500 Tacos: The Violet Taco
An Austin taco a day for 2015 — and then some
The Violet Taco
Hours: 5-10pm Mon-Tue; 5-midnight Wed; 5pm-2am Thu-Fri; noon-2am Sat; noon-10pm Sun
By Mike Sutter | © Fed Man Walking | 10.10.15
It’s a testament to how much I like Valentina’s Tex Mex BBQ that I would follow its Violet Taco sister trailer to the bar where Val’s got its start. It’s a testament because that bar, the Star Bar, is in the middle of West Sixth, a nightlife sector that attracts newly legal drinkers like mosquitoes to a bug zapper, and I’m the guy just trying to have a beer on the lawnchair next to it.
Valentina’s moved to Brodie Lane in May, when the Star Bar began renovations. Now that those renovations are done, Val’s has chosen to stay on Brodie, and the Violet Taco took Val’s old spot in August, a month after leaving its original host bar, the Craftsman on East Cesar Chavez.
Valentina’s — an Austin Top 10 BBQ joint in its own right — makes one of the best brisket tacos in the city, full of mesquite smoke on a handmade flour tortilla good enough to land on yet another best of list. Good salsas, too, and tacos with smoked carnitas and pulled chicken. But quality by association only goes so far, and the Violet Taco doesn’t carry the family name with the same grace.
The taco: The Mighty Mo (top)
The Mighty Mo is named for co-founder Modesty Vidal, wife of pitboss Miguel Vidal and mother of Daughter 1 (Valentina) and Daughter 2 (Violet). It’s a lively mix of grilled shrimp, purple slaw, avocado pico and spicy aioli. It’s also a sloppy, overpriced mess, with just three shrimp for the $6 pricetag, cascading from the sides of the soggy tortilla like a broken trawler’s net. The shrimp’s cooked to a perfect bounce, but there’s no trace of the garlic or lime mentioned on the menu, and the slaw could have come from any baseline fish house.
► El Borracho: This beef fajita taco outclasses the others by a full degree, even if it suffers an overload of salt. The skirt is tender without going soft, rendered with the same care Miguel Vidal brings to brisket, without the big mesquite smoke. It’s finished with grilled sweet onions and mild poblanos. But still, $5.50 is more than I want to pay for a trailer taco behind a frat bar.
► The ACP: Miguel Vidal came through on his promise that the Violet Taco would put arroz con pollo in a tortilla. Sure, chicken and rice is a disheveled mess when it’s folded into a tortilla, but the rice is real San Antonio Tex-Mex, and the fat slices of chicken take to the grill with bronzed swagger. It’s pulled together with ranchero salsa and Mexican crema. ($4.50)
► The safe word is “BBQ”: Unwilling to take the Violet gamble? The trailer also sells Val’s smoked brisket tacos.
► Tortillas: The thick, dusty, handmade flour tortillas that put Valentina’s among my Top BBQ Wild Cards are thin and gummy under their payloads at Violet. Corn tortillas here come from a bag, but even they might have held up better.
► Salsa: Miguel Vidal’s simmered, poly-chile Gangsta salsa is among the city’s best hot red salsas. There’s also a mild tomatillo verde with bright lime highlights.
The 500 Tacos Project
(Photos by Mike Sutter © Fed Man Walking)