Taco Tour 2006, week ten

Only two weeks left after this!  I’ll be taking next week off, however, since I’ll be in Baltimore.  We’ll start again in… two weeks!

So, I went to El Arroyo this week.  They’ve got a good sense of humor there.  Not only did they name themselves after a nearby drainage ditch, they also serve tacos that are about three times the size of the tortillas they’re served on.  This makes eating afun experience, to say the least.

But how’s the taste?

Well, I grabbed a beef taco, and it tasted pretty bland.  Nothing really special going on there.  The chicken taco, on the other hand… damn.  We may have a winner, folks.  This may be the best taco in Austin.  The sucker was tasty as hell, with just the right amount of heat to compliment its flavor.  Add in the fact that you get a whopper of a taco for just over $2, and you’ve got yourself one serious contender.

Some local places have some serious work to do if they want to top this.

Beef: 5

Chicken: 9.5

Average: 7.25

Taco Tour 2006, week nine

It’s a damn shame.

Taco Deli is within walking distance of work.  Their food is tasty as hell.  They’ve got a great staff.  Sadly, they don’t want to be a taqueria so much as a local hang out.  In order to bring that about, they’ve priced themselves way too high.  I picked up three tacos on thursday, and my bill was over $12.  That’s silly!

But the food was good.  I had the tequila marinated pork (puerco borracho), the regular beef (Mexico City), and the adobo marinated chicken (adobodas).  All were delicious, with the Mexico City being especially nice, if a little tough.With some better pricing and an atmosphere that doesn’t scream “Look at us!  We’re cool!” this might have been the top stop on the tour so far.  Sadly, it just falls short.

Puerco Borracho: 6.5

Mexico City: 8

Adomodas: 7

Wallet-based disgust: -4

Average: 5.83

Taco Tour 2006, week eight

Two months into the Taco Tour, and no end in sight.  I would have had this up on Monday, but I was to busy being productive.  Then I posted about my personal shame and found it only fair to let everybody read that first.

So, let’s get to it…

My friend Wammo once told me, “Tamale House has been keeping musicians alive for as long as I can remember.”  I can see what he means.  WHen I went to the Tamale House on saturday, I was treating to the most filling meal of the tour, and it cost me less than four dollars.

Tamale House is a fun place, a run down little concrete building on Airport Blvd, whit no air-conditioning. The interior is about 90% kitchen, with a small counter, a huge fan, and a single table.  Three more tables greet you outside, but the place is so busy you’ll probably end up taking your tacos home or eating them in your car.

And that’s cool.

So, my choices were a Taco al Carbon (grilled brisket) and a barbacoa taco (slow-cooked roast).  I topped it off with a coke, and went outside, where a table was just clearing up.

Man, that was some great food.  Inexpensive, tasty, and ooooh so filling.  The tacos were delicious from top to bottom (or end to end, I guess). 

al Carbon: 8.5

Barbacoa: 7.5

Less than $4 bonus: + 2

Average: 9

Taco Tour 2006, week seven

Special double-post this week, as I hit not one, but two places on Saturday.

The first was Wahoo’s fish tacos, which is a great place despite the fact that it’s a chain.  Okay, so Austin has the only Texas location of this California chain, but I’m still counting it as a chain.  I went with SHawna, and while she grabbed a blackened fish taco, I got a combo: blackened fish taco, grilled beef taco, rice, and beans.

The beef was excellent, but the fish was a little bland.  Strangely enough, Shawna’s tasted much better, so I split the difference.  The food filled me up (and then some!).  You’ll also remember from a previous post that Wahoo’s has the cleanest bathroom in Austin. 

Oh, and their weekend happy hour is domestics and margaritas cost whatever the outside temperature is!

Check it out!

Beef: 8

Fish: 7

Chain penalty: -2

Ultra-full bonus: +1

Average: 7

Later, we went to La Ferria with some friends, where I ordered the Pastor plate.  Mmmm, spicy grilled pork.  Delicious!  La Ferria also bosts incredible salsa and wondering mariachis.  Not a bad way to spend a Saturday.

I will be giving them a deduction for not serving the pastor tacos a la carte, however.

Pastor: 8.5

Plate penalty: -1

Average: 7.5

Taco Tour 2006, week six

Here’s the thing.  Jardin Corona, a small Mexican place around the corner from my house, used to be very good.  Now, they’re just very busy, so busy they can’t bother to do things like update their menu prices.  For example, when you order two $0.75 tacos and your bill is over $4 because they forgot to update the price to $1.99.  That’s bad business.  When you get home and find out the chicken taco you order is actually beef — cold beef with melted cheese on it instead of that nice shredded stuff — that’s fucking inexcusable.

Avoid Jardin Corona.  You have been warned.

Beef Fajita: 5

Ground Beef (should have been chicken): 2

Incorrect pricing penalty: -3

Average: 2

Taco Tour 2006, week four

Four weeks in, and I had a fun little time on Saturday.  The Taco Tour has taken me to a dark little out of the way place, the kind of place that’s a little creepy.

Welcome to El Tacolote.

I found El Tacolote On Lamar, just north of Rundberg.  It used to be a trailer.  I know this, becuase the trailer was the only other thing on wheels when I pulled into the parking lot.  El Tacolote is now located in what appears to have once been a free-standing Chili’s or something.  The neon sign next to the door assures me they’re open, so I enter.

