Wednesday, March 9

SXSW 2011 Taco Guide

Here's a quick listing of taco places in around a lot of the SXSW venues. Be warned: some of these taco places are aggresively mediocre, but are included because of their proximity to festival sites. Read the blurb before going.

Piedras Negras
Awesome tacos. A bit of a walk/drive, but worth it.
The chalupas are good but cost a small fortune. Skimp and go with the tacos.

A great place to drink and have a taco. Fantastic tacos, gourmet salads, and an expansive patio. Plus, it is located near all of the hipster bars on E 6th. You really can't lose.

"I've been eating at Porfiro's for over 15 years. Consistent, good quality food. I have friends from San Jose who still talk about."

Rosita's Al Pastor
Best Al Pastor in town. Except when its not. Like anything amazing in life, it is a bit inconsistent.

Joe's Bakery
On East 7th, pretty close to the action. The place is great. It's families and neighbors and newbies all mixed up.

Mi Madre's
El Mundo de Mando's favorite place. A bit far away from the main venues, but worth a breakfast trip. Get the Machacado breakfast taco.

Taqueria Selene
We hit this place up during our last taco tour. Its a small place, but has quick, quality service. If you are into it, the lengua here is top notch.

Not as cheesy as the name would imply. Juan is an old-school Austin institution, best known for the owner's stellar handshake.

West Sixth (Warning: mostly devoid of good tacos)
This taco/quesadilla trailer over by Hut's Hamburgers is muy delicious. Think of it as gourmet mexican-gringo fusion food. Good ingredients, good service.

Whole Foods
Seriously, don't go here to get a taco. But if you do, the taco bar is in the front of the store by the deli. The vegetarian chorizo (WTF?) is, surprisingly, not completely disgusting. It'll get the job done, but there are much better places around.

Screaming Goat
They have truly great chips and salsa. Try their drowned flautas and the quesadillas. This place is definitely worth the extra walking.

Only listed here so you know not to eat here. Did you really come all the way to Austin to eat California chain tacos? No. You did not.

They serve decent tacos but they're a bit overpriced. Also, they seem to be confused about what carnitas are (hint: they are not chicken).

This trailer is normally in the parking lot of Little Woodrow's. We enjoyed their straight-up bean and cheese tacos. Everything else? Not so much. Last year, for SXSW, they parked by the Convention Center and sold "Pancake Tacos". Yes, it novel. No, it really isn't that great.

Garrido's is a sit down Fancy-Mex restaurant. It is generally expensive; but their brunch is surprisingly affordable. They have pretty good, fresh, homemade chips (but they charge for them). $2 Mimosa's at Brunch.


La Casa Del Fuego
The breakfast tacos at this trailer are pretty good. They do them right too: they cook all of the ingredients together and let the flavors mix. Their hours are indecipherable. If you are lucky, they'll be open.

El Sol Y La Luna
Certainly not my favorite, this sit down restaurant charges for chips. The food is ok, and some people swear by their enchiladas. Its convenient location on Red River and 6th St guarantees it will be packed.

Good drinks. But, Jebus almighty, they charged me ~$14 for two taquitos (literally: two really small tacos)! Only listed here so you aren't tricked into entering.

Rainey Street

Good 'Fancy Mexican' trailer with a great patio. A bit pricey.

This is a taco truck that opens onto the outside patio of Lustre Pearl. Good tacos, but SLOW service.

Tamale House
As mentioned in the New York Times: An Austin institution. A bit off the beaten SXSW path, but not that far. Amazing, cheap, dingy, perfect.

This place is probably close to some of your hotels. Their menu is limited, but the grilled chicken is nice and smokey. Worth a visit if you are staying up that way.

If you are staying REALLY far north (book your hotel earlier, next year), this Mexican bakery in Round Rock is impressive in breadth and quality.

South Lamar-ish
A bit pricier than average, but "a taco-worthy of it's price." Try it. Love it. Then love it again (for FREE) at the taco meetup.

