In brief, a torta is a fat, round, 6-8 inch roll stuffed with tender marinated meats and some combination of cheeses and vegetables, popular in Mexico City and elsewhere.
At Tortas El Guero, they serve delicious, awe-inspiring tortas from precisely the place you'd expect them to be served: a school bus parked outside an automotive shop. $5-6 per torta and a meal unto itself.
In 2010, busses are the new trucks, tortas are the new tacos, and Tortas El Guero is my new obsession.
Welcome to the future, humanoids.
Allow me to introduce you to the legendary tacos of magic and desire.
Welcome to Taqueria La Canaria, otherwise known as "Yellow Taco Wagon of 51st and Airport".
These mystical taco magicians ostensibly serve up the love 7 days a week, but in actuality you're damned lucky if you find them open. Many a time have I driven here, only to shake my fist and curse the gods for denying me this incredible gift. Ultimately though, as in life, so in tacos: The more elusive the prize, the more glorious the capture.
Basically, La Canaria brings out taco ESSENCE. The ingredients are stupidly simple and utterly fresh: delicious corn or flour tortillas made on the spot and succulent, perfect meats. Onions and cilantro if you want them (you want them) and two flavors of salsa (optional).
The taste? OH. MY. FUCKING. GOD.
Like modal realism and Dane Cook's commercial success: just unbelievable.
I walked into Smitty's a healthy 20-something man with a spark in his eye and dreams for the future.
I ate the holy trinity: brisket, ribs, and prime rib. Nonpareil.
I left Smitty's as every man does: 40 lbs. heavier and dying of coronary heart disease.
It is a glorious Saturday afternoon; the sun is shining, the birds are chirping, and magic is in the air. Balki and I have just rolled into Lockhart. Our mission: to hunt, capture, and feast upon the legendary barbeque of central Texas.
We arrive at the infamous Kreuz Market, a large but unadorned building that resembles a barn or perhaps some sort of primitive temple. I am nervous. We enter. The interior is spacious and wooden in an old-fashioned "my grandpa made this shit with his bare hands and his seventeen indentured man servants" kind of way.
We see a warning sign on the wall: No sauce, no utensils, cash payments only. This ain't no joke, son. We get in line for the "inner sanctum", a sacred room where massive wooden pits burn around the clock and fresh 'que is cut to order, by the pound.
The line moves briskly. It is our turn. We order brisket, prime rib, spare ribs, and sausage. The meats are pulled from the flames and cut before our eyes.
One of them speaks: "You want bread or crackers?" I hesitate. "I...umm, I don't..."
"Bread," Balki says without flinching. They shove half a bag of fucking WONDER BREAD on top of our meat. The pile of animal flesh and white bread is then wrapped in brown butcher paper and handed to us.
We find a table and greedily unwrap our prize. It is a sight of sheer angelic beauty, naked and austere. I am entranced, unable to move. "What now?" I wonder. Oh, right....
I lift brisket to mouth and bite. A supernova of bold, smoky flavor erupts in my mouth. Time slows down. My skull vibrates. I bury my head in my arms, writhe in my chair, and giggle uncontrollably. Oh, shit...
I look around the room. Half of the patrons resemble corpulent lumberjacks. They are slaves to Kreuz, like the lab rat that devours cocaine until its heart explodes. I do not judge them. At what price would I surrender my own free will?
Balki and I look at each other in silent understanding; words are unnecessary. As we feast, we use spare Wonder Bread to mop our perspiring brows.
This is barbeque fit for muthafukin Zeus himself.
This is some elegant cuisine.
Coming from someone who didn't appreciate the splendors of well-prepared raw fish until recently, it's amazing to me how artistic the stuff can be. They bring out majestic little sculptures of rice and fish. And then you eat them. It's like that time you ate the Mona Lisa. Except this time it tastes delicious. And this time you don't go to prison.
I tried maybe half a dozen pieces of sushi here; they ranged from good to excellent. The standout pieces were the spicy spider roll--robust, complex flavors and lovely sauce--and the spicy scallop--frighteningly buttery and sumptuous. I recommend both.
As for the rest: impeccable (if slightly Spartan) service, stylish presentation, and enjoyable, understated décor.
And let this be a lesson to me: looks matter. They really do. Those who think otherwise have spent too long staring at plain and boring things.
Insanely DELICIOUS all-vegetarian Indian food.
Breads fried in oil carb nightmare meets exotic sauce banquet from beyond time and space.
Different. Authentic. Cheap. Good.
This is what fast food would be like if our planet were run by fascist vegan hippies with a penchant for southern Indian and an appalling ignorance of macronutrient ratios. Maybe.
