The taco — one of the world's greatest creations. How does one improve on the idea that is the sandwich: two pieces of bread, some meat, and sauce of one kind or other? I posit they take the filling and wrap it in a tortilla. One of my favorite things about visiting Monterrey, Mexico is when my friend's mom makes tacos from the leftover barbecue we always eat. In fact I have trouble finding a satisfying taco north of the border; decent taco places are few and far between. Our subject today, Taco-Mex on Manor Road, is most definitely one of my favorite places in Texas for a taco.
The owners are from Monterrey, Mexico, or Nuevo Leon at least, which may explain why I love their take on tacos as dearly as I do. All of their meat is well-seasoned, the tortillas nice and tender. Their salsa verde (green sauce) may just be the best I have had, other than that made by anyone in my friend Patricia's family. The spice is just right and doesn't drown out the other flavors in the salsa, nor does it overpower your palate and the meat in the tacos.
We were joined this time by our close friends Colby and Janai as well as their son Josiah, who is like a nephew to me. I ordered one picadillo, one barbacoa, and one migas taco. Picadillo, a mixture of ground beef, onion, potatoes, and spices, is one of my favorite dishes. The seasoning was perfect, the potatoes soft — in all a well-balanced dish. I loved it. Their barbacoa is perfectly tender with just a little sweetness from the meat and topped with a great pico de gallo salsa.
What is barbacoa, some of you wondering? Barbacoa, at least on this side of the border, is the meat from the cheeks of a cow, braised to perfection. Some folks will tell you barbacoa is a whole sheep, slow roasted in a pit overnight, which is also fantastic. So who is right? Well, I put this to you: in Spain a tortilla is an omelet, not a flour or corn flat bread, so it really depends who you are talking to, doesn't it?
The migas were wonderful, a mix of tortillas, jalapeños, cheese, and eggs. These are good, the eggs not too wet, or too dry and the jalapeños are a nice touch. And the chips are added in right at the end so that they stay just a touch crunchy.
We also tried the carne guisada plate. The plate comes with refried beans, rice, and of course, the carne guisada. Carne guisada is simply beef stew. At Taco-Mex it is rich, flavorful, and just a touch spicy. The meat is cubed and slow-cooked in the sauce until it is nicely tender. The beans are made, as any proper refried beans are, with a little lard to fry them. The result is a rich and slightly meaty flavor. I have always felt that carne guisada is usually a good measure of the quality of a Mexican restaurant, and this is some of the best. The carne guisada at Taco-Mex tastes like home cooking: simple and full of flavor.
How are the prices at Taco-Mex? All breakfast tacos are $1.75, and all lunch tacos are $2. You can have a tasty lunch for about five bucks. So, to answer the question: fantastic. All things said, if you want an authentic Mexican taco, this is the place to go get it.
Austin Food Junkies' Rating: Four Lone Star Points
The Austin Food Junkies are Alex Artibee, Matt Braley and Dave Braley, "Two guys who love food, and one chef, trained at the Texas Culinary Institute." Check out their reviews of other Austin area restaurants on their blog, Austin Food Junkies.