Wednesday, October 29

Bon Appétit Magazine: Taco Tips from The Taco Man

When Bon Appétit Magazine calls for taco advice, well, we deliver! So check out the cool story on the Austin taco scene in the November issue of Bon Appétit!

Excerpt from Taco Town USA: Where to Find the Best Tacos in Austin
Ask a Local: The Taco Man

No one has eaten more tacos than Mando Rayo, co-author of Austin Breakfast Tacos and the man behind the blog We can all learn from the guy.

1. You roll a burrito, flauta, and enchilada. You fold a taco.

2. Avoid college tacos, which consist of overcooked eggs, too much cheese, and a cold tortilla.

3. It’s always a good time to eat a taco. Just make sure you’re not the first (the griddle needs time to
become seasoned) or last (how long has the meat been sitting out?).

4. If you’re a taco rookie, skip the ground-beef taco and start with a pollo al carbon (grilled chicken) or an al pastor (spit-grilled pork).

5. Do eat tacos from Mexican, Asian, BBQ, and even American restaurants, but never, ever from a fastfood chain.

6. Always eat with your hands.

7. Spend $2–$3 per taco. Don’t pay $6 for one taco in Austin—or NYC.

8. You know you’re eating at an authentic joint if:
-The taqueria is next to a garage or Laundromat.
-More than half of the diners are Latino.
-You have to order in Spanish.
-The TV is blaring Sábado Gigante or fùtbol.
-The family next to you is dressed to the nines.
-The staff gives you a blank stare when you ask for a vegetarian option.
-The aguas frescas are plentiful, colorful, and flowing!

Tuesday, September 16

Austin Breakfast Tacos with La Tacopedia - Alejandro Escalante

Of course you've heard of La Tacopedia, Mexico's authority on all things tacos! El Senor Alejandro Escalante, author of La Tacopedia was in Austin last week and what we did we do? Pos we ate some breakfast tacos, Austin style! Alejandro wanted to try some of the famous breakfast tacos that Austin is known for so we met up at Tacodeli. Big time thanks to Andrew Gonzales with Digestible Media for producing the video! Check out our short video as we introduce Alejandro to Austin breakfast tacos.

Friday, July 18

El Paisa: Tacos al-bistec or al-mistake?? Guest Post via Joel Salcido

When my compadre en tacos y photos, El Mero Mero Photgrafero, Joel Salcido texted me a pic of El Paisa taco trailer on William Cannon, my first thought was Neon Sign + tacos + picnic bencheees, sounds like a good mix! Next to neon signs, the taco art isa sign of a good taco truck. Much to his dismay, Joel didn't like the tacos and I asked him to write it up for us. I think this may be his informal induction into the Austin Taco Council, a subsidiary of the Texas Taco Council...patent pending. ;)

El Paisa taco trailer by Joel Salcido

From the car I could see the taco promised land.

The El Paisa neon sign of the food truck parked in South Austin radiated its orange glow onto the faces of the gathering crowd as they all stood there in an apparent and involuntary hunger strike.

My wife and I decisively made a quick U-turn on William Cannon just east of I-35 in our quest to partake of the taco fest.

Once under the aura and radiance of the orange sign I ordered four tacos al bistec.  My anticipation was so great that I could almost taste the Habanero burn of the neon light.

I could see the stress in the woman’s face and in her rapid-fire Spanish voice she informed us of a 30-minute wait.

In a split-second I concluded that a 30-minute wait only meant that these tacos would be, “la bomba!”  I should have figured right there and then that this taco bomba experience was never going to burst my tastebuds.

So several hundred seconds after our 30-minute mark, numero veintiseis (#26) came calling!

In anticipation I catapulted out of the picnic table and dashed for our tacos.

The paper plate could barely hold the excitement of the tacos-al-bistec or more like tacos- al-mistake!

The four, duo-tortilla tacos came with bistec meat that was Chihuahuan desert dry and that leaned towards a stubborn version of a fried beef jerky that vacillated between corkscrew strips of fat an alleged beef.

Thinking I could save the day by spicing and hydrating the desiccated valley of my tacos I looked around for a magic salsa.  I bounced around from table to table until I found a single squeeze bottle with some light orange concoction.

