A Whole Lot of Whole 30 Foods, Plus Pie

I don’t wanna brag but I’ve made it through the (supposed) hardest days of Whole 30 and my bra feels looser. My tiny boobs get the weight loss memo well ahead of the rest of my body and run with it. The Whole 30 timeline says that you’re most likely to quit on days 10 and 11, because the novelty of the program has worn off and your sugar-addicted brain is desperate for a fix and 20 more days of hard-boiled eggs sounds interminable. I had the added obstacles of experiencing these days during the worst days of my period, while also being out and about around deliciously forbidden foods- glorious baked goods (and Casa Alde!) at the Buda Farmers’ Market, food trucks at the Texas Night Sky Festival, and pizza and cake at our friend Louis’ birthday party. I stuck with it though, and whether it’s a placebo effect or not, I do feel better on Day 12. I’m about to enter the phase of the program where I might have a lot more energy and I’m excited to see how it pans out.

Andy and I realized that my day 30 will fall on the day of our 10th wedding anniversary trip to San Antonio without the kids (thank you Mary!!!), which means I’m definitely ending a day early. It’ll be neat to get to eat whatever I feel like eating in a fun food city! Unless doing so makes me violently ill on our anniversary outing, in which case, less fun.

Also, Fat Chicken Noodles, our big puffy chicken is dead. She’s not the one who got her foot caught in the fence. That’s White Neck and she’s still alive. Spending her days in the fenced garden, away from the other chickens who are bloodthirsty assholes who tried to attack her because she’s weak and sickly, and her nights in that same box in our kitchen. No, Fat Chicken Noodles died suddenly, mysteriously, with no sign of injury. Otto thinks she may have just had a heart attack because she really was obese. Whatever it was, my record as a chicken-keeper is looking pretty grim.

Here’s what we ate this week.

Processed with VSCO with f2 preset

Whole 30 Day 5: Chicken Salad with Grapes, Walnuts, and Two-Minute Mayo. I was so hungry when I finished making this that I started wolfing it down before remembering that I hadn’t taken a picture, so I fluffed the chunks back up a bit with my fork and there you have it. I miss the idea of carbs. Of putting chicken salad on bread and feeling really full after eating it. But if I can let go of that longing, the butter lettuce is pretty good too. It’s nice to finish a meal and not feel all weighed down and pasty and over-stuffed.

D82D7C60-9072-4BA8-B471-D650D0F9AFDB

Whole 30 Day 6: Sugar Free Hot Dogs with Sauteed Bell Pepper, Onion, and Kale. I was checking out the meat section at Wheatsville to see what sugar-free things I could find to put in my face and came across Pederson’s sugar-free hot dogs. I picked them up and then thought, what am I going to do with a bun-less hot dog? But George saw and got super excited about the possibility of hot dogs, yelling, “Yeah! Hot Dogs!” so I bought ’em. Andy picked up a package of cheapo hot dog buns at HEB for him and the kids to eat with their fancy hot dogs. I chopped mine up beanie weenies-style and sauteed them with vegetables because what the hell else was I going to do.

C083D9BD-C5C3-42C1-9436-6D48FD8DC352

Pi(e) Day Strawberry Rhubarb Pie to Give Away. I made a pie and I couldn’t eat it and I’m just gonna sit here and wait for the praise to roll in for my self-restraint and generosity. Andy and the boys had it for dessert after their hot dog dinner, and I brought a big slice to my favorite neighbor, Otto, who is always doing nice things for us which I am continuously way behind on reciprocating. He brings the chickens snacks- greens, grapes, pecans that he has harvested, shelled, and crushed by hand- almost daily. He also opens up our nightmare portal AKA cistern lid for them so they can catch and chomp up the shiny red cockroaches that scurry out whenever the light of day touches them. I’m not willing to do this for the chickens. If you are reading this blog post because you are on Whole 30 and you’re mad that I put a picture of a pie in the middle, I hope that my cockroach-eating chicken story has helped to quash any nascent cravings you may have. The rest of the pie went to work with Andy the next day. Everybody liked it! Andy said it was syrupy sweet but in a good way, and the crust was flaky and good too.

Processed with VSCO with f2 preset

Whole 30 Picnic, Day 7: Red Pepper Walnut Dip, Hard Boiled Eggs, Salted Almonds, Mango, Apple with Almond Butter, Carrots. One week in and I’m officially sick of hard-boiled eggs. I can tolerate them now only with an obscene amount of salt and pepper. Have you seen people who eat hard-boiled eggs without salt? This is mesmerizing to me. The red walnut dip was kind of blah. It tasted watery and somehow less than the sum of its parts. But mango, apples with almond butter, and salty almonds were firing on all cylinders. Henry had asked for a picnic and then the kids fought with each other while I was making everybody’s lunch and making multiple trips to the front yard with all the plates. I brought out George’s requested quesadilla and he took a bite and said “I didn’t want orange cheese,” before setting it down sadly. Super annoying. I yelled at them a bit, just a modest amount of yelling, for being rude and fighting when I was trying to make lunch for everyone but then we sat around and had a nice time, I guess!

Processed with VSCO with f2 preset

Whole 30 Day 7, Dinner: Creamy Mushroom Soup. My general South by Southwest rule is to avoid it. Do not go north of Ben White Blvd for the entirety of spring break. But Joanna invited us to see their family friends perform at a children’s SXSW show with their band, Red Yarn, and we went and had fun. We sat on top of a big hill and watched the bands perform, Henry and George splitting their time huddled in the small rectangle of shade cast by a stranger’s nearby stroller, or up next to the stage dancing. Then George got a balloon sword from a man on stilts wearing a fancy balloon hat and both kids ate outrageously expensive tiny cups of Italian Ice.  The drive home during rush hour was interminable, and the kids wanted to listen to America from West Side Story over and over again, which didn’t help. It’s a good song, but you can only listen to it so many times in a row. Anyway, I made this soup when I got home and it was fast and so rich and delicious. Henry said it tasted like eating a bowl of gravy.

