As I sit here in my kitchen with two long sleeve shirts on, long pants, and fuzzy socks, I think back two weeks ago to my glorious trip to Austin where I was waking up to 70 degree weather each day. I did not have to pack or even think about pants or fuzzy socks down there. I just had to plan where I wanted to get tacos for lunch and what I wanted to explore while in Austin with my traveling companions.
At least once a year, a few of my girlfriends and I plan a trip together to just unwind, catch up, and remove ourselves from our daily routine. About a year ago, we had our second trip all together to Huntington Beach, California for our return trip to see Hannah. If you can recall, I wrote about a lot of tacos from both visits to Huntington Beach. Hannah introduced me to Chronic Tacos, which were by far were my favorite tacos in that area. Even though Hannah has since then moved out of Huntington Beach, it has not stopped us from traveling together. This year we chose a random city to explore during a long four day weekend, and we chose Austin, Texas.
Going into this trip, Hannah, Taylor, and Carolyn knew that they were going to have a lot of tacos when spending the long weekend with me. Hannah eats tacos regularly out west and has a keen sense for a good quality taco. Taylor loves Mexican food in general and if there is a side of rice involved then she is definitely in for the count. The only person I was concerned about was Carolyn. I remember from previous trips, I had taco’d her out about halfway through the vacation. But times have changed! I was very excited to hear that Carolyn has grown to like tacos way more than she did a year ago due to the amount of tacos that her fiancee and I
force encourage her to eat. Also, as long as chips and queso are on the menu, she is all set. So with all four of us on board, I was able to try out four taco spots on this trip to Austin.
First Stop- Pueblo Viejo
As soon as I arrived at the hotel, I changed and gathered up the troops for lunch a little after 12:30pm. We grabbed our shades and took off walking in the sun towards our first taco encounter. We wanted tacos that were within walking distance so we pulled a place off my list (I had researched a lengthy list of taco places to try) called Pueblo Viejo, only 0.4 miles away from our hotel. We ventured to the main location at 502 Brushy St on the east side of Austin. We were told by locals that Austin is a safe city in general but the direction we were going was not as crowded with pedestrians and tourists. I will just say that I would not feel comfortable walking here alone. We went to their main location that has a small counter outside the North Door venue. They also have a food truck location at 1906 E. Cesar Chavez at Craftsman Bar.
Pueblo Viejo opened in 2010 by the owners Nestor and Margarita whose hometown is in Mexico. The menu had 7 different Breakfast tacos, make your own tacos, specialty tacos, mainstay tacos, taco plates, quesadillas, gorditas, and sides.
There was only one customer in front of us in line and he told us that everything was good on the menu, especially the specialty tacos.
Here is what we all ordered:
Me-Pueblo Viejo style specialty taco and al pastor with a side of beans, guacamole and chips (Specialty taco plate)
Hannah-Taco Nes specialty taco and a steak taco with a side of beans, guacamole and chips (Specialty taco plate)
Taylor- A chicken and steak quesadilla tacos and a side of rice
Carolyn-Same taco order as Taylor but with chips and queso
First off, everything is not only bigger in Texas but also hotter. I tried some of the homemade salsas but could barely tolerate the mild tomatillo salsa. The red salsa that came with the chips was also spicy but very refreshing and had a nice earthy taste to it. Out of the two tacos I had, I liked the al pastor better than the steak. The al pastor had its mainstay toppings of pineapple, onion, cilantro, and lime folded into a homemade corn shell tortilla. The pork was juicy and full of flavor. The Pueblo Viejo style comes with steak, mushrooms, cheese, lettuce, tomato, and avocado. The vegetables on this taco were fresh, colorful, and light. The avocado slices took up half the surface area of the taco and were perfectly ripe. Probably the best avocado I have had in awhile. I love mushrooms but I was not a fan of them on this taco. The steak was a little bland and tough but I really enjoyed the veggies.
