500 Tacos: Whole Foods Market Lamar


A taco a day for 2015 — and then some
Whole Foods Market Lamar
525 N. Lamar Blvd. (map), 512-542-2200, www.wholefoodsmarket.com/stores/lamar
Store hours: 7am-10pm daily. Taco Alley hours: 6am-10pm daily.
By Mike Sutter | © Fed Man Walking | 03.01.15
Yes, that’s kale. On a taco. A spelt taco, no less, with vegan chorizo, brown rice and vegan cheddar cheese. And I ordered it on purpose, from a touch-screen order pad that let me pick each and every element. Because why? Because this is Whole Foods, and I can. This edible amusement park of a store includes its own Taco Alley, where those potentially splendid elements share a menu with beef, chicken, pork and the breakfast taco pantheon. They’re among Whole Foods’ best values, just $3 for a fully loaded, made-to-order taco. Here’s what else I’ll do because this is Whole Foods: Grab a bottle of Pacifico Clara beer from an icy tub for $1.99, treat my kids to a tres leches parfait from the bakery for $3.99 and pick up Mexican Zaragoza Select coffee beans roasted in the store that very same day.
The taco: Vegan chorizo
This is why we can’t have nice things. We take a great idea — like a vegan taco — and spoil it with flavor-free, salty ground protein and vegan cheddar with a landfill bouquet. The spelt tortilla is as brittle as a Communion wafer but not as tasty. Brown rice is brown rice, but if steamed kale is the best part of your taco, something’s gone terribly wrong. If this series has taught me one thing, it’s that neither vegans — nor the rest of us — have to settle for a taco like this. ($3)
 Whole Tacos: The same way that Bowie BBQ inside Whole Foods makes a respectable brisket, Taco Alley makes pulled pork pastor and shredded chicken tacos that would be at home in any decent taqueria. I ordered the pastor on corn with sautéed green and yellow squash and twangy queso fresco, all included in the $3 price. Same with the other, loaded with spicy chicken, cilantro-lime rice, jack cheese and refried black beans, all of it fresh and delicious on a thick whole wheat tortilla. I added cool, ripe guacamole for an extra 50 cents.
 Tortillas: They bake their own bread, roast their own coffee and smoke their own barbecue, but Whole Foods doesn’t make fresh tortillas at Taco Alley. But they do have spelt and whole wheat, and a corn tortilla with big maiz flavor that comes in twos, because Whole Foods is from Austin, and everybody knows that Austin doubles down on corn tortillas.
 Salsa: You could build a whole salad from the free salsa bar at Taco Alley, a salad with chopped Romaine, purple cabbage, poblano-corn relish, pickled onions, jalapeños and any salsa you like, as long as it's tomatillo. Because the others each suffer fatal flaws: Brodie red (cumin overdose), mango habanero (dill-flavored Sour Patch Kids), Fire red (puckering vinegar) and hot Dragon green (tomatillos going bad).
The 500 Tacos Project
(Photos by Mike Sutter © Fed Man Walking)