After bringing his clean take on Tex-Mex fast food to Southwest Austin, P. Terry’s owner Patrick Terry has opened the second location of Taco Ranch. The restaurant, which features a drive-thru, is located in the old Taco Cabana space at 517 W. MLK Blvd.
Put an egg on it? I guess that has become the unofficial mantra for brunch over the past few years, so it is some pretty on-point branding for Don Gume’s to name their al pastor taco topped with a fried egg the El Brunch taco ($3.50). The egg — I ordered mine over-medium, and it was delivered exactly as requested — gives minerality to the bright achiote-colored meat. Here, the pastor foregoes its regular citrus and floral notes for a savory wallop, added to by the spackle of melted cheese.
Don Gume’s, which opened at the corner of Riverside Drive and South Congress Avenue in 2016, isn’t afraid to lean on the cheese for some populist appeal. The Kyle VIP ($3.50) slaps the twangy melted cheese across the funky crumble of chorizo, then laces that cheese-meat patty with a strip of bacon that glistens with fat through the middle and crisps slightly at the edge.
The trailer owned by Matamoros native Marco Duque and named in honor of his late father serves a roster of about 15 tacos for $3.50, with two-item breakfast tacos sold for $2.50. While the doubled-up corn tortillas are the (above average) product of a bag, the trailer, operated by Duque’s wife and daughter, makes its own flour tortillas, tender folds with grill marks and spots opaque with a sheen of grease. Don’t pay attention to the wet and mild red salsa; instead, seek out a mild jalapeño sauce with a tingle but not a kick. Spice lovers will want the burning burst of orangeish habanero. But while the metallic awnings over the picnic tables may save you from the sun, they will offer no salve from the salsa. In addition to the tacos, Don Gume’s also serves Mexican dishes like tampiquena, carne asada and sopes.
Cords of wood serve as a rustic wainscoting (woodscoting?) on the walls that ring this otherwise sleek spot in the Northcross Mall complex. They’re actually not full logs, but the message is clear: They grill meat over burning wood at Dos Batos.
And that smoke (and generous salt seasoning) is very prevalent in the pirata, a simple beef taco with a gooey layer of melted Jack cheese and a ridge of fresh avocado as bright as a parakeet. The pirata ($5.25), a name and format popular in Laredo, can be dressed up with a runny tomato soup salsa with a sneaky backbite, but I was left wishing Dos Batos had the kind of salsa and condiment bar you find at Taco Palenque in Laredo (and elsewhere). The flour tortilla was fatty and spotted by the grill and tender enough to pull apart with ease. Maybe the wall should be lined with flour tortillas.
There are two other tacos choices, a grilled chicken pirata and an Ostin taco (think “Austin” pronounced with a Mexican accent), which incorporates red and green peppers, red onions and mushrooms from that same smoky grill. All tacos cost $5.25, but you can order two for $9.90 or three for $14.55. You can get the steak or chicken as a hybrid, which weds the pirata with the veggies, thus negating my condiment quibble a little. The chicken hybrid was the superior taco here, thanks to juicier meat with a citrus and garlic glow and the snap, crunch and vegetal twang of the smoky peppers. The corn tortillas had almost as much heat as the flour, with firm toasty edges. Another tortilla winner from this fast-casual concept that has endured for almost a decade in North Austin thanks to simplicity, service and wood.
Dos Batos. 2525 W. Anderson Lane. #175. 512-452-0001, dosbatos.com
Almost 20 years after it opened its first location, Austin-based Tacodeli will open in downtown Austin for the first time. The restaurant from chef/founder Roberto Espinosa and partner Eric Wilkerson will be located at 301 Congress Ave. and is expected to open early next year.
The downtown location will be open for breakfast and lunch and serve a menu of 40 made-from-scratch tacos. This will be the sixth Austin location for Tacodeli, which originally opened in 1999.
La Posada in South Austin reminded me of my recent trip to San Antonio. It wasn’t just the homemade flour and corn tortillas, the Spanish-language musical soundtrack or the terracotta-colored banquettes. It’s direct, simple and really good.
Shredded strands of barbacoa in one taco ($2.49) cling together, bound by fat more notable for its flavor than grease, and tender strips of lengua ($2.59) are tempered by the sweetness of stewed tomatoes and green peppers. The beef fajita ($2.49) was cooked a few seconds longer than I’d prefer but was still juicy and caramelized, with lightly grilled green peppers and onions lending vegetal snap and not much heat. I recommend spooning the sweet table salsa, a soupy tomato base with flecks of serrano, onion and black pepper.
La Posada makes both flour and corn tortillas, the former gentle and buttery, the latter springy and milky like baked corn custard.
And I didn’t have to get on I-35 to enjoy them.
6800 West Gate Blvd. 512-444-2631, laposadasouth.com
I admit that over the past year when I would drive past Trippy Tacos (4205 Mancahaca Road), with its mildly psychedelic cartoon logo, I always assumed the small taco truck outside of a convenience store was operated by a South Austin hippie with dreads. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. It’s actually run by a mother-daughter team from Guanajuato, Mexico. The moniker and logo was actually devised by the owner’s teenage son.
As the name somewhat implies, there are some gringo tacos here, but I ain’t mad at it. Anyone who has been to Torchy’s probably loves the Trailer Park (and, unless they’re mad, gets it ‘trashy’ with queso). Trippy does Torchy’s one better with its namesake taco. The Trippy Taco ($4) features a long twirl of fried chicken wrapped in crispy fried bacon and dotted with mango salsa. I’m usually not a fan of mango in my tacos, but it works well here as a sweet balance to the salty and savory components. There is a light sprinkle of shredded cheese, which gives a tough of tang without drowning the thing in queso like the one down the street.
The name and trademark taco may be newfangled, but there are more classic Mexican stylings, as well, like the steak a la Mexicana ($3.25) studded with potatoes, onions, and serranos under a shower of Jack cheese. That taco is a meal almost unto itself. Kick it up a few notches with one of five homemade salsas. On the mild end I like the tomatillo; while the creamy green salsa called the Monster will hit you right in the sinuses.
The spicy shrimp ($4) needs no salsa assist for its sting. The small shrimp are dusted with cayenne and grilled on the plancha and served with vinegary pickled onions, a generous portion of avocado and more of that mango salad. Get the shrimp on the homemade corn tortillas (the flour are a fairly measly bagged variety), which are a little tough but packed with corn flavor.
Trippy Tacos is open Monday-Saturday from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Beer? Yep, Taco Ranch is now selling Modela Especial ($3 for 16 ounces) and frozen margaritas ($4 for 12 ounces). They have also solidified their hours. The drive-thru spot near US 290 and MoPac is open 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday, 6 a.m. to 10 p.m Monday-Thursday, 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. Friday and 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. Saturday.