Wow.

Apparently, the fine owners of El Tacolote could not afford all of the form restaurant space.  Instead, they rent out the front room/waiting area and a portion of the kitchen.  There were no lights, no illumination but the sunlight filtering through old windows and a dirty yellow light coming from the kitchen.  There was no sound but the far off sharpening of a knife.  A wrought iron security door stood at one end of the high counter.  Two small tables and a few tables finished up the room.  No other humans appeared to be anywhere, except for the knife sharpener in the back.

Immediately, two thought popped into my brain.

1: I’m going to die in here, and no one will ever know.

2: This is awesome!

A small Mexican woman appeared on the other side of the counter and took my order.  One carne guisada taco and one chicken fajita taco, plus a coke.  I took a seat and waited, taking in the room.  A moment later, the security door squeaked open and my food and drink were presented.  Wonders be known, my coke came in a good old glass bottle.  Don’t get that much anymore.

All in all, the tacos weren’t that great (though not that bad, either).  The experience, though, was pretty damn good.

Carne Guisada: 5.5

Fajita de Pollo: 6

Seedy experience bonus: + 3

Average: 7.25

Taco Tour 2006, week three

This Saturday, I went to Chango’s.  I guess it’s a relatively big deal in Austin, one of the more popular taquerias.  I’m not sure it counts as a taqueria, though, at least not a nice little family-owned one.  It’s owned by the proprietors of Manuel’s, a nice tex-mex place up in the Northwest region.  Chango’s, being a few blocks north of The University of Texas, shows all the tell-tale signs of being a trendy spot.  It lacks the class and charm of a small, dirty spot that’s tucked away in the middle of nowhere.  You also miss out on those little extras like free chips and salsa.

But those tacos…

I grabbed a chicken taco and a grilled Mahi Mahi taco, and both were excellent.  Moist, flavorful, and light.  I was still hungry when I left, which isn’t great, but my total charge for two tacos and a drink was $6.66, so that’s fun.

Chicken: 8.5

Mahi Mahi: 8

Still Hungry Penalty: -4

Average: 6.25

Friday at Hudson’s

As you may have read on Friday, Shawna and I went to Hudson’s on the Bend for our anniversary dinner.  We’ve hit a few of the better restaurants in town over the years, but this was by far the best.  It was the first time I would describe myself as having a “Dining Experience.”

Hudson’s is out on 620 near Mansfield Dam.  It’s not a huge place, but they do have a nice, shaded patio to eat on.  I let Shawna decide whether we were eating on said patio or not, knowing the answer would involve me sitting outside and sweating.  So, the hostess sat us down and gave us some menus.

The Hudson’s menu is varied, to say the least.  Don’t believe mw?  Go check their website.  It’s on there.  I won’t run down the whole experience, but I’ll tell you what we ate.

Appetizers: 

Fried Green Tomatoes in a Chipotle Cream Aioli.

Diamond Back Rattlesnake Cakes

Seafood Crepes (lobster, scallops, shrimp, crawfish, and crab)

Shawna’s entree: Pecan Smoked Duck Brest with Diver Scallops and Sweet Potato Hash

My entree: Watermelon Marinated Wild Boar with Watermelon Salsa

Dessert: Creme Brulee Trio

We even sprang for a bottle of wine that cost more than $20 and was brought out by the wine steward.  Much nicer than when the seventeen-year-old waitress at The Olive Garden tries to tell us about “her favorite wine.”

So, if you’re ever in the Austin area and have a few hundred bucks to spare, stop in at Hudson’s on the Bend.  Tell them Nate sent you, and wait for them to ask “Who?”

Taco Tour 2006: Week 2

Saturday found me at Rota’s Mexican Restaurant, a place that can best be described as hidden somewhere along Rutland Dr.  I grabbed a chicken fajita taco and a beef fajita taco.  The chicken was probably the best I’ve ever had.  The salsa that came with my chip was great, awesome taste without too much heat.  Interesting color, too, sort of a pale brown.

If there was any slip up, it was the over-priced taco plate ($7.25 is still pretty cheap for two tacos with beans and rice, but it’s up there compared to your average taqueria) and the beef fajita.  It was pretty bland.  I’m starting to wonder if I’ll find a really good beef fajita taco on this sear.  Next weekend I plan to start hitting the big guns.  We’ll see what happens there.

Salsa: 7.5

Chicken Fajita: 9

Beef Fajita: 4

Overall: 6.83

Hell’s Kitchen

Well, I finally got around to watching the Hell’s Kitchen season premiere last night.  The show’s a guilty pleasure for me, as I love watching Gordon Ramsey tear potential chefs apart.

This year’s group of contestants seems to be pretty clueless.  Only Heather, who kept delegating responsibility even as she waited for an ambulance for her badly burned hand, seems to have what it takes to run a high profile kitchen.  I can’t wait for that smug fuck Giacomo to get the boot.  Other than that, I like sweaty Tom and plucky Sarah, but that’s about it.

So, I’ll be watching to see what’s up.  Maybe I’ll even pick up an idea or two.  We’ll see how it goes.