500 Tacos: Wheatsville Food Co-op

An Austin taco a day for 2015 — and then some
Wheatsville Food Co-op
3101 Guadalupe St., Austin (map), 512-478-2667, www.wheatsville.coop
Deli hours: 7:30am-9pm daily. Store hours: 7:30am-11pm daily.
Also at: 4001 S. Lamar Blvd. (map)
By Mike Sutter | © Fed Man Walking | 12.27.15
In the course of indulging our civic pride over Whole Foods, we sometimes look past Wheatsville Co-op. Maybe it’s because we’re ready to embrace Austin Weirdness, as long as it’s not actually, you know, weird. I mean weird the way Wheatsville started before being a hippie was just an ironic way to dress, weird the way people had to work a few hours in the store to be a member, weird the way they made Austin’s red state blue dot a shade of deep purple on the Drag. You don’t have to be a member to shop here anymore, don’t have to sort potatoes or stack cans of beans. Wheatsville is bigger, cleaner, more well-stocked than it’s ever been, and weirdness has evolved into quirkiness. We can handle quirky.
The taco: Black bean
I’ve been politely noncommittal to most of the vegetarian tacos in this series. At Whole Foods and the Vegan Nom and Papalote, among others. I was ready to do the same at Wheatsville, where a black bean taco conforms to snarky vegetarian archetypes: organice rice and carrots, organic wheat tortillas and not just sprouts but local sprouts. But it’s also built out with fresh lettuce, bright red tomatoes, good cheese, jalapeños and firm black beans, all of it included in the modest $2.79 price, all of it as photogenic as the Portlandians who could’ve grown it in their community gardens. I don’t have to be patronizing to say good things about this taco; it’s good by any standard. ($2.79)
 Veggie fajitas: To me, vegetarian food fails only when it tries to be something it’s not. Wheat gluten as rubbery as GI Joe’s scuba suit should avoid any comparison to fajitas, even in the company of grilled onions and peppers. ($2.99)          
 Designer rice and beans: A big helping of good rice and whole black beans with a side of fresh pico is clean fuel for the tank. It becomes something more with a row of fresh avocado for just 75 cents. And any old-school Wheatsvillian will suggest a few amber nuggets of fried popcorn tofu ($11.99/lb in the deli case). ($1.99 small/$3.49 large)
 Breakfast tacos: From 7:30 to 11 (noon on the weekends), Wheatsville makes breakfast tacos with eggs, vegan sausage, black beans, cheese, potatoes and — lest you think this is a vegetarian-only zone — Boar’s Head bacon. My bacon, bean and egg taco got the job done, but I need fresher eggs, crispier bacon and beans with more flavor to get me started. ($1.79 for 2 ingredients/$2.29 for 3/$2.49 for 4)
 Tortillas: Wheatsville offers organic white or wheat flour or white corn tortillas, none of them made in-house. Flour’s a better choice for Wheatsville’s overstuffed lunch tacos. Even doubled up, the corn tortillas fall apart.
 Salsa: This one’s important, because Wheatsville goes for a no make-up look in its cooking. No salt, pepper or spices to get in the way. A fresh pico of tomatoes, onions and peppers is an easy remedy. So is the store’s fresh, chili-scented red casera salsa fresca. A seasonal salsa of smoked jalapeño’s good, too, but my favorite is a chunky tomatillo that glows like a dusky gold sunset with bright, fresh pepper heat.
The 500 Tacos Project
(Photos by Mike Sutter © Fed Man Walking)