Hannah loves spice so this place was right up her alley. She used so much salsa that I thought she drank it all after looking at her empty cups. She liked the chorizo better than the steak taco and said that the cilantro worked really well with the chorizo. Taylor and Carolyn both liked the chicken over the steak as well. Carolyn loved her queso as it was just pure melted cheese. Between Hannah’s salsa and Carolyn’s cheese, all cups and containers were liquid free by the end of the meal.
Price: Specialty taco plate (two tacos and a side of chips and guacamole) $9.90, specialty tacos $3.75-4.10 per taco, standard tacos $3.20 per taco
Second Stop- Tacodeli
On our second day, we woke up late in the morning after a night out on Rainey Street. Our plan was to hike the Barton Creek Greenbelt Trail in the afternoon so we definitely needed tacos for lunch to give us the fuel we would need.
We picked Tacodeli off my list of tacos places to try. It could not have worked out any better since the location we had listed for Tacodeli was right across the street from an entrance to the trail. There are many Tacodelis across Texas with 5 locations in Austin, 1 in Houston, 1 in Dallas and 3 more locations coming soon to Dallas and 2 in Plano.
Tacodeli started in 1999 where founder and owner Roberto Espinosa brought his childhood memories of great food from Mexico City to the first taqueria near Barton Springs Greenbelt in Austin, TX. This is the location we stumbled upon!
The inside of Tacodeli immediately reminded me of the interior of Chipotle with counter and bar seating, soft drinks and limes off to the side, fast service, and a laid back atmosphere. BUT with WAY better tacos as you will soon find out.
Luckily we just beat the rush before the long line started again. It was very crowded at this location and I have to believe it was because of the Austin City Limits festival happening that weekend.
As we waited in line, we were pleasantly greeted by an employee who asked us if we had been here before or if we had any questions on the menu. He also told us that since we were in a group, we could order as a group to have our food come out at the same time, but still pay individually. This option worked out great for us.
With 26 tacos to chose from, I was in pure shock. At this point all I could do was to randomly pick two tacos. Here is what we each ordered:
Me- Pollo Fantastico taco, Puerco Verde taco, and a side of Mexican red rice
Hannah-Mexico City Sirloin taco and a Shrimp taco
Taylor- A chicken quesadilla and a side of the Mexican red rice
Carolyn- Mexico City Sirloin taco and Mexico City Chicken taco and a side of chips and queso
The Pollo Fantastico taco WAS THE BEST TACO I HAD ON THE ENTIRE TRIP (I guess you could say it was quite fantastico). The combination of the shredded chicken, roasted green chile sauce, crema mexicana, and green onion was perfect. I inhaled this taco. Inside the soft corn shell blanket laid the perfect scoop of taco filling. In each bite, all I could taste was a uniform amount of rich and clumpy goodness with a hint of salt from the chicken sauce and crunch from the green onion. I was blown away by this taco. The Puerco Verde taco had fresh queso fresco covering organic pork shoulder in salsa verde, diced onions and chopped cilantro. The taco looked like it was completely covered in queso fresco like a fresh snow fall. My only complaint about this taco was that the pork shoulder was a little tough at times.
Both Hannah and Carolyn preferred the sirloin over the shrimp and chicken tacos. They said that the steak was super tender. Carolyn liked the queso slightly more here than at Pueblo Viejo. Instead of the cheesy base, this queso had a milky base which made it thin and runny but still full of queso richness. Taylor said that the organic Mexican red rice was the best rice she has had in awhile being super light, fluffy and soft.
As we were eating, another friendly staff member came around and asked us how are meal tasted. I could not have asked for friendlier service.
And before we left, I caught notice of a bike, beer, and taco event poster presented by Tacodeli to support Meals on Wheels. Three of my favorite things in one event?! Count me in! I need to comeback anyways because I still have 24 tacos left to try off the menu.
Price: $3.25-4.25 per taco