Whole 30 Creamy Mushroom Soup
Adapted from The Food Lab‘s Creamy Mushroom Soup

2 tablespoons ghee
1 lb cremini mushrooms, cleaned and sliced 1/4 inch thick
1 large leek, white and pale green parts only, cleaned and sliced into half moons
1/2 an onion, finely sliced
2 cups chicken stock, plus more if necessary
2/3 cup full fat coconut milk (from a can)
kosher salt and black pepper
1/2 cup sliced shiitake mushrooms crisped in a pan with a tablespoon of ghee and some thyme leaves

Melt the ghee in a medium dutch oven over medium heat. Add the mushrooms and cook, stirring occasionally, until they have given off their liquid and started to brown, about 10 minutes. Add the sliced leeks and onion and cook, stirring frequently, until they are softened, about 5 minutes more. Add the stock, bring it to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Transfer the soup to a blender and blend with the coconut milk and salt and pepper to taste until smooth and creamy. Top the soup with crispy mushrooms and thyme leaves.

IMG_2312

Henry’s Rainbow Breakfast. This was all his idea- including what food to use for each color. You’ll notice he craftily avoided eating a vegetable.

Processed with VSCO with f2 preset

Whole 30 Day 8, Lunch: Avocado and Grapefruit Salad (minus the maple syrup in the dressing- I didn’t miss it). I had the rest of that mushroom soup too. I’m not about to just eat a green salad for lunch.

IMG_2326

Whole 30 Day 8, Sheet Pan Dinner: Sugar-Free Sausage, Red Onion, Bell Pepper, and Broccoli. I tossed these things with olive oil, salt, and pepper, and roasted them at 400 degrees for 45 minutes. My mother-in-law Mary comes over to watch the kids just about every Thursday. It’s the best. I can do whatever I want! Cook! Garden! Shop without children! Here’s how I know I am a certified adult- I spent two hours of this precious Mary time having our printer’s ink cartridges refilled and returning unused flooring transition strips to Home Depot.

Processed with VSCO with f2 preset

Whole 30 Day 9: Crispy Smashed Potatoes, Sauteed Spinach, Roasted Mushrooms, Sugar-Free Bacon, Pile of Tomatoes, Fried Egg. The boys and I went to Sherwood Forest Faire with our friends and family as a belated birthday gift for our friend Josie. I love everything about it- the costumes, the shows, the artisans, the food. Just walking around in the pine-y woods on a beautiful spring day. It’s all golden. My favorite part this time was the falconry show. We got to hear a kookaburra’s laugh, and listen to the absolute silence of a giant owl flapping its wings. I missed getting to eat the faire foods I love but I brought lots of snacks and had a beef and mushroom-stuffed baked potato for lunch that looked a little gray but tasted pretty good. It’s exhausting though, walking in the sun all day with two demanding kids who alternately needed to be pulled up hills in our wagon. After the hour long drive home I really didn’t feel like cooking. Pre-whole 30 it would have been one of those nights where we all just ate quesadillas for dinner, but since I didn’t have that luxury, we had breakfast for dinner instead.

Processed with VSCO with c1 preset

Whole 30 Day 10, Lunch: Kale Salad with Roasted Chicken, Olives, Tomatoes, Roasted Mushrooms, and Tahini Sauce. I ate this for lunch after going to the Buda Farmers’ Market with George in the morning and before going to the Texas Night Sky Festival in the afternoon. My tahini sauce is only an approximation of the linked recipe- a scant amount of the same ingredients whisked together because I didn’t want to sacrifice a whole head of garlic, nor take out the blender, nor have two cups of tahini sauce on hand. That stuff is so good, though! I loved it with the chicken.

I thought Henry had been more than his normal amount of rude at the ren faire the day before- getting whiny when he didn’t get to do what he wanted to do the instant he wanted to do it- but things hit a critical mass at the Texas Night Sky Festival. He just could not cope. Nice volunteer ladies would try to talk to us about being citizen scientists or about the negative effects of blue-tinted lights in our homes and Henry wouldn’t listen or say thank you or give a shit. Finally, during a solar walk that illustrated the relative sizes of the sun and planets in our solar system and their distance from one another, Henry started crying in desperation at the length of the walk and Andy had to go sit with him against a wall. So obviously we came home and he had a 102 degree fever and fell asleep at seven o’clock. I never ever remember that my kids acting shittier than normal is almost always a sign that they’re getting sick. In the moment my only thought is, why are you acting like this? I thought we were past this? And then they throw up or get a fever and I remember the lesson I thought I had learned the last time this happened. Henry’s fever burned hot for 24 hours and then he was completely fine. I don’t know what that was but I’m so grateful it was quick.

Processed with VSCO with f2 preset

Kale Chips. I put way too much salt on these and they were inedible. That’s what happened.

Processed with VSCO with f2 preset

Whole 30 Day 11, Dinner: Coconut Tamarind Chicken Curry. Minus the teaspoon of sugar. I hadn’t made it to the store so I turned to Made in India for a curry I could make with ingredients I had on hand. I made the sauce and tossed it with leftover roasted chicken and it was just delicious. Andy had it on rice and the kids just ate rice, Henry as a celebratory return to food after barely eating for the past day.

Processed with VSCO with f2 preset

Whole 30 Day 12: Smoothie Bowl with Toasted Coconut, Chia Seeds, and Goji Berries. And with coconut milk instead of rice milk. I’m just looking for some breakfast variety here, beyond hard-boiled eggs or reheated leftovers. So yes, I will eat a smoothie out of a bowl with shit put on top of it.

Processed with VSCO with f2 preset

Whole 30 Day 12: Kale Salad with Roasted Sweet Potato, Shredded Chicken, Cilantro, Fresno Chile, and Tahini Sauce. I was writing this post last night when I went down a Whole 30 Instagram rabbit hole and spent the remainder of my evening there. Which was irresponsible, I know, but look at this lady’s whole 30 meals! I liked the way she put round slices of roasted sweet potato on her salads so I did that for lunch today, and it was such a really delicious pleasure to eat all of these things together.

