As I mentioned in my previous post, there are two things that you pretty much have to eat while you’re in Austin: BBQ and tacos. BBQ is relatively straight forward, as discussed in the last post. Tacos are a little more complicated, for a number of reasons.
First of all, what we call “tacos” in Austin (and most of Texas) isn’t what other places call “tacos”. Tacos here are made with corn or flour tortillas wrapped around the fillings, or what other places might call “soft tacos” or “street tacos; whereas we call fried corn tortilla shells “crunchy tacos.” There’s also something called “puffy tacos” which is more of a San Antonio thing. Also, what we call “burritos” are the large things like Mission-style burritos, or what you get at Chipotle.
So, when I talk about tacos, I’m talking soft tortillas. The crunchy kind are more of a Tex-Mex thing, and while I enjoy them very occasionally, it’s not something I really seek out or crave. So now that we have that down, there are two kinds of tacos: breakfast tacos and lunch/dinner tacos, which you can usually get at breakfast too, to make things a little more tricky 🙂
This post will cover just breakfast tacos, as it’s gotten a little long. A subsequent post will cover lunch and dinner tacos.
Before I get down to my opinions and recommendations, do yourself a favor and click over to Taco Journalism, bookmark it, follow them on Twitter (while in Austin anyway), and spend some time reading their reviews. These guys literally wrote the book on breakfast tacos in Austin.
Speaking of, I was asked on Twitter for a tutorial on breakfast tacos. One question people always ask is : Where can I get the best breakfast tacos in Austin? That’s easy: my house! I make the best breakfast tacos in Austin. But I can’t cook for all y’all and I’ll be staying downtown, so we’ll move on.
Breakfast tacos are both simple and complicated at the same time. You take a flour tortilla (rarely see them with corn), throw in some breakfast ingredients, and enjoy! Most places will start with a a list of two or three basic ingredients: egg and bacon, egg and sausage, egg and chorizo, egg and potato, bean and cheese. From there, you can add on fillings for a little extra. So, you can get egg, chorizo, potato, and cheese. Your basic 3-4 ingredient should run you around 2 bucks. Some places have 3/$2 tacos, but usually this is for 3 of the same kind with no extras. ALL PLACES should give you some salsa to put on the taco, and many will have at least two (red and green, with green often the spicier).
And here’s where I let you in on a little secret: most breakfast tacos taste the same. Most places use the same sausage (more or less), the same chorizo, the same eggs, the same cheese. There’s generally no seasoning in the eggs or potatoes. What distinguishes one place from another are two things: tortillas and salsa. Some places have fresh, homemade tortillas while others get them from a bakery (which isn’t a bad thing, but it makes a difference). Salsas can be a matter of taste, depending on your preferred levels of spiciness, garlic, onion, tomatoes, etc.
And for a second little secret: I don’t really go out for breakfast tacos! Usually, when I go out for Mexican breakfast or brunch, I order migas (cheesy scrambled eggs with tortilla chips and salsa) or some variation of spicy scrambled egss. I then wrap those in tortillas to make tacos.
I used to sometimes go to Tamale House #3, which isn’t that close to the Convention Center. But that was mainly because they were big and cheap, and I liked the salsa. Tamale House East is from the same family, and follows the same pattern, and is close to downtown, on east 6th (and near The Liberty). They also are open late on weekends.
Another place a lot of people like to go is Juan in a Million, on east Cesar Chavez. It was featured on Man vs. Food for the Don Juan Taco, which is a giant mound of eggs, cheese, potatoes, and bacon. It comes with 2 tortillas but I usually order two extra, because one Don Juan plate makes 4 tacos. It’s pretty tasty and VERY filling, and you also get the best handshake in Austin from Juan himself.
And then there’s Cisco’s, an Austin legend and place where a lot of politicians like to eat. I ate there during SXSW and was unimpressed, so take that as you will.
In conclusion, enjoy some breakfast tacos while in town, and browse the Taco Journalism blog for the best options nearest to you!