I poured and squeezed and baptized my tacos in salsa but never experienced salvation.

Needless to say this Mexican has never felt so betrayed by a taco.

Sin fin…

Joel Salcido, on location in Jalisco, Mexico

El Paisa Taco Trailer --- 1 Star
1821 E. William Cannon Dr.
Austin, Texas 78744

Tuesday, July 15

#TrompoQuest: Ten Killer Al Pastor Tacos in Austin, Mapped on @EaterAustin

The #TrompoQuest is done! We ate 'em all up, all the tacos al pastor in a week. Some didn't make the lista cuz they well, they weren't that good...this time. For now, here's our top ten list on Eater Austin. Check them out!

From our post on Eater Austin:

"Where are Austin's best tacos al pastor? Local taco interventionist Mando Rayo went on a #TrompoQuest to find out, along with the rest of the Taco Journalism team. Here's what Rayo has to say about their picks:

#TrompoQuest! For Eater Austin we went on a journey to find the best tacos al pastor in Austin, Texas y'all! If you know us (Taco Journalism), y'know we like real deal taco joints, not just what's hot or trendy. We looked for a great sabor, guajillo chiles y achiote, consistency and quality."

For the full map, clic aquí!

Thursday, July 3

Mijo's Tex-Mex: Not for this Tejano

Here's the thing, Tex-Mex is a dying breed in Austin. There's only a few last standing Tex-Mex joints still around like Matt's El Rancho and Cisco's so when I heard about Mijo's Tex-Mex, I was down to try it. I've been there once before on a secret Tex-Mex mission but just for drinks and some queso - the real kind, y'know the velveeta kind that hardens in about 10 minutes. 

Mijo's is located in East 11th neighborhood just off I-35. As you walk in you can definitely feel the Tex-Mex feel, lots of colors, music in the background and the menu is actually more than Tex-Mex. From looking at el menu, I think they may be wanting to do a lot more than Tex-Mex? So we (my friend Cynthia and I - also I never eat alone, yes I have taco eating issues) ordered a sampling of their Street Tacos and a plate of the Puffy Tacos and chips and queso. For the record, the Street Tacos are more Mexican than Tex-Mex. Maybe they were inspired by TC? D'oh! Quien sabe?

Los Street Tacos
Los Puffy Tacos
Los Street Tacos definitely looked good. Mira el picture! They did not disappoint. La presentacion was good too, with 6 tacos, sauteed onions and jalapeños. La carne was rich and smokey and left a hearty taste in your mouth. That and the kick with the jalapeños and the green salsa brought it home for me, which was a good thing because the tortillas were a little bland and well so was the rest of the meal. The Puffy Tacos looked muy rico but the promise did not deliver. The puffiness was great but again, the puffy tortillas were missing something, like salt and maybe some manteca??? The picadillo on the taco was pretty tame. The beans needed a lot of help too. They tasted like they were sitting in that big container that most restaurants have and diluted with lots of water. Besides the Street Tacos, the green salsa was really good. It was jalapeño green, hot and they brought it out warm. The queso was just okay but the green salsa helped to give it a kick. 

Pos there you have it. Mijo's, you've got a mix of things going for you but Tex-Mex may not be the one. Well not for this Tejano. 

1000 East 11th St, Ste 150,
Austin, TX 78702

Friday, May 30

Alla en el Rancho Grande: Southern Traditions Grass Fed Meats

♬ Alla el en rancho grande...alla donde viviaaa ... no habia grass feed meats. Nope. But in Austin, you gotta have it porque times are changing even for us grassroots cocineros. Now don't get wrong, I love my mystery meat and I never ask where the Al Pastor comes from but I am a fan of the quality meats. So when Nick from Southern Traditions Grass Fed Meats offered me some carnies, I took it! By no means is this a review but more of a commentary on how much I enjoyed the free quality meats by ST.

So what's a taco guy to do? Pos make tacos of course. I started with the ground beef for...yup...Taco Tuesday. It was nice to open package of carnie and not be overwhelmed by the typical strong smell which usually happens when I go to the traditional meat markets. I quickly whipped up a lesser version of picadillo, minus the papas cuz y'know papas are just fillers. No thanks. I also add my veggies cuz they good for yous. 10-15 minutos later...juala!