That’s all I’ve got. I’m expecting that next week’s post will be on time and amazing thanks to my week three whole 30 tiger blood that’s due in any minute now. Mark your calendars.

Whole 30 for Reals, a Birthday Tea Party Picnic, Dapper Boys, and Not-Dead Chickens

I’m a couple of weeks behind on blogging about my life, on account of writing a lot about breakfast tacos and then taking a break to paint baseboards and go to a wedding in Laredo. In that time, I started doing Whole 30, made a brunch for a brilliant birthday girl, got to hang out with my mom, and watched my kids dance for hours to the Tejano music stylings of the Tex-Mex Kadillaks. Also there’s a not-dead chicken in a box on the floor in my kitchen.

Let’s talk about the chicken first. Sometime on Friday our white chicken, White Neck (the kids named her. Henry said she might also be called “Marshmallow” or “Fluffy” (editor’s note: she is not fluffy)), flew over the fence and didn’t come back. We found her on Saturday with one of her feet caught between the fence boards, which presumably happened when she tried and failed to fly over the fence, hanging upside down in the rain. She had probably been there for 24 hours. When her head moved I was shocked to see that she was still alive. Andy helped me free her leg from the boards and I just held her in my arms and didn’t know what to do. I took her to the backyard water bowl because I thought she might need water but she wouldn’t drink. Her eyes just rolled back in her head, first one, and then the other, before snapping open again and she was trembling all over. We called Otto, neighbor extraordinaire, who said we should put her in a towel-lined box in the house to warm up, and he lent us his heating pad to put under it. She’s been there since. She’s eating and drinking and just sitting there. She hasn’t been able to stand on her feet yet but she seems a hell of a lot better than when we first found her. I feel like a horribly negligent chicken owner for not going to look for her sooner. I hope she pulls through.

I don’t have a good segue between talking about my maimed chicken and Whole 30, so I’m just gonna jump right in. I spent several months thinking about doing Whole 30 and then talking myself out of it. My parents have been doing it since October with great results, and my mother-in-law too. Maybe I’ll just mostly do it, I thought- try to eat less sugar and carbs and stuff most of the time but be free to eat a cupcake or something if the opportunity arises. Then a couple of married food52 friends started posting the most beautiful photos of their Whole 30 meals, complete with a 30-day dinner plan and a delightful pinterest board to go with it and they just made everything look so good that it felt like a real possibility. And if I’m going to mostly do it, isn’t it worth it just to go the whole way? Then I’ll really know what it feels like to eat nothing but meats and vegetables and fruits and nuts and good fats for a month. Will I become a nimbler, cleverer, less-bloated version of myself? Will my pants be less tight? Will I be desperate for a buttery chocolate chip cookie? Time will tell.

Here’s what we ate this week. Plus last week. Plus some things we didn’t eat.

E95DF219-7F22-49AF-BA1D-027C8C3FAD68

Tuna Salad with Tomatoes, Kalamata Olives, Red Onion, and Parsley on Wasa Crisps. This was pre-Whole 30. But if you remove the forbidden wasa crisps, the tuna salad part would totally work. I’ve been eating it in lettuce cups for breakfast. It’s pretty great on the wasa crisps though.

FA336A89-4EE6-4596-A2A3-07B9F268924A

Chicken and Cabbage Salad with Sesame Seeds, Scallions, and Almonds. If you omit the (tiny amount of) sugar, this recipe is good for Whole 30 too. And it’s surprisingly delicious for such a ho-hum looking pile of limp shreds. The only problem with it is that it makes a huge huge amount and I was the only one who ate leftovers of it, so I ate it for 5/6 meals for two days  (because the cabbage was getting watery and I didn’t want it to go to waste) and I’m kind of still sick of it. But if you’re feeding a crowd and want a gluten-free, dairy-free, delicious thing, it’d be perfect.

IMG_2075IMG_2076IMG_2114IMG_2112IMG_2113IMG_2115IMG_2116
IMG_0133

A Surprise Birthday Breakfast Tea Party Picnic for Josie! Gluten- and Dairy-Free Waffles with Coconut Whipped Cream and Berries, Chicken Maple Sausages, and Lots of Fruit. The waffles are made GF by subbing Cup4Cup for the AP flour, and DF by subbing full-fat coconut milk from a can with a squeeze of lemon. The coconut whipped cream was made by refrigerating another can of full-fat coconut milk, scooping out the solid fat from the top, and whipping it with powdered sugar and a little vanilla. And please take a minute to appreciate Helen’s fruit platter, which included bunny face-shaped watermelon. That was a big hit.

Helen and the kids and I showed up in Josie’s front yard and Christy snuck out of the house to help us set up this picnic breakfast while Josie’s sister Ella distracted her with dolls inside. We used fancy plates and Christy’s fancy teapot and set up a lovely little spot under a tree, which Helen and Christy decorated with pom poms and lanterns. Josie was so surprised and happy- it was thrilling to watch her face light up. A few words on Josie- this kid is incredible. She’s a gifted artist. And I mean that. A prodigy. She has developed this line of clay people that are tall and lanky and delightfully unique, she paints, she makes richly-detailed miniature villages for her dolls. She is passionate and driven in her craft and it is a remarkable thing to behold in a newly-11 year old girl. On top of that she is sweet and caring and always willing to entertain my kids, a trait I admire above all others. She is authentically and unapologetically herself, which is so rare and so wonderful. We love her so much and we were so happy to get to be a small part of her birthday celebration. And a big thank you to Helen for capturing the moment and sharing these photos with me!