Maria's Taco X-Press
Overrated, but 'ok' tacos. Film geeks: this isn't too far from the Alamo Drafthouse South. Someone will probably try to tell you this place is awesome. They are liars.

Fantastic food. A bit on the expensive side (you have to get a plate), but totally worth it. Try the Al Pastor.

Tacos done right. This isn't really on South Lamar, but its close enough if you don't mind some cross country hiking. You'll probably see their premade tacos at coffee shops around town. Go to their real locations for the real deal.

South Congress/South First
If you are a fan of Grindhouse, you may enjoy this place (it featured prominently in it). The tacos are mediocre, at best. This is only included in case you are either desperate or tempted by the crowds.

Everyone is going to tell you to go here. It is ok, but not worth the crowds. Walk down to El Primo or La Mexicana and get twice the food for the same price.

El Primo
2101 South First. OK tacos, friendly service.

Izzo's Tacos
If you must eat white-person tacos, it is better than Torchy's. Note they've moved a few blocks south to a Used Car lot.

La Mexicana
Open 24 hours. Great tacos. Go there anytime.

Good/Cheap Non-Taco Places
Intelligentsia-quality coffee in a trailer. Downtown, on 3rd and Congress, right where Las Manitas used to be. They serve Cuvee Coffee, which is one of the best coffee roasters in the nation. The friendly staff had my name memorized after my first visit.
Up by Mi Madres. Grab a breakfast taco and then enjoy some quality coffee (Cuvee Coffee, just like Patika). Try the single-serving bar.

Two great bratwurst places. Wurst-In is the South Congress trailer park. The Best Wurst is on 6th Street and open *late*. Stop by and get a late-night drunk brat.

The Whip-In
My favorite Liquor Store/Indian Fusion Restaurant/Beer Garden/Live Music venue in the world.

View SXSW Taco Map 2011 in a larger map
SXSW Taco Dictionary
  • Al Carbon: Grilled over charcoal
  • Al Pastor: Pork with adobo seasoning. Excellent.
  • Beef Fajita: Grilled skirt steak
  • Carne Guisada: Stewed meat usually with gravy
  • Carnitas: Roasted Pork
  • Lengua: Tongue
  • Tripe: Intestines
  • Menudo: Tripe Soup
  • Chicharron: Fried (or not) Pork Skin


Kalyn Baur said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Barnyard said...

I know its not that close by but what about Juan in a Million?

The Commish said...

@Barnyard: Juan's omission was definitely an oversight that has been corrected. Thanks!

Andrea said...

Have to say, if you're going to be in the North/Central area for breakfast, Elsi's tacos are pretty darn good.

Anonymous said...

I know Condesa is pricey, but in my opinion, worth the money in a town full of bad Mexican food. Just budget for a special occasion and not a taco stand meal.

Chip said...

I want to put in a plug for some of the other Tex-Mex choices along South First: Little Mexico, Polvo's, La Reyna.

I escaped from the SXSW craziness last night to La Reyna. I had the grilled fish tacos (tilapia with cole slaw, served with a nice hot/smokey chipotle sauce on the side) that were wonderful. I actually sent them back the first time, thinking they were accidentally fried, but it turns out they breaded the fillets (rather heavily) before grilling. They re-made and re-served them, and they were good.

For some reason I had assumed they'd be served on corn, but they turned out to be on flour. Next time I'll have to remember to ask for corn.

The restaurant was dead quiet at 9pm last night (Saturday). Nice food, perfect Austin ambiance, and great escape from the SXSW crowds.

Cornbiter Deluxe said...

Just a personal note to add to the Taco Selene recommendation. I've been meaning to write a full review, but Tacos Selene in the parking lot of the Grackle is one of my very favorite newish places.

All you SXSW'ers should make it a point to get a taco there while hanging out on the hip east side. If you get one (or four), you're getting a high end Austin taco experience.

-Cornbiter Deluxe

Anonymous said...

If you are far North, you might also check out Michael's Tacos in the shopping center near Gattis School and I-35. It's relatively new, but it is legit and already very highly regarded.

Anonymous said...

I will be adding aggressively mediocre to my vocabulary.