500 Tacos: Waterloo Ice House

A taco a day for 2015 — and then some
Waterloo Ice House
6203 N. Capital of Texas Highway (map), 512-418-9700, three more locations at www.waterlooicehouse.com
Hours: 7am-midnight Mon-Sat, 8am-11pm Sun
By Mike Sutter | Fed Man Walking | 02.03.15
Like ice in a glass of something cool, Waterloo has become watered down over the years. The old Waterloo Ice House next to Waterloo Records at Sixth and Lamar hosted Austin’s live music illuminati at the end of the last century, people like Jimmy LaFave, Kelly Willis, Mary Cutrufello, Toni Price and Jimmie Dale Gilmore. The Waterloo Ice House franchise has expanded and contracted, and what remains are four family feed barns wearing Waterloo name tags, like middle-age dads trying to stay relevant.
That pivotal Waterloo location houses the nouveau 24 Diner now, and the only trace of cool left at the Waterloo on Loop 360 lingers on a wall of photos from those days. The menu hangs on to Old Austin with chicken-fried steak and fajitas and burgers that try really hard. Other people do those things better now. But at breakfast time, Waterloo is a respectable alternative to IHOP or Denny’s or Jim’s, even some of the new Kerbey Lane Cafes. Dad still has a few moves left.
The taco: Santa Monica
Oh sure. I could play it safe with a migas taco (photo below). It’s fresh and hot, with a chop of tomatoes, crisp jalapeño, onions, cheese and tortilla chips ($2.75). But here comes a New Austin Metaphor Alert: It’s almost too clean and calculated, like a developer more interested in stand-alone buildings than the city as a whole. And so I’m spotlighting the Santa Monica taco (photo at top), because it triggers an Old Austin Metaphor Alert: It’s an outdoor free show, a diverse collective of woolly ground chorizo, rumpled scrambled eggs and scrappy homefries keeping warm under a blanket of green chile queso ($2.99). Both are available all day.
 Tortillas: Old Austin never did much with tortillas, and these barely warmed store-grade flour and corn tortillas offer reassurance that some things never change.
 Salsa: See above references to “Old Austin,” where the only thing in the middle of the road were moderates, dead armadillos and red sauce.
 Pancake surprise: Fluffy on the inside and toasted on the outside, Waterloo’s banana brown sugar pancakes are as good as the old Kerbey Lane wagon wheels. Available all day.
The 500 Tacos Project
(Photos by Mike Sutter © Fed Man Walking)