2DF81904-C23A-435C-8602-6A259E164661

Blue Earth Farm at the Buda Farmer’s Market. We’ve been going to this market just about every week to see Joanna and buy some of that perfect chicken and also eat Casa Alde and buy things from the other vendors. There’s a lady who sells witchy stuff like smudge sticks and “good witch” incense that I lit when doing a binding spell on Donald Trump a few weeks ago. There’s a nice big man who sells fudge and Mexican Chocolate Brownies that are almost worth giving up on Whole 30 for. There’s a beef guy who sells grass-fed ground beef for $6.50 a pound! There’s a vegetable stall that sells gorgeous salad greens and leeks and onions and jams and pepper flakes. It’s a really fun time! They’re having a big party next week to kick off the spring season and there will be music and all of these cool vendors and other stuff too. Come down to Buda and buy some chicken and eat a great breakfast taco. If you go to the Texas Night Sky Festival after that too then we can spend the whole day together!

Processed with VSCO with c1 preset

I just love everything about the boys’ wedding looks. George looks like he should be on a yacht somewhere and Henry looks like a teenage heartthrob. George has been doing the peace sign in just about every picture since he saw his very cool cousin Jack do it in Portland over Christmas.

Processed with VSCO with c1 preset

Getting through the ceremony proved to be a bit of a challenge for my two heathen children. George was particularly taken with those little benches you kneel on and wouldn’t leave the damn things alone. Henry sat pretty quietly, but would lay down on the pew and scoot his body along the smooth wood whenever the ceremony called for the audience (congregation?) to stand, and then he’d end up positioned right under one of our butts when it was time to sit back down. I’m happy to say that neither of them ruined the wedding ceremony!

IMG_2180

And then they danced and danced forever at the reception. They loved the lights and the super loud music. They loved the slippery dance floor. We were served a breaded chicken cutlet with gravy, mashed potatoes, steamed vegetables and bread for dinner. Henry doesn’t like chicken, or potatoes, or vegetables really, so he shouted to me over the music (we were right by the huge speakers), “Looks like the only thing I can eat is bread and gravy!” And he proceeded to swipe his bread over the gravy on his chicken cutlet over and over again. Grandma Mary and Aunt Annette gave up their bread and gravy for the cause.

IMG_2274

Look at my mom! She’s the best. Henry, who is very particular about who he engages with, spent every minute around her holding her hand. I loved that. She and Helen and Phinnie went with us to our Friday swim class and mom lavished the kids with praise for their great swimming. And then, yes, we went back to the Texas Honey Ham company. Fresh off my month of breakfast tacos and I still couldn’t turn down the chance to eat them again here- they do really nice things with ham over there. It was so great to see you, mama ❤

Processed with VSCO with f2 preset

We also ate at Proof, which is super close to Andy’s parents house in Buda and looks like a liquor store (and is one!) but is also a gorgeous deli with fantastic sandwiches and fancy salads. Buda is really coming up in the world!

Processed with VSCO with f2 preset

My first day of Whole 30. I had a hard boiled egg and a banana for breakfast and then I went to Trader Joes and bought everything they had and came home and made myself this for lunch. It’s like a pan bagnat without the baguette. I made ramen with a porky broth and broccoli and soft-boiled eggs for dinner, with real noodles for the kids and Andy and sweet potato noodles for me. The sweet potato noodles were only mildly successful, but I felt good about my first day. Although I did lay in bed that night and absentmindedly think about how it would feel to bite into a dark chocolate chip cookie with a soft middle and a crisp buttery edge.

Processed with VSCO with f2 preset

Day 2. I ate the rest of that tuna salad for breakfast with a hard-boiled egg and a little apple with almond butter. My normal breakfast is a quesadilla, or hummus and tortilla chips. I feel like I want to eat a lot more for breakfast on the Whole 30, maybe because it takes more to make me feel full when I’m not eating bread-y things, or maybe because I know I’m supposed to make it to lunch without snacking.

Processed with VSCO with f2 preset

Dinner on Day 2- chorizo tacos for Andy and the boys, chorizo-stuffed roasted baby sweet potatoes for me, plus a salad with cashew tamari dressing (with fish sauce instead of tamari because you’re not supposed to have soy in any form on Whole 30). The sweet potato and chorizo were so wonderful together I didn’t feel at all deprived to not have the tortillas. And Henry wanted to try it and proceeded to eat several bites, so maybe he’d be willing to eat this sometime too? I felt hungry again at night and ate a little ramekin of salted cashews and almonds and golden raisins. Having big bags of these nuts on hand, plus clementines and little apples and bananas and hard-boiled eggs has made it easy to shove something in my face when I’m feeling hungry. If I didn’t have them, it would be really tempting to eat some of the chocolate-covered dried cherries on the kids’ snack shelf instead.

Processed with VSCO with f2 preset

Day 3- Crispy Chorizo with Oven-Roasted Potatoes and Kale. I made two pounds of chorizo and roasted a big tray of potatoes and it’s been easy and delicious to toss them in a pan with a couple handfuls of pre-washed and chopped kale from Trader Joes for a quick lunch or breakfast. The kale gets a little crispy and the potatoes help fill you up and everything tastes like smoked paprika and pork fat and it’s just good.

Processed with VSCO with f2 preset

Day 4- Herbed Faux-tisserie Chicken. Rubbing crushed fennel seeds on your chicken and then slow roasting it at 300 degrees for 3 hours is a good idea. The house smells amazing and you’ll have great leftover chicken to use all week, especially if you roast one of Blue Earth Farm’s six-pound chickens like I did!

Processed with VSCO with f2 preset

Faux-tisserie Chicken, Charred Potato Onion Cake, Kale Salad with Apples and Almonds.  That potato cake thing is from The Food Lab cookbook and uses an excessive amount of butter (which I replaced with ghee) and olive oil. It’s good but it’s so rich you can practically feel yourself developing gout while you eat it.

Processed with VSCO with f2 preset

Day 4- Cobb Salad. Maybe I’ll make it to the end of this thing and be able to be satisfied with a simple green salad. For now, I need all the delicious things on it.

