Wednesday, May 23

Austin Chronicle's "Best of" Taco Trucks - Round One

We were very impressed that the Austin Chronicle included Taco Trucks in their yearly 'Best Of' issue this year. While we commend them for the inclusion we also think a 4-way-tie for first place is uncalled for, so we have decided to take matters into our own hands and declare a winner among them. So, this will be the first of two installments on these fine establishments.

Taqueria Piedras Negras -

Location: East Cesar Chavez and Pleasant Valley


Taqueria Piedras Negras

The Truck itself is located on an old restaurant site on the corner of Pleasant Valley and E. Ceasar Chavez. There are two picnic benches at the site, which seems to get pretty busy around lunch time.

I ordered two pastors on corn with cilantro and onions. They arrived with a small side of a pretty excellent green salsa. The salsa was just hot enough without being overpowering and went well with the diced pastor. The pastor has an equal mix of crispy fleshy parts and moist inner pieces and was a totally decent taco experience.

If I didn't go to Tacos Al Pastor immediately after this visit it would have received a higher rating.


Piedras Negras - 4 Stars - jarod



Al Pastor & Barbacoa


I approached the taqueria Piedras Negras with a ravenous appetite and a strong desire to clear up this four way taco truck collision.

I was mildly disappointed right off the bat when the gentleman in the truck informed me that they were out of the Carne Asada and Carnitas listed on their sign and only had Al Pastor, Carne Guisada and Barbacoa on hand. I guess this lack of options is just part of the taco truck experience, so I took it in stride and ordered an Al Pastor and a Barbacoa. At $2 each, these tacos were a touch more expensive than I would have liked.

I was really hungry by this point, so I tucked into these generously sized tacos with no small amount of zeal. I was surprised by the Al Pastor, which I thought had a taste and texture that was much more like carnitas than the Al Pastor I'm used to. It was tasty, but I could tell I wouldn't be searching this place out when future cravings for tacos Al Pastor set in.

The Barbacoa taco was truly lovely, though. A very generous portion of moist, tasty meat mated gorgeously with the onions, cilantro and quite spicy jalapeno salsa to make for a truly satisfying taco experience.

The fact that the Al Pastor was a little strange to me combined with the fact that I don't often crave Barbacoa leads me to believe I won't be returning often to Piedras Negras, though everything was tasty.


Piedras Negras - 3.5 Stars - Cornbiter Deluxe


Rosita's Al Pastor -

Location - 1911 E. Riverside Austin, TX 78741


Tacos Al Pastor


Cornbiter and myself had a tough time finding this inconspicuous little joint tucked in front of one of many shopping centers on E Riverside. The truck looked innocent enough, no real signage or prices displayed with a nice lineup of jarritos sodas and mexican cokes.

I ordered two pastors on corn with cilantro and onion served with an extremely spicy/tasty salsa verde. The salsa made its way up your mouth nicely and had a long and strong finish. Now let me let you in on something, Belinda Carlisle must have been talking about Tacos Al Pastor when she wrote 'Heaven is a place on Earth." These taco's rocked! The pastor was diced coarsely and the meat, which consisted of both charred and moist pork, was seasoned perfectly. There was a taste explosion in every bite. Chase it all down with a mexican coke and Cornbiter D and myself were in Taco Heaven.

If you are still reading this I hope it is on your cell phone while you barrel down I-35 on you way to this place, not to be missed.


Rosita's Al Pastor - 5 1/2 stars- jarod




Pastor Tacos on Corn, Mexican Coke, Jarritos & Fajita taco on Flour


After a couple of yummy tacos at Piedras Negras, I was ready to eat some more, but figured the next truck would be at a natural disadvantage, since I was no longer ravenously hungry, just mildly peckish and taco interested.

In any case, my face was completely blown off by the display of taco virtuosity so effortlessly perpetrated by the truck called 'Tacos Al Pastor'.

