500 Tacos: Villa Mexico

 
 
A taco a day for 2015 — and then some
 
Villa Mexico
4619 S. Congress Ave. (map), 512-440-0627. Hours: 6am-5pm Mon-Sat; 8am-3pm Sun
 
By Mike Sutter | © Fed Man Walking | 08.08.15
 
In a dying strip center off South Congress, Villa Mexico is flanked by empty spaces. At lunch, only two other tables and me are holding down the place, with walls so bare and floors with so much vacant space that I expected a “For Lease” sign in the window the first time I drove up. With customer traffic this light, I steer away from delicate specialties like tripas, barbacoa and chicharrones and go for more sturdy standards: fajitas, al pastor and migas from the all-day breakfast menu.
 
The taco: Street taquitos
I love having my first impressions turned over like a table in a Whitesnake video. By appearances, this plate would have done that: six 3-inch corn tortillas with a mixed grill in the center, with beef fajitas, caramelized poblano pepper and onion strips, chunks of fatty ham and dense sausage, finished with crumbled queso fresco. But true to the malaise, the bacon was stiff and bitter like it had clocked in at dawn, and after an initially satisfying bite of the sharply seared beef, the meat tasted like it had started going sour at its heart. ($7.99)
 
 
 Al pastor and migas: The rest of lunch almost made up for the initial bad experience, with al pastor ($2.45) cut in wide, flat ribbons, with the trompo-style twang of achiote and tropical fruit. The migas ($1.45) were fresh, if overcooked, but loaded with half-crisp chips and crunchy pico de gallo scrambled right in, dressed with the easy, cheesy melt of shredded American.
 Tortillas:  Corn and flour tortillas are storebought, but they get time on the grill to bring out some toasted character.
 Salsa: Both the smooth jalapeño verde and the loose, sharp red picante are fresh and cool, served generously with free chips at lunch.
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The 500 Tacos Project
 
 
(Photos by Mike Sutter © Fed Man Walking)