Tuesday, March 20, 2012
Destination Austin: Torchy's Tacos
We've all heard the familiar story. A tremendously successful food truck upgrades to brick and mortar. Occasionally, as in the case of Torchy's Tacos in Austin, the little food truck that could expands around town and commands an eternally loyal following. I recall reading a list of top restaurants in Austin. The entry for Torchy's says that it is almost a cliché at this point to recommend Torchy's to visitors, but nonetheless, the praise is well-deserved.
There were two types of cuisine I wanted to try on my brief visit to this capital city with a small town feel--Texas-style barbecue and Tex Mex. The barbecue requested would be satisfied many times over, but Torchy's was the only pseudo-Mexican food I had.
Yes, it is a chain. Yes, it looks like it was designed by a former store manager of a Hot Topic. Yes, it is fast casual dining. None of these factors took away from the fact that you'd be hard pressed to find a juicier carnitas taco. The tacos are large, one is equivalent in size to two taco truck street tacos in California. There are also offerings of breakfast taco fillings and migas, but the main draw comes in between the corn or flour tortillas.
Although I heard pleasant accolades of the odder tacos, the Jamaican jerk chicken or Baja shrimp for examples, I opted for the more traditional. The Democrat, with shredded beef barbacoa, onion, queso fresco, avocado, cilantro, and salsa verde was decadently flavorful. Although I prefer a goat or sheep barbacoa, the beef here surely put Chipotle's own barbacoa offering to shame. The Green Chili Pork Taco, with roasted carnitas, green chilis, queso fresco, cilantro, onion, lime, and salsa verde was essentially the same taco as The Democrat but with pork. Authenticity aside, I've yet to find better carnitas tacos.
Torchy's is an Austin chain with eight locations in that city alone. They recently expanded to Dallas and Houston as well. If you're in any of these cities, just look for that devilish red baby signage. Grab some tacos and wash them down with some Dublin Dr. Pepper.
2801 Guadalupe St. (multiple locations, this one is by UT Austin)
Austin, TX 78705