Before I started, I suspected that I might be less in touch with my body and how I’m feeling than other friends who have gone on this diet, and I think that might be true. So far, I have not noticed that I feel more tired, or bloated, or sickly during the first few days on it. I feel the same, except maybe a little bit hungrier. It does feel nice to get to look back at food pictures from the week and to see so many different colors and textures instead of the same photos of meat- or cheese-stuffed tortillas all the time. I don’t feel like I’m depriving myself, which is something I worried a lot about beforehand. I’ve really enjoyed what I’ve eaten so far, and when I’ve wanted something sweet, a clementine or a dried apricot or some nuts and golden raisins has felt just fine. It has felt a little jarring to not absentmindedly eat whatever my kids leave on their plates- the end of a quesadilla or a few pieces of popcorn- or to not be able to test if their noodles are done by eating one, but kind of nice too, to be forced to stop and think about what I’m putting in my mouth.

Is next week gonna be harder? Or are the first few days the hardest? I should probably look this up. Happy eating, friends!

A 2017 Guide to Breakfast Tacos in Austin

2017-best-places-to-eat-austin-afba-city-guide-800x350

I’m not here to judge you for the breakfast tacos you like. Does your favorite breakfast taco place have wacky names for the tacos that force you to read the description, all the descriptions, to know what’s in ’em? Or are there four tacos on the menu, named for the ingredients they contain, and they all cost $1.69? Are the tortillas homemade or do they come from an industrial-sized sack? Is the cheese a real-life Mexican melting cheese or is it a shredded yellow cheese product? For the rigidly authentic set, real breakfast tacos are served up on homemade griddled flour tortillas, they’re huge, they’re cheap, and they’re probably not from Austin. The big names in breakfast tacos around town- Torchy’s, Tacodeli, Maria’s Taco Xpress (may it rest in peace), Mi Madre’s, Juan in a Million- none of them meet this criteria. I, myself, am not rigidly authentic. I think there are pros and cons to all of these places. Some places nail the tortilla and then stuff the things with sub-par fillings. Other places have amazing fillings, or salsas, or ambiance, and are worth trying in spite of their weak points. A few, a precious few, get everything right.

Last year, I wrote about the breakfast tacos I ate from 13 places around town. This year’s updated post keeps those reviews and adds 11 more. This overview includes the big chains that are bemoaned by the traditionalists on yelp, little food trucks on the east side, tacos from a tortilleria, breakfast tacos that maybe aren’t fair to call breakfast tacos, and ones that are perfect in every way except they’re in Buda, so maybe also don’t count. This is not a “best of” list, though I do think some of the best breakfast tacos in town are on it. It’s a list of all the places I tried, with notes on the highlights as well as the things to avoid at each.

I ordered my tacos on flour tortillas, unless I knew the corn ones were recommended/homemade/the only option. I ordered a chorizo and egg taco at every place to have a control taco that would allow me to more directly compare one place to another. Last year’s post mostly featured South Austin eateries. This year, I’ve cast a wider net. The tacos listed here stretch from New Braunfels to Round Rock and from Westlake to East Pleasant Valley and 20 more places in between. It’s a lot to read. Skip to the end if you want a list of my favorites.

So here we go. In alphabetical order, because it’s the easiest order.

image

Casa Alde
108 N. Main Street, Buda, TX 78610
Breakfast tacos served all day | Prices Start at $1.75

I’m starting off my guide to the best breakfast tacos in Austin with a restaurant that’s not in Austin. But it’s close, you guys, really close. And it’s my favorite. I grew up in Buda, and we ate these tacos as often as we could scrape $2 together. An enterprising Hays High classmate used to show up to first period government class with a sackful and auction them off to the highest bidder. They’ve got the nostalgia thing going for them, but even if your knowledge of Buda is limited to Cabela’s and a vague association with wiener dogs (it’s a thing), you should make the trek down to try these tacos. The tortillas are big and floury, handmade every day, and the fillings are perfect. The migas taco features tons of thick hand-fried tortilla chips, folded with fluffy scrambled eggs and topped with a heavy pour of queso. Potatoes are hash brown-like, sausage is crumbled Jimmy Dean, and bacon is left whole and crispy. They’re famous for The Fattie, a monster of a taco that delivers you potato, egg, bacon, sausage, and cheese in that perfect tortilla for $2.90. The chorizo could go toe-to-toe with any version in Austin, and they make a fantastic barbacoa. One taco is just about enough to fill you up. Two might put you face down on the couch for a while, a gut packed with taco and a greasy smile on your lips.

Highlights: huge tacos,the best flour tortillas in the Austin-area (I said it!), migas with crunchy hand-fried tortilla chips, the fattie, barbacoa, low prices

a55cc347-e6aa-413d-b009-7e33e9c0dccb

El Chilito
1623 East 7th, Austin, TX 78702 (Other locations on Manor, Burnet, and coming soon to Manchaca- or so they say- that sign has been up at the corner of Manchaca and Redd for over a year now)
Breakfast tacos served all day | Prices Start at $2.50

There are two great reasons to get breakfast tacos from El Chilito: fantastic bacon, and a delicious smoky salsa. If you’re gonna stray from the successful bacon + salsa formula, go somewhere else, ’cause the other breakfast offerings here aren’t great and are super expensive. Some of this expense comes from using good ingredients, like Vital Farm’s eggs, which is great! Except that the eggs are overcooked, rubbery, and under-seasoned. They use El Milagro tortillas, a factory that makes great chips and corn tortillas and really underwhelming flour ones. They’re thick and squashy and nearly flavorless. They taste like a slice of Mrs. Baird’s white bread that’s had its crusts removed and been rolled out into a circle. The chorizo is one of the worst of the 24 I sampled for this post. It was so fine and dry it felt like sawdust in my mouth, with the merest hint of flavor and no grease. You gotta have some grease. The migas sported nice crunchy tortilla strips and an attempt to be lively with some diced tomatoes and onions, but it’s a pretty milquetoast version of the dish. The cherrywood taco features that great thick-cut bacon with potatoes that are nice and soft, though underseasoned, plus eggs, avocado, and jack cheese. Topped with plenty of that roasty salsa, it’s good- it follows that winning bacon + salsa formula, after all – but it’s also $3.50, which makes it one of the highest-priced tacos in this post. So, yeah. Go there if you have a lot of extra cash to burn on bacon tacos.