I ordered a Fajita taco on flour and a taco Al Pastor (of course) on corn. It is hard to convey in print the utter amazement I felt as I bit into my Fajita taco and realized that I was chewing on that most rare of culinary delights, a freshly made flour tortilla. My disbelief was such that I practically rammed my face through the window of the truck to visually verify that there was a woman inside making flour tortillas by hand. GLORY!

Some quick background. I'm from the Rio Grande Valley in deepest south Texas. Every Mexican restaurant in the Valley makes their own tortillas. It's, like, the law. While I truly enjoy the wide variety of excellent food, including Mexican food, on offer in Austin, the almost complete lack of fresh flour tortillas has been an enduring disappointment to me.

As you can guess by now, I was stoked on this taco. The tortilla, the part of a taco most often the least remarkable, was fantastic. On top of that, literally, were some truly excellent fajitas. Moist and flavorful, with a nice hint of char from the grill adding a toothsome texture. The addition of a small amount of excellent refried beans in the bottom of the taco was just genius.

The creamy and VERY spicy jalapeno based green salsa was similar to the Piedras Negras offering, though both tastier and hotter. It was the perfect topping to the perfect Fajita taco.

The taco Al Pastor was also a stunner. The corn tortilla was yummy and unusually stout, doing a great job of keeping all the taco insides inside the taco. The pork itself was just perfectly cooked. It had a perfect texture, an excellent taste and zero gross gristly/fatty bits. The salsa was, again, just awesome on the taco.

I'm tempted to preemptively declare Tacos Al Pastor the undisputed champ and winner of the Chron's four way taco truck collision, but that would just be poor taco journalism, wouldn't it?

Jarod and I will visit the remaining two contenders soon, and a winner will be declared.

Rosita's Al Pastor - ONE. MILLION. STARS. - Cornbiter Deluxe

15 comments:

Anonymous said...

dude, you gotta go a little further out to compare dankness of tacos. check out Taqueria La Escondida on RR 620 near Hudson Bend Road. On top of the hill, just north stoplight at Hudson Bend Rd & 620, opposite side of road than gas station. let me know how these stack up. verde salsa is great - perfect compliment to pollo or pastor tacos. i refuse to indulge in the 'lengua' like mis amigos.

a & j said...

This place will be journalized shortly, thanks for the heads up

Anonymous said...

Why don't you include a link to the Austin board on chowhound.com? It looks like you've been reading it.

a & j said...

That's a good idea, I'll do that.

Anonymous said...

God Bless you for having this website!

My favorite taco truck has gone missing!
Thing is, it had prolly the Best Beef Fajita in the city!
Another specialty of this truck, and what might help me/you/your-loyal-readers/us find it and it's proprietor again, is the fact that the menu had two "a la ranchera" tacos available. The chicken or beef fajitas, could be ordered a la ranchera, fajita meat with a sauteed tomato/onion/jalapeno concoction tossed on it.

The truck WAS at the corner of goodwin and airport, in the parking lot of a mom and pop foodmart until three months ago when the foodmart decided to get into the taco business too, (horrible breakfast tacos, under-cooked grossness) thereby making the taco vendor move on. (I asked, they don't know where.)
Other distinguishing features of this generic white taco truck, an old white-haired hispanic man with a moustache runs/owns it, he is there most of the time, always two 16-20 yr old generic taco ladies, and it works the construction crowd, 6am-1pm monday thru friday only. The owner tows the trailer with a big white truck, that is usually parked close to the trailer. Easy to spot, in a drive-by situation.

But for real, the marinade and spicyness on this guy's beef fajitas was the signature of this taco truck. The absolute SHIT! And worth seeking out. I swear to God, the best beef fajita I have found north of Kingsville.

I am an RGVer too, Harlo-SanBennie-SPI. I know me some "tacos, tacos, tacos, tacos".(Reno911 reference)

Aside from that, another couple things. You need to rate/monitor the Michocana Meat Market's in town, the one on Cameron road, north of 183? and the one on E. 7th, they aren't bad places for Tacos.

