Third Stop-Torchy’s Tacos
Torchy’s was not only on my researched Austin taco list, but it was recommended to us by many friends and coworkers prior to our visit. I did some research on Torchy’s and discovered that the owner of Torchy’s opened his first food trailer in 2006 after leaving his fancy executive chef job and risking all his life savings on his dream. In the beginning, he handed out free chips and homemade salsa to spread the word about his trailer and soon enough, people were chanting “damn these tacos are good!” The slogan was added to the menu and then taco lovers starting flooding in to get these tacos. There are now over 30 stores (and a trailer park) throughout Texas, Oklahoma, and Colorado.
We managed to make it to the original trailer park location for a late lunch after a morning full of kayaking on the river along downtown Austin. Although it was over 90 degrees and we already spent enough time outside during the day, we were willing to eat outside for the tacos (even if the food truck trailer park did have aggressive birds who managed to snag a chip from Carolyn’s basket later on during the meal).
Luckily the line wasn’t long but I had to look over the menu quickly. Torchy’s menu included 23 different types of tacos (9 breakfast and 14 ‘regular’), a burrito, street corn (which I didn’t catch on the menu until it was too late!), deep fried chocolate chip cookies, sides, and chips & dips.
Here is what we all ordered:
Me-Green chili slow roasted pork taco and a beef fajita taco
Hannah-Two baja shrimp tacos and a side of green chile queso and chips
Taylor- Beef and chicken fajita tacos and a side of rice
Carolyn- the burrito and a side of green chile gueso and chips (minus the diablo hot sauce)
I first tried the beef fajita taco. The grilled and marinated skirt steak was tender and had a very addictive seasoning. This taco was filled to the top with grilled onions, peppers, and a blend of melted cheeses that complemented the fajita theme. The second taco I tried left me in deep thought for hours after I tasted the pulled pork. I tried so hard to take my time eating the slow roasted pork carnitas taco until I could figure out where I had that exact same flavor of pork before. I even had to call my mom and ask her where we used to eat when I was younger because it was driving me crazy. A few hours later, it hit me out of nowhere…Red Robin’s pork fajitas had the exact same flavor as the carnitas here. The only difference in taste came from the green chiles, queso fresco, cilantro (heavy amount) and onions, along with the corn shell tortillas (unique pruney like consistency compared to a typical corn shell). However, the meat itself had the EXACT same taste profile as the pork from Red Robin which have very distinct tasting salty and sweet roasted ends. Overall, I preferred the beef fajita taco over the roasted pulled pork taco, because of the tender meat, quality onions and peppers, along with a nice mix of comforting cheeses.
Taylor actually liked the chicken fajita taco over her beef fajita taco as she thought her steak was too chewy. I guess its the luck of the draw for the skirt steak. Hannah thought that the batter for the shrimp tacos were too salty and the lime wedges they gave us weren’t cut right as little juice could be squeezed out. I do agree with her on that. Carolyn hit a home run with the queso. It may have been the best queso I ever had. The green chile queso was mixed with guacamole then garnished with cilantro and queso fresco. It was a beautiful looking queso with red from the hot sauce, white from the cheese, green from the cilantro and the orange/yellow/green hues from the cheese, green chile and guac. The consistency was perfect as the guacamole helped the cheese become less runny. I felt like I was eating healthy queso even though that is an oxymoron.
Price: Roughly $3.75-4.50 per taco
Fourth Stop- Salt Lick BBQ
Locations-Driftwood, Tx, Round Rock, Tx, Austin Airport, Dallas Fort Worth Airport
As I was frantically deciding if I should take my delayed flight and risk missing my connection, I needed some food to calm me down. I wasn’t extremely hungry but knew that if I wasn’t going to have time to get food between flights then I would be mealless until 6pm.
I wandered around the airport and came across Salt Lick BBQ. I heard of them before when looking up great BBQ in Austin, but the line was incredibly long at the airport for a sample of this place. I kept walking along until I found a small stand sort of off the main concourse named Salt Lick Tacos. The wait was not long so I gladly stepped in line. I’m pretty sure I just naturally find tacos.
I quickly read the menu as there were only four different tacos listed. The four tacos included chopped brisket with crisp cabbage and a creamy roasted poblano pepper sauce; a chopped brisket braised in onions, tomatoes, and peppers with chipotle and dark chile powder; green chili pulled pork topped with green chile tomatillo sauce; and chicken stewed in onions, green peppers, tomatoes, and spices.
I ordered two tacos. The first one was the baja brisket with cabbage and poblano pepper sauce. The brisket was chopped into fine slivers. It was a little dry but very lean and light for brisket. The poblano pepper sauce was very tolerable and came in a unique granular form-like a gritty clump of wet sand. Although the brisket was a little dry, it was still the best part of this taco and still very much full of flavor.
The second taco I tried was the green chile pulled pork. Like the brisket, the pork did not have any chunks of fat anywhere. The pork was a little salty but the tomatillo sauce and the crisp cabbage balanced out the salt. (I feel like I am back in tenth grade chemistry thinking about balancing salts in equations.) I preferred the brisket a little more as the brisket had a more unique taste than the pulled pork. All it took was two quality tacos to satisfy my hunger until I was back in the Burgh.
Price: $4.79 per taco with small additional fee for cheese and cabbage.
Final thoughts on Austin’s tacos
Overall, I was pleased with all the tacos I had on my first trip to Austin, Texas. If there was one taco on the entire trip that would knock my fuzzy socks off, it would definitely be the Pollo Fantastico taco at Tacodeli. Even with all the great tacos I tried, I still think Pittsburgh’s tacos easily compare to the tacos I had in Austin. I have been blown away by many tacos in Pittsburgh such as the burnt end tacos at Smoke, the picadillo taco at Casa Reyna, the carne asada at Las Palmas, and the Korean shortrib and al pastor at Tako. However, I do feel like I could find more tacos in Austin that would have exceeded my expectations if I had a few more days to visit.
Now, the queso is a different story. The queso with chips I had at each place (thanks to Carolyn for allowing me to sample) surpassed any queso I have had so far in Pittsburgh, especially Torchy’s queso. Taylor also found the best Mexican rice she has had in a long time at Tacodeli. Meanwhile, Hannah found out that she still favors her Southern California tacos (especially Chronic Tacos) over any taco she had in Austin. I did find a taco that did blow my mind like mentioned above at Tacodeli so that was probably my favorite taco spot of the trip.
I had roughly an 8 page document of taco places I wanted to try in Austin, but time and room in my stomach were limiting factors. The next time I go to Austin, I will try to visit more places on my list with the first place being Veracruz All Natural. This taco truck was highly recommended by our cashier at Trader Joe’s. He even went out of his way to look up the name of the taco truck to make sure he was giving us correct information. I was going to make two taco trips in one day after receiving this information, but Veracruz All Natural closed before Saturday dinner on the last day we could go. I did have one of my favorite pizzas ever though that Saturday night instead of tacos but we won’t get into that here, since this isn’t Let’s Pizza ‘Bout It.