Highlights: bacon + salsa!, the chance to feel bougie while eating a breakfast taco

92caa6ea-276f-45df-8858-a683237dad64

El Primo
2011 S 1st St, Austin, TX 78704
Breakfast tacos served all day | Prices Start at $2.00

The people that run the operations in this little taco truck are hustling. They never stop moving. The guy at the griddle has a dozen things cooking at once- he’s chopping bacon and cracking eggs and warming tortillas quickly, attentively, impressively. The lady who takes your order is working her ass off too. She takes orders from the mostly Spanish-speaking guys on their lunch break, plus the hipster fellows in their brown leather ankle boots. She answers your questions, calls out the orders, handles the money, and fills little cups of salsa during her downtime. The tacos are delicious. The tortillas come from a big plastic bag, but they’re toasted on the griddle before being stuffed and they pick up some of that magic griddle grease. The chorizo, egg, and cheese taco is just what you want it to be- nothing flashy, but every element is done well. There’s a nice ratio of crispy chorizo to properly-cooked egg. The cheese is pleasantly oozy. The beans are delicious too, scooped from a tub in the fridge and spread on the griddle to warm up, they go ever-so-slightly crispy around the edges. The bacon, cooked on the griddle and then chopped and mixed with egg, was the only weak point- it was mostly limp and flaccid and just not what I’m looking for. Also people love their migas and I forgot that and didn’t order one and I’ve gotta go back. Oh yeah, and it’s cash only. I forgot that too and had to buy some strawberry pop tarts from the gas station clerk so I could get some cash back. I’d do it all over again in a heartbeat.

Highlights: great chorizo, properly-cooked eggs, good salsas, griddle theater

image

El Tacorrido
2316 South 1st St, Austin, TX 78704 (Other locations on North Lamar and Berkman)
Breakfast tacos served all day | Prices start at $2.00

I drove right past the speaker where you’re supposed to order and pulled up to the first window like a jackass. The lady inside was cool about it though. They got my order just right, and it was super fast, and the food smelled insanely good on the drive home. And then we ate, and I was sort of disappointed. The potatoes in a potato/bacon/cheese/bean taco were desperately undercooked and unpleasantly crunchy, and the beans really needed salt. The tacos with egg had an odd sort of sweetness to them. The chorizo was not spicy, nor was it very flavorful, and the same went for the barbacoa, which tasted mostly of the onions and cilantro it was topped with. I got a carne guisada taco too, and I shouldn’t even mention it because it’s not a breakfast-y taco, but it was amazing! Fiery, flavorful, with tender chopped beef and correctly-cooked potatoes. The salsas too were glorious and if you like coffee you can get a cool horchata+espresso drink called El Equinox. A friend I trust swears by that bacon/potato/bean/cheese taco, so I think I might have just hit them on an off day. Still, I think I’d rather try more of their non-breakfast tacos, and I’ll definitely go back for another carne guisada.

Highlights: carne guisada, salsas, authentic offerings, fast service, cool drinks

27f7e7bd-99d7-4e25-b28a-9cda140c5e4d

El Taquito
1713 E Riverside Dr, Austin, TX 78741 (Other locations in Round Rock and Pflugerville)
Breakfast tacos served till 1 PM | Prices start at $1.69

I drove right past this place too. I guess this is just a thing I do. In my defense, its up a twisty little street at the top of a hill and you can’t really see it until you’ve gone too far and pulled into the gas station next door. When you head inside you’ll pass a righteous salsa bar, with all the offerings labeled in English and Spanish with their heat levels listed too. They’re not shitting you- the hot salsas are fiery hot. I liked the mild one a lot. Every taco we tried was a winner- the eggs are fluffy, the beans are creamy, the bacon is crispy and plentiful, the chorizo is smoky and tangy, the sausage is crisp and pork-fatty. The migas sports perfectly crunchy fried tortilla squares. Tortillas are griddled and just fine. The cheese is a little velveeta-y, but you can’t win ’em all. And they’re so cheap. Not a one of them costs more than $1.69. My son George and I sat and watched a soccer game on the TV in the corner while we waited for our tacos. The whole atmosphere fun and festive and diverse- a dad and his daughters ate enchiladas and a big platter of tiny little tacos, each with a heap of shredded beef and a thick wedge of avocado on top, next to college kids who painstakingly filled dozens of little salsa cups to carry back to their tables. El Taquito is for everyone.

Highlights: really cheap tacos, perfectly-executed fillings, an exciting salsa bar

image

Fresa’s Chicken al Carbon
915 North Lamar, Austin, TX 78703 (Other location on South First)
Breakfast tacos served till 11 on weekdays, noon on weekends | Prices start at $2.60

This bright, modern building with a giant neon chicken looks like it would be right at home in the Hamptons. At least as far as I understand them from watching the Barefoot Contessa. It’s beachy. It’s adorable. It looks like it’s for rich people. I mean, look at those stickers, you guys! These are breakfast tacos sold to you by friendly bearded hipsters and stamped with labels designed by someone who went to RISD or Parsons or somewhere. Does the inauthenticity make your blood boil? Does looking at those cheerful stickers make you feel stabby?  I think the whole thing is adorable. There was no one in line at the drive thru at 11 on a Saturday, everyone was really nice, and the tacos were pretty damn good. They make their own tortillas, but you probably won’t notice, except maybe to be momentarily saddened that they’re a bit smaller than the norm. The steak and egg taco, The Margie, was the big hit, with generous chunks of fatty smoky brisket folded into fluffy eggs from pedigreed chickens and rajas that were obviously in there but somehow flavorless. The chorizo and egg was simple and good. The migas has a uniform consistency and features soggy chips, but has a comforting casserole kind of vibe and great flavor. The Flaco was lame. The beans were underseasoned, the potatoes were dried out, and the corn tortilla fell apart. The most pronounced flavor was from the shredded cabbage- let’s all take a moment to be sad about that. But just skip that taco (unless you’re a vegan! then, yay, cabbage!) and enjoy your fancy tiny breakfast.

