I Can Eat 50 Eggs: Juan in a Million

In honor of Paul Newman and “Cool Hand Luke,” I’ll review 50 days of eggs from 50 different restaurants.
Day 35: Juan in a Million
2300 E Cesar Chavez St. 472-3872, www.juaninamillion.com.
Hours: 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. daily
By Mike Sutter | Fed Man Walking | 02.04.12
This is the Mt. Olympus of Austin breakfast tacos. Not because it’s the king of the oh-my-gods, but because it makes you feel puny by comparison. And because Adam Richman bellowed his way through half a dozen of them on national TV. The Don Juan arrives open-faced, because it’s not really a taco. It’s the kitchen crew clearing off the flat-top and scooping it onto a tortilla, a single terrified tortilla. Ask for a few on the side and you’ll have enough to build at least five mortal tacos from this single $3.80 stockpile. And it comes with chips and sauce, a comfortable red salsa that’s not as scorching as I remember, possibly a concession to the restaurant’s expansion and post-Travel Channel celebrity.
For an American-Statesman 30-taco series in 2010, I bypassed the Don Juan in favor of a better breakfast taco with machacado, tomatoes and onions, and it’s still a better reason to fight your way into a parking space at the crowded cafe. But like the elephant in the room (hi Adam), I couldn’t ignore the Don forever.
In the spirit of the starchy diets of our ancestors, the Don Juan taco is mostly potato. A loaded baked potato scooped from its skin, fortified with hammy bacon bits and bacony ham bits with shredded processed cheese. The eggs wear cafe camouflage, blending in with a duotone palette of antique white and distressed yellow to match the flat, starchy flavor profile of a taco built for size, not for speed.
When I told a friend I’d been to Juan in a Million, he asked if I’d gotten The Handshake. Yes, I got my Handshake. The one from the owner, Juan Meza. The one where he makes eye contact and squares his shoulders in a linebacker’s ready stance, then brings his hand up over his head, barreling down in a powerful arc that ends in a thwack and the firm grip of a man who’s built his business one customer at a time. And he wants to keep them all.
(Photos by Mike Sutter © Fed Man Walking)
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