I believe that was the sound that came out of my mouth and made its way past the barbacoa taco that was halfway inside it, as I was sitting on a tiny folding chair outside El Taco Rico. That’s how damn fine the tacos at El Taco Rico are–they’re audible grunt worthy.
I found El Taco Rico through this blog and their staff’s extremely high praise of the street grub it turns out of its tiny East Austin trailer. Honestly, I don’t think I would have found it otherwise. It’s located in the parking lot of a worn-in washateria, in the middle of an extremely unassuming neighborhood, off a part of East Riverside that specializes in providing smokes and gas on the way to the airport and little else. In a town where food trailers are becoming a little like tree roaches in their prevalence and little like white belts in their ever-increasing quest for the ironic and unexpected, El Taco Rico is a bit of a throwback. It’s great street food from a trailer in a blue-collar neighborhood, because that’s where great street food comes from. There is not a drop of irony or chic anywhere near the tiny operation, or even its block for that matter. And that should be counted among its charms.
The menu is pretty straight forward: a selection of enchiladas, tortas, sopes and other standards, as well as a pretty good variety of tacos for $2 a piece. Pretty easy territory to navigate, right? Well, it ain’t the Taco Deli in Westlake, so that means the only road to taco nirvana is through its native tongue. For me, ordering went something like this:
“Hi- Hola… Uhhh…. Dos barbacoa tacos y… oh wait… and, oh uhhh…. dos al pastor tacos, para aqui. Is that right? Para aqui?… Sure, thanks… I mean gracias, aw to hell with it. Thanks.”
Order your food with a few lines of faltering pidgin Spanish, stand there for a few minutes wishing your gringo-ese was better and soon enough your food is delivered. My first order was a barbacoa taco and an al pastor taco. They were good enough to prompt a second order about 5 minutes later (fajita and bistec tacos). And had I thought to bring a little more cash, there would have been a third order a few minutes after that. It’s not that the tacos are overly small (they’re not), it’s that they were damn good and when food is that good I put on my glutton pants.
The tacos were good sized, full of tasty meaty bits, topped with a few onions and cilantro, some outstanding green and red salsas, and then placed on what is undoubtedly the best tortilla I’ve ever eaten. Seriously, those things are a new level of tortilla-dom. Even the flour ones were amazing, with alternately chewy and crispy textures and palpable freshness. But the corn tortillas stole the show, little thin and soft corn pillows of love. You could eat deep fried cat fur on one of those things and it would still be the best taco you ever had. Of all the meats, the barbacoa was clearly the star. That stuff bordered on unholy levels of tastiness. Lots of chewy meat, little melting fatty bits and some tiny crispy edges to round it out. Texturally pleasing, very beefy, very unctuous and very, very good.
El Taco Rico was good enough that I’ve thought about going back about 6 times in the three days since I first ate there. I plan to order the barbacoa on everything possible, including my bare hand for a car snack on the way home. If only they’ll oblige.
We’re always looking for top flight writers to sit in at the scrumptious site. We recruited Jake Camozzi after reading his superb blog http://leavemetheoink.wordpress.com/
We’ve been championing the work of Chef Yolanda Sanchez Cornejo for some time. In a town filled with Mexican cooks it’s hard to be the queen but that is the title this woman wears as she mans the range at El Taco Rico.
Previous articles about this insurgent cook: Bacon Egg and Cheese breakfast taco [the best in Austin ] http://chowpapi.com/wordpress/wordpress-2.8.6/wordpress/?p=1006
Barbacoa tacos [the best in Austin] http://chowpapi.com/wordpress/wordpress-2.8.6/wordpress/?p=673
The best Mexican restaurant in Austin. Period. http://www.scrumptiouschef.com/food/2012/1/1/Austin-Daily-Photo-Yolanda-Sanchez-Cornejo-of-El-Taco-Rico-In-Montopolis-Neighborhood