Highlights: steak and egg taco, well-executed traditional breakfast tacos, a lovely place to eat, friendly staff, speedy drive thru, fancy stickers

eef44839-b6a2-4138-b8d7-9d898bc6dfbc

Joe’s Bakery
2305 E 7th St, Austin, TX 78702
Breakfast tacos served all day | Prices start at $1.99

These tacos are so good, you won’t regret the 45 minutes in the unbelievably crowded restaurant entrance you spent waiting for them. I had never been to Joe’s before, and my three-year-old and I rolled in on a Saturday morning at 10 o’clock like amateurs. There were so many people inside waiting, both for tables or to place a to-go order like us, that you couldn’t move. After making it to the front of the to-go orders throng, we waited for our tacos in the only square foot of available space in the bakery area. It took a really long time, but finally I squeezed myself and my kid and my box of tacos out of the restaurant and took them home to eat with some friends. They’re brilliant, completely brilliant. The chorizo was great, the migas were great, the barbacoa was delicious, and the bacon is BATTERED AND FRIED and the best of all time. You can’t really tell that it’s been battered with something. It’s not all weird and bready or anything. It just tastes like really wonderfully crispy bacon. The sausage and egg featured a sausage patty that had been cut in half and tucked into the tortilla and that feels a little weird, but even that was good! I also got a carne guisada which is not a breakfast taco but was phenomenal. The salsa’s great. Everything’s great. Except for the part where you have to go get the tacos. But it’s worth it.

Highlights: the crispiest bacon, great barbacoa, good salsa, good everything

image

Juan In A Million
2300 E. Cesar Chavez St., Austin, TX 78701
Breakfast tacos served all day | Prices start at $2.39

My kids were visibly shocked to be greeted so boisterously by the man himself, Juan Meza, upon walking into this restaurant, but I loved it. No one ever cheers when I walk into the room with my two sweaty kids, so it was a rare treat. The waitresses wear black and white uniforms and the place feels timeless. I knew I wanted to get the big taco, the Don Juan, for science, and I had to get the chorizo and egg, also for science. The waitress didn’t bat an eyelid at my bold order, and instead asked simply, “How many extra tortillas?” “Uh, I don’t know? How many do people normally get?,” I asked. She said “Two?” and put in our order. People must stuff the shit out of those tacos because all told, it was enough filling for six tacos. I took the leftovers home and my husband and I ate them for dinner, which sounds Dickensian, one taco for three meals, but actually felt princely. The tacos are great. The tortillas are griddled, which makes all the difference in the world to me in improving a mass-produced tortilla. The Don Juan tastes of bacon, all the bacon, so much bacon, which suited me just fine. The chorizo and egg was awesome. Really nicely greasy, simply spiced, and plentiful. This is a good spot.

Highlights: the Don Juan (big enough to feed two people for $5.40), nice chorizo, old-school setting, self-esteem-boosting greeting

92c32d6a-e3a0-4a42-9a83-2581ddd19ac4

Kesos Taco House
600 W Martin Luther King Blvd, Austin, TX 78701
Breakfast tacos served all day | Prices start at $2.49

Hold onto your hats. This place is terrible. Let me preface my explanation of why it’s terrible by telling you that the tacos we tried are from the south location on Congress in its very final hour of existence- it closed last week. They were out of the milky white Keso sauce that’s supposed to adorn many of their wackily-named tacos. The migas in particular really suffered from this lack of sauce- it was bland and dry and a chore to eat. I cannot imagine how any sauce, no matter how delicious, could have redeemed it. The same goes for the chorizo, which wasn’t supposed to have the sauce but which tasted of nothing but overcooked and styrofoam-y eggs. The potatoes were were pale and lacked seasoning. The bacon was okay! The most successful taco we tried was the Red River, which is a chilaquiles taco with beans, egg, lettuce, and sour cream. Why, why would anyone put shredded iceberg lettuce on a breakfast taco? What fresh hell is this? It was a terrible addition that added nothing but a weird watery crunch. Once the lettuce was removed the taco was okay. Familiar, even. It tasted like the Taco Bell burritos of my youth. The canned-tasting refried beans and the sour cream were dead ringers for a seven layer burrito, as was the lackluster tortilla. It would be easier to overlook these glaring problems if the tacos weren’t also insanely expensive. The cheapest taco you can get there, that inedible chorizo and egg, is $2.49! The Rise N Shine taco is a staggering $3.79. I read about this place in an Eater Austin post on 23 essential Austin breakfast tacos. So people must like it? Maybe the Keso sauce really is transformative? Please enlighten me if you disagree with my assessment here.