"Mira la carne!" said Mando
"Que Rico!" said Diego, Age 2

Next up was the kabob sirloin. Now I love to grill out pero when you can't grillz, you gotta break out the comal like any self-respecting Mexicano. Now on the comal, you can make just about anything...comal pot pie, comal quesadillas, comal chiles tostados y comal tacos. Yup, that's about it. Now I gotta be honest the kabob isn't my fave but I spiced it up, added some mushrooms con calabasas and it turned out pretty good. I like my meats a little red to keep it tender and I sure was pleased with myself...and the meat, of course.


So mil gracias to Nick from Southern Traditions Grass Fed Meats for reaching out. But you don't have to take my word for it, check 'em out at your local farmer's markets aquí:

  • Each Saturday - Cedar Park/Lakeline Mall and SFC Market Downtown 4th & Guadalupe from 9 am to 1 pm
  • Each Sunday - Lone Star Market - Shops @ Hill Country Galleria (Lowes Parking Lot) 10 am to 2 pm and the Hope Market  East Austin 5th & Comal – 11 am to 3 pm
  • Our products can also be bought at Paleface Feed & Garden out on Hwy 71 and The Health Box on South Lamar & Barton Springs.

Tuesday, May 6

These are Very Important Tacos! Get ur VIT tix at PachangaFest!

Maria’s Taco Xpress - La Fogata - El Primo - Mellizoz - Dos Batos - Casa Chapala - One Taco - Tacodeli - El Taquito Sabor Mexico. #QueRico!

Los creatives at PachangaFest Latino Music Festival have brought together a plethora of tacos for all you taco and music lovers! So why not spend this Saturday enjoying some good musica Latina and enjoy some tacos, drinks and some nice air conditioning with your VIT tickets. 

Here's what you get...

One signature taco from each of the 10 participating restaurants.
Salsa bar from El Taquito and Casa Chapala.
Paletas from Mom & Pops.
Unlimited non-alcoholic drinks including aguas frescas from El Taquito.
Access to indoor restrooms and air conditioned lounge.

So get your tix todays

Full disclosure: I'll be there! Thanks to the PachangaFest team for the complimentary VIT passes. 

Tuesday, April 29

RIP Robert "Bobby" Vasquez - Oral History Interview

The TJ team is saddened by the passing of Robert "Bobby" Vasquez of The Tamale House on Airport Blvd. We have fond memories of eating and sending people to Bobby's place - The Tamale House, a true Austin institution. As part of the 'Austin Breakfast Tacos' project, we added an oral history piece to the book. The following is an excerpt interview with Bobby Vasquez as he shares a little history of The Tamale House, when breakfast tacos took off, the infamous taco wars, and how it was like to eat tacos back in the day. Rest in Peace Mr. Vasquez.

Brother and Sister, Bobby Vasquez & Diana Valera
Photo source: Tamale House East


Breakfast Tacos Take Off

I don’t think anyone was selling breakfast tacos when I opened up. I think I was in business for five or six years before I actually started selling breakfast tacos. It means you gotta get up at four o’clock in the morning to make a breakfast taco. When I started in 1985–86, I started selling them. A neighbor down the street was selling them, too. So I started a taco war. My tacos went down to forty-five cents each. So he went out of business, and I kept going. About that time, my mother and my sister started selling breakfast tacos, too. Now, if you look around, everybody’s selling breakfast tacos. Everybody. McDonald’s, Wendy’s, Taco Bell. They never used to do it before. It’s something that’s caught on...I make all my stuff in-house. We don’t have anything imported. It’s all made right here in our kitchens. The only thing we buy are the tortillas, but they’re local.

Eating Tacos, Then and Now

You wanna know what it was like as a kid eating tacos? If I took tacos to school, everyone would say shame on you. There was a lot of shame eating a taco back then. You had to hide them. You couldn’t eat them in front of nobody. And this was among a school that was 80 to 90 percent Anglo and very few Mexicans. So I had to hide my food. But now, 80 to 90 percent of Anglos eat tacos! I would say 80 to 90 percent of my customers are Anglo. And they eat tacos like they’ve never had anything before in their life! So things have changed. I think to myself, I remember a time when I would get made fun of. And now everybody’s eating tacos. It’s not just Mexicans anymore.