the taco evolved from the Star Bar days, when his dad said he should do huevos rancheros. So Vidal put the taco together, added brisket, then presented it to his dad, who said, “What’s this?” And the son came back with, “That’s the Real Deal Holyfield.” And it is. ($6.50; worth it)
► The basics: Not in the market for a $6.50 breakfast taco? $2.50 buys fresh scrambled eggs, skin-on potatoes and cheddar in homemade flour. For 50 cents, add lean ground chorizo, made in-house with deep red spice. An extra dollar adds smoky chopped brisket or big, flossy nuggets of pulled pork with the same bark and bite as the brisket. ($2.50-$3.50 each)
► Tortillas: A trip to Valentina’s sister trailer, Violet Taco, made me worry for the state of Val’s handmade flour tortillas. But here at the mothership, they’re thick, dusty and strong as ever, with just enough translucent window-paning to hold back the tide of beans, fat and barbecue. Vidal said he’s worked on quality control at Violet Taco since that writeup. That’s incentive enough for me to go back.
► Salsa: Valentina’s sweet, peppery barbecue sauce is always the right choice. And so is San Antonio salsa fresca with onion, pepper, tomato and cilantro in sharp balance.
The 500 Tacos Project
(Photos by Mike Sutter © Fed Man Walking)