Also, do a special on the Rice. The best Rice I have found is Las Cazuelas on Cesar Chavez. Rice is often an afterthought for taco places. Rice done right, can make a huge difference in the the dining experience. Las Cazuelas is the closest I've found to getting the Rice right.

Maybe an article on pollo-asada places too. MMMmmmm..., yardbird.

I haven't perused your whole Site before writing this so pls forgive me if I am asking questions or addressing issues you have already covered. My excitement made me write this before digesting your whole webpage.

God bless you for making this taco webpage, I hope it makes you millions.

Please help me find my taco truck with the best beef fajita in town.

Help me Obi-Wan. Your my only hope.

Best,
b.
p.s. I hate cold salsa. I want it served room temp, or heated. Never cold. Blech.....

Bret Branon
512.220.2996
347.328.0895
336.868.3298 fax
b@westparkfoundries.com
Westpark Foundries
3502 Charles St.
Austin, Tx. 78702
www.westparkfoundries.com

Anonymous said...

Taco Pastor

2pm Monday. Just had 4 pastors contodo, para-ibar. I ate there, strictly based on the review above.
My face is still here.
Liked the green sauce. Jalapeno puree? But the meat was a little too dry for my tastes. No pineapple essence either. 3.25 Stars.
4 tacos, maize, and a mexican coke, $7.50. Surly staff.
Meh... Not exactly worth the drive.
I like the fact that they use the big limes. Less seedy. I kinda hate the small limes, too many seeds, and I have to pick the seeds outta my taco after a good squeeze.

-moolieboy

AL PASTOR TACOS "El Rey" said...

(5*'s). I was going thru google to try and find any pictures of my job to show my boyfriend where i worked and ran into this great article on the great tasting tacos i eat everyday. I was suprised to see the great things that were stated about the place i passed hours everyday. Thank you for your support and we hope to see you and other curious Austinites there!!!!

Anonymous said...

Tacos Al Pastor on Riverside does not merit 5 1/2 stars IMO. The food is not memorable, service is cold, they just raised prices!!! I have visited this place multiple time hoping for inspiration, but each time find myself longing for the quality grinds only found at the border towns.

Anonymous said...

I love this blog and used it as a guide on my recent trip to Austin from DFW. Tacos in ATX are so much better for some reason!
Piedras Negras were amazing-even if the place is scary!!Dirty, unclear and different-yet the gordita carnitas ($5) was so rich and the salsa verde soooo good.5 Stars!
@Al Pastor they were a bit cold-(but I think the girl just liked me!)the tacos-barbacoa, guisado, al pastor were awesome. Parking lot with some picnic tables-freaking amazing. 4.5 stars -porkstick2@yahoo.com

Sara said...

There's a little taco truck in the parking lot of Sunrise MiniMart on the corner of S. 5th and Oltorf. Best chicken tacos in town.

There's another little truck in the parking lot at the corner where Mary meets Lamar. Best potato, egg, and cheese taco in town.

Give em' both a shot and enjoy!

Jessica Salinas said...

thank you thank you thank you for taco journalism! I am from the valley too, and it has been hard to cope with out fresh flour tortillas and delicious tacos in general. You have saved me from mediocre tacos!

Nickname unavailable said...

Hey man/dudes,

do you know where to buy a taco truck? I am in hte market and it is hard in Austin to find a good one at a reasonable price.

Thanks

Kate said...

Hi beautiful Taco Babies! K8x from Chronicle here. Please do note, the awards you site are not from "Best of Austin." They are from the annual "Restaurant Poll." The two have very different styles of awarding Critics Picks w/ BOA from a pool of the entire editorial staff and freelancer and RP only food writers. I just ate at PN last night and am still grinning. I LOVE dat truck!

Anonymous said...

Where can I find Taqueria El Rey Polo? There were one of the featured stories in East Austin Stories. I am also a RGVer. Thanks this has been a great resource. Especially when la familia visits and they are EXPECTING some good tacos.

Alit said...

this is a real taco post. i lve in guadalajara mexico, the best tacos are from people born in arandas and some look like the ones of this taco post.