If you know me, then you know how much I love tacos. If you don’t me, then you’re about to find out how much I love tacos. I grew up in Austin. Austin is the home to Tex-Mex, Mexican, street Mex and breakfast tacos.
Recently, there was a rivalry between San Antonio and Austin over breakfast tacos – who invented them, which city has the best ones, who came first. No one won, but the mayors of the two cities had to call a truce to keep it from turning into a ‘war.’
It is for this love of tacos that when I return to Austin, I like to do a taco tour. It works like a pub crawl – we pick a bunch of taco joints and we spend the day going from one to another, eating 1 taco at each place. The first of these tours was when I came home in 2015. I hadn’t been to the USA in three and a half years, and I was really missing good tacos. No offense to the Mexican joints in Wellington, but for an Austinite, it’s just not the same. So I created a Facebook event and invited a bunch of friends and the first Amber’s taco tour was born. (Technically the first of these tours was in 2011, when Lissa was visiting Austin and we visited 3 taco joints before taking her to the airport to catch her flight back to Boston!)
That first official taco tour Saturday we visited 5 taco places. We started with the breakfast taco at Tamale House East, made our way to Veracruz All Natural for the infamous migas taco, hightailed it to Taco More for their salsa bar and goat taco, and then ended up on Manor Road for tacos at Mi Madre's. After this we needed some refreshments and a break from eating, so we had margarita happy hour[s] at El Chile, and then had the last tacos of the day at El Chilito.
I had so much fun on the taco tour of 2015 that for this trip, I wanted to recreate the experience. I picked [mostly] new places from last year’s tour - the goal being to visit places I’ve never been, faves, a few that friends have never been to, and classic Austin taco joints.
We started at Maria's Taco Xpress at 11am so we could begin with the breakfast taco. The breakfast taco is all things good about breakfast. Believe me when I tell you – you can put anything in a tortilla. This has become well known enough (in the USA) that you can find Korean BBQ tacos, fusion Asian tacos, Vietnamese pho tacos, vegan/gluten free/dairy free tacos, along with the standard Tex-Mex/Mexican tacos you can find anywhere around Austin.
But let me tell you about breakfast tacos – think scrambled eggs in a corn or flour tortilla – then add potatoes, chorizo, bacon, cheese, beans, veggies, soyrizo or even pulled pork. Add avocado, salsa verde, salsa roja, coriander, pico de gallo – the toppings go on! Sorry, but no, you can’t have ALL of these things – then it would be a breakfast burrito. And yes, breakfast burritos are good, but the breakfast taco is better…mainly because they’re smaller so you can have two, which means you can try several breakfast tacos in one go! For you Kiwis reading this – it’s sort of like having a pie for breakfast, but a little bit healthier and with a lot more options.
Austin [and San Antonio] are famous for the migas taco. There is a little variety from place to place but it’s pretty much scrambled eggs with sautéed jalapenos or capsicums, tomatoes and onions with corn tortilla strips and cheese, all wrapped up in a tortilla, with your choice of salsa. It’s delicious! I like to make migas at home when I have leftover corn chips in the pantry.
After the migas taco, we headed to Papalote for their ‘Mexican street tacos.’ Pricier than what they would be in Mexico but with a great selection of meat and vegetarian options, I tried the Torta de Coliflor, or cauliflower fritter.
All on homemade tortillas – which in Austin can set apart a good taco joint from a great taco joint!
After these we headed to Mellizoz – a taco truck that has been around Austin for a long time, formerly Izzoz tacos. Amy and I shared the fried avocado, and while it sounded great with sherry vinaigrette and fresh rocket, the best thing about it was how pretty it looked (although I forgot to take a photo).
Looking for redemption, we headed to East Riverside, where we knew we could find authentic Mexican tacos. We were also in need of sitting inside with air conditioning because we had been outside for the first three, and while it wasn’t 105F (40C) today, it was still very hot, humid and steamy. Rositas Al Pastor was our place – the ‘oldest’ late night taco truck in Austin, also with a brick and mortar location at the back of the shopping strip. We were immediately served with chips and salsa after we sat down, and when Andy appeared with a bottle of BYO tequila, they cut our limes and brought them on a plate with tajin (chili, lime and salt). Most of us ordered the Al Pastor taco, but a few people strayed and ordered Sopa de Pollo or bacon wrapped-shrimp stuffed jalapenos. So far the best taco of the day. The al pastor was served simply, with coriander and diced onions, but the pork was well flavoured and perfectly cooked. And all for $1.75, also with a homemade tortilla!
It was at this stage that I began to reconsider our day – I had three more taco joints on the schedule. Tamale House East, Pueblo Viejo, and Pacos Tacos. However, everyone was beginning to be pretty full up on tacos, and a bit tired. We headed to Tamale House East to round off the tour. Last year we went here for the first breakfast taco, but with a great menu containing options such as cochinita pibil, chicken mole, dad’s fajita, carne guisada, and they make everything themselves. Including their prickly pear margaritas and flan, we decided to end the tour here. We ended our day with a taco, a drink, good conversation, someone’s Pokemon Stop and hugs congratulating ourselves on eating tacos for 7 hours!
I’ll have to try Pueblo Viejo and Pacos Tacos another time. Maybe on the next taco tour, whenever that is.