Jarod and I set out for lunch at Zocalo quite hungry and not exactly sure what to expect. This hip new taco joint in west Austin occupies a building that has housed the Cosmic Cafe and the legendary vegetarian haven, the West Lynn Cafe. Would this upscale west-side place be able to deliver the goods?
On arriving, I was immediately impressed with the sharp, minimalist decor and the fancy plates. The place looked great, at least! Zocalo does not have wait service at lunch, you order at the counter and take a number to your table. We perused the menu while we waited and it is chock full of interesting looking dishes. The menu also proudly stated that they make their own tortillas. Excellent!
We decided to stick with the basics: tacos. I ordered the carnitas taco plate, and Jarod went with the beef fajita taco plate. FWI - tacos are not available a la carte, you must get a taco plate, which comes with three tacos, rice and beans for about $7-8. We also had to pay extra for chips and salsa.
The homemade chips were lovely. Some may find them a touch greasy, but that is the price you pay for real tortilla chips fried on the premises. I found both the red and the green salsas to be disappointingly mild. The green sauce was flavorful, but would have been much better with some heat behind it. The red sauce was an utter waste of space. BOOOOO.
I have to say I was somewhat taken aback when I took the first bite of my taco. Damn, but this was a tasty little taco! The carnitas were flavorful and moist, almost making me think I was at a 'real' taqueria and not a posh west-side restaurant. Some salsa with a little heat on it might have really pushed the whole thing over the top. As it was, the mild green salsa did nicely enhance the taste of the pork.
The homemade tortillas were well above average, which is easy when 95% of places in town use store bought. These torts aren't in the same league as those at Al Pastor, but are quite enjoyable. I very much appreciate the effort. Note to every single mexican restaurant in Austin: start making your own damn tortillas!
I scammed a bite of Jarod's fajita tacos, and found them to be excellent. The meat was very well spiced and very tender. Again the tortillas helped a lot and the lack of any fire in the salsa hurt a little.
The re-fried beans and spanish rice were absolutely unremarkable. It's kind of annoying that you have to pay for these lackluster items in order to get any tacos. I also found the size of the tacos to be a touch on the small side, considering the price of the plate.
All in all, I was unexpectedly impressed with the tacos at Zocalo. Good tortillas and tasty meat are what it's all about, and this place does a great job in those depts. Anyone not willing to make the trek to the east side to hit up the taco truck scene could do a LOT worse than stopping by Zocalo for some tacos.
Zocalo - 3.75 stars - Cornbiter Deluxe
1110 West Lynn