I wish to present you with the following highly hypothetical scenario:
What would you say if someone told you that you could buy a tasty banh mi sandwich for $2.50 or a delectable Vietnamese noodle bowl for $5?
If you're me, you'd probably punch them in the fucking face for their sheer chicanery.
Or you might speculate that they arrived in a time machine from the days of yore. And then promptly punch them in the fucking face.
Either way, you just hit an innocent man, you asshole.
This is the real deal. A hole in the wall-ish little gem of hidden delights that serves Vietnamese cuisine on the cheap.
Dinner selection was performed under the enthusiastic guidance of a Vietnamese woman who pointed at the grilled pork vermicelli bowl with spring roll and fish sauce and told me that it was "better".
... Better than what? The question is unanswerable. It's better simpliciter.
And she continued: "My husband make this!"
Her husband makes the pork vermicelli? Holy shit, really!? Who makes the other stuff?? Never mind.
So.... it's simple: the food is delicious and for all I know authentic. It's also one of the best 3 meals I've had in Austin for under $10.
There's little else to say. Thanh Nhi is the dickens.
Le Soleil is a Vietnamese dining establishment with a French-sounding name. Being a tireless advocate of the doctrines of multiculturalism, I was eager to give these people some fat wads of paper currency.
And damn, I was NOT disappointed.
Now... I could write an in-depth recap of every little nuance of my Le Soleil experience, complete with loquacious descriptions of the decor, penetrating psychological analyses of the waiter's facial expressions, and blah blah blah. But fuck that, because in reality, there is only one thing that matters:
***Vietnamese seafood crepe***
In a word: !!!
Never have I gazed upon, let alone tasted, such a wondrous thing. This crepe (AHA, more Frenchness!) appears to be some kind of strange, alien sustenance, golden and radiant in its Platonic perfection.
They serve this bastard fresh off the pan, immaculately textured and glistening with droplets of oil. Wrap it in lettuce, dip it in fish sauce, and prepare yourself for an unprecedented kaleidoscopic eruption of flavor.
Honestly, if the holiness known as "Vietnamese seafood crepe" isn't a knockdown argument for favoring culinary adventurism over the proverbial turkey sandwich, then everything I know is wrong, and I'm a brain in a vat.
Fuck yes, homies.
For all the incessant chatter about how Austin is the grand emperor of Mexican delight, it's easy enough to find decent places but damn tough to find places that really SHINE.
But Evita's shines, baby. Like the top of Dr. Phil's illustrious noggin.
For starters, the individual salsa banquet is the bee's knees. But more significant still is the mole: rich and scrumptious, but SUBTLE and not overpowering. Pour me a stiff glass, cause ounce for ounce, I say it's better than the mole at Fonda San Miguel. No joke.
Overall, I award Evita's the coveted 4.6 star rating. And let me finish by saying that this place gives me hope for Austin. Even if we're not king of Mexican, we're definitely at least like a Baron or a Viscount.
(***My original Las Cazuelas review was flagged by a helpful e-citizen, undoubtedly over wholesome concern about its profane and disturbing content. Since the ever-wonderful Las Cazuelas should not be punished for the sins of its reviewer, I offer this revised review. The objectionable parts have been replaced with safe alternatives, personally approved by Tipper Gore, and denoted by [these such brackets]***)
Have you ever wanted to eat tacos whilst [boogying] your [crotch region] to Mexican oompa-core?
What!? You never knew it was possible to do that?? Well, [pardon me but please pay attention]...
Las Cazuelas is a gem of a Mexican [untidy but loveable establishment] and personifies one of [the review author's] favorite culinary categories: utterly basic dishes done to perfection. For example, the combo plate with cheese enchilada, carne guisada taco, and tamale. Completely basic and completely delicious.
In essence, Las Cazuelas serves the Mexican dish of [the author's REM images] for less than [7 Euros].
Then, when the sun goes down, they [proceed with] the karaoke, and the oompa-oompa [gently nuzzles] you like a wave of friendly [vertically-challenged Irish fictional characters] dancing across an enchanted hillside of golden [the thing you feel when your life is going well, starts with an 'h'].
It is [estimable, reasonably-priced amusement] on the East side, [Sir or Madam].
[It is tempting to point out that the above description is reminiscent of your mother, a classy and elegant woman who was educated at Cambridge and Yale. However, this would be rather pedestrian and juvenile, therefore I bid you good day.]
Listes mises à jour récemment par Alex B.
Read it and weep with the joy of a citizen who lives in the best of all possible cities.
"For Hubris shall be your torch."--Jesus H. Austin, founder of Austin.