Highlights: decent bacon, an opportunity to eat a Taco Bell burrito without having to go to Taco Bell

Processed with VSCO with f2 preset

La Cocina de Consuelo
4516 Burnet Road, Austin, Texas 78756
Breakfast tacos served until 11AM | Prices start at $3.29

When I first looked into this place I noticed the lack of pork products (they serve beef chorizo and turkey bacon) and the hours (they’re closed on Saturdays) and wondered how a place called La Cocina de Consuelo could be operated by Orthodox Jews. It’s not. It turns out the lady behind the great tortillas, Connie, is a devout disciple of the Church of God Seventh Day. You can read her amazing story here. I had no idea until visiting the restaurant for this post that it’s right next to the Upper Crust, a bakery whose chocolate cupcakes got me through my first pregnancy. The restaurant is small but dear. It’s quiet and pleasant and there are big fat coloring books and tins of crayons you can give to your kids if their boisterous shouts are bouncing off the walls of the tiny dining room and you need a way to shut them up. The tortillas are famous, and rightly so. They’re the real thing. They’re not as good as Casa Alde’s, but they’re an easy second place of the 24 tacos in this post. The insides weren’t quite as special. The barbacoa was tender and moist, but underseasoned. The beef chorizo was nicely greasy and had that tang of vinegar but didn’t taste like much beyond that. The turkey bacon was thin and crisp but, it was turkey bacon. I don’t want to eat that. The eggs needed salt. And there was no salsa. Maybe you can get some by request? Salsa would have helped. Also, it’s really expensive. Prices start at $3.29. I’m sorry to keep comparing it to Casa Alde, but there you can get a taco that is as large or larger, with an even better flour tortilla and really stellar fillings for $1.75. That being said, I liked the feel of this place, I liked the sound of the lunch menu, where you can get a side of my beloved fideo and some carne guisada, and I like that you can walk next door and get yourself a chocolate cupcake.

Highlights: delicious tortillas, good barbacoa, a serene little place to eat

Processed with VSCO with f2 preset

La Mexicana Bakery
1924 South First St, Austin, Texas 78704
Breakfast tacos served all day | Prices start at $1.50

Sorry for the taco autopsy photo. I’m no photographer, and taking attractive pictures of breakfast tacos has proven to be, for me, an insurmountable challenge. Do you leave them closed up and tidy with just a tiny sliver of the fillings in view? Or do you splay them open to get a juicy shot of the insides and not worry about it if they look like cadavers with their skin flaps pinned back? Anyway, here’s a shot of the guts of four tacos from La Mexicana Bakery. Great things about this restaurant: it is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and you can eat a breakfast taco during each and every one of those operating hours. Also, they are the cheapest tacos in this post. Most of them are only $1.50. Onto the less-than-great things. The tortillas are made in-house but they’re not so good. They’re kind of like a less fluffy version of Taco Cabana’s tortillas but way drier. I’m not sure how exactly to describe them, but they feel a little cotton-y in your mouth, like they were made with all flour and no water. The eggs are overcooked and also dry. But everything else is pretty decent. The best taco of the bunch was the chorizo and egg, which had a nice flavor. The bacon was crispy, and the bean and cheese taco was also good and tasted like real cheddar, which offered a welcome sharpness. The migas featured soggy fried tortilla bits, but tasted okay too. But all of these things feel a little beside the point. This place is serving affordable and decent breakfast tacos made to order at all hours of the day. They’re not the best, but they don’t need to be. They’re gonna be there for you when you have 6 quarters in your pocket and it’s midnight and you need a breakfast taco.

Highlights: the very cheapest tacos, available 24 hours a day

image

Maria’s Taco Xpress
2529 South Lamar Boulevard, Austin, TX 78704
Breakfast tacos served all day | Prices start at $1.80

Update: Maria’s is closing! The world is a dark and bitter place. Get there before the expected close date of April 1, 2017 to savor a taste of Austin breakfast taco history.

Maria’s was the happening place when I was in high school, at least as far as we knew from ‘happening’ in the doldrums of Hays county, but no one seems to talk about it anymore. Or maybe I’m just moving in the wrong circles. It’s fun! It’s dark inside, like you’re eating in a bar, because I guess you are? There’s a huge dark wooden counter where you order, old velvet-y sofas to lounge on while you wait, and some tables in the sunshine along a windowed wall. The walls and ceiling have that eclectic look chains like Applebees and Chili’s go for, unsuccessfully: a bunch of random crap covering every square inch. In Maria’s, it works. It feels like you’re in the pages of an I Spy book.. The tacos are okay! They came out absolutely molten hot. The migas is of the omelet-y variety with a scattering of chips thrown in to make the thing technically qualify as migas, but which offer little in the way of flavor or texture. The cheese, do note the cheese!, was mesmerizing. As I ate the taco, a blob of the stuff oozed its way past the edge of the tortilla and slowly, ever so slowly, like the great pitch drop experiment, made its way to the paper boat below. It’s a lot of cheese, is all I’m saying. This taco is listed on the website as Rachael Ray’s favorite, which surprised me. Is she still a thing? I’m out of the loop, but thought for sure that her overworked voice would have rasped its last TV show rasp by now. The bacon/egg/cheese was solid. Nice crispy bacon, a more restrained amount of cheese. The chorizo was also good. It had gotten well-crisped on the griddle and was dark in places and tasted predominantly of clove. Which was interesting. Or maybe my palette is complete shit and there’s no clove in there at all. In which case, it tasted predominantly of something. Still, we had fun here. It looks like they do cool stuff on the patio and I want to go back.

Highlights: crispy bacon, copious cheese, fun atmosphere, Rachael Ray’s seal of approval

image

Mi Madre’s
2201 Manor Road, Austin, TX 78722
Breakfast tacos served all day | Prices start at $2.75

Find a seat on the vibrant, shady patio. Chat with your lovely waitress, who is so good at her job that she feels like an old friend. Bite into a warm, light-as-air tortilla chip and feel it shatter in your mouth, millions of salty shards dancing across your tongue. Dip the next one into the perfect homemade salsa. Taste your breakfast taco, a house made machacado, eggs, and pico de gallo, and say, “meh.” I love this place, but I don’t think their breakfast tacos are anything special. They’re a fine vehicle for that salsa, or a fine thing to fill you up in between bites of those delicious chips, but on their own, they’re sort of dry and flavorless. Their website says that they’ve got Austin’s best breakfast tacos, as voted by the Austin Chronicle, but the only mention of that after some cursory googling was an award from 1996. I’m not saying all this to convince you not to go here. You should go here. It’s fun and the chips, you guys! Just don’t pin any hopes on having a life-changing breakfast taco experience. In fact, skip the tacos all together and get the New Mexico breakfast plate. You still get the chