500 Tacos: Vazquez Restaurant
An Austin taco a day for 2015 — and then some
Hours: 6am-9pm Mon-Fri; 7am-9pm Sat; 7am-4pm Sun
Also at: 9063 Research Blvd., Austin (map); 13729 U.S. 183 N., Austin (map); 910 Sam Bass Road, Round Rock (map)
By Mike Sutter | © Fed Man Walking | 10.03.15
The parking lot here should be part of the DPS Advanced License Test, it’s such a tangle of tight turns and self-opposing right angles. The fact that it’s full says something about Vazquez: that it’s fast, affordable, reliable and decent, there’s breakfast all day and you get coffee in a carafe to call your own.
The taco: Barbacoa
Here’s something to look for: If a restaurant sells meat by the pound, it’s a safe bet that it’s also their best taco. Barbacoa bears that out at Vazquez, with shredded cheek meat carrying a soft, buttery tone in both texture and taste, a character that responds especially well to the sharp brightness of onions and cilantro. ($2.49 for a taco/$12.49 a pound with tortillas and pico)
► Pork times 2: Pastor, that taqueria standy, gets the obligatory treatment here, as bland as chicken in its light adobo dusting ($2.75). Pork adobado brings out the meat’s character more effectively, in chunks like roast beef in a saturated chile verde braise that brings big vegetable, herb and dried chile flavors ($2.49)
► Breakfast: Huevos a la Mexicana is a fine test taco for breakfast, because it shows whether a place cooks to order and knows how to scramble an egg without turning the onions, tomatoes and peppers to mush. Vazquez passes the test. ($1.79)
► Carne guisada: I don’t need a ladle of brown gravy for carne guisada to make its point. But I need more than the fuzz it leaves behind. Because whatever hydration the gravy gave these arid blocks of beef and potato during the cooking process, it took all of that away and then some as it evaporated ($2.49).
► Tortillas: Basic waxy flour and fragile single-layer white corn tortillas from a bag.
► Salsa: At Vazquez, the red sauce that comes in a drip-cut jar looks like an innocent tomato-onion-pepper salsa, but it’s hiding dried red chiles to take your tastebuds’ lunch money. On request, they’ll bring you a hot salsa of roasted tomatillos that’s tart, sweet and just spicy enough to hold its own.
The 500 Tacos Project
(Photos by Mike Sutter © Fed Man Walking)