There’s a lot to love about Austin. A blue oasis in the heart of Texas (though I think the oasis is expanding this way, too). And, of course, the food.
So, when an Austin-based restaurant sets up shop here, expect Houstonians — whether actual Austin ex-pats or not — to line up around the block. Such is the case for Tacodeli, on Washington right outside downtown, and across the street from Gus’ ethereal Fried Chicken.
Long lines here are as much about the operation as its stellar food. That prices aren’t posted on the menu ensures conversation with the cashier. Everything’s relaxed and unhurried. At 1:30 on a Saturday afternoon, I waited nearly half an hour before walking up and ordering. By then I didn’t care how much it cost.
Looking at the takeout menu, the gourmet tacos are about $4 each. Breakfast tacos are maybe a dollar less. All are incredible, packed with various proteins and veggies. I couldn’t choose just one, so I went with a sirloin, egg, and cheese breakfast taco, a Happy Taco (chicken), and a Mojo Fish Taco (salmon).
My breakfast taco was richly seasoned, with freshly grilled beef strips topping scrambled eggs and jack cheese. I added a red sauce — one of the three salsas at the counter — and it was breakfast taco magic!
About those salsas: They’re all made in house, naturally, and include the Roja (mild-ish), Verde (medium), Dona (hot) and Habanero (take a guess). I tried the milder two and they’re perky and light. They’re great complements to the heavier taco fillings.
Heavy is one way I can describe the Happy Taco, which is loaded with shredded chicken, mushrooms, cilantro, onion, and cheese. With a little green salsa, this taco reminded me of chicken right out of a stockpot. A little celery, a little carrot… a sofrito of sorts, shining through.
Most impressive was the Mojo Fish taco. The menu says, “grilled line-caught Texas drum,” but on my visit, grilled salmon substituted, and I was quite pleased. Its pink opulence went so well with the garlic sauce, guacamole, and Pico de Gallo that the taco should be offered like that all the time. (A Tikin Xic salmon taco is available; with achiote and habanero it’s by far the spiciest taco on the menu.)
I couldn’t stop at tacos, however. Pozole served only on Saturdays, called my name. The hominy is perfectly cooked, ensconced in a broth that must have been made with the chicken above. Poblanos gave it a subtle smokiness. Radishes give it crunch. If it’s available, order it!
Parking is plentiful and there’s plenty of seating both inside and on a large patio in front. Just remember, Tacodeli is only open until 3 p.m. each day. Breakfast starts at 7 a.m. on weekdays and 8 a.m. on weekends. And there will be many people there when you go, sharing your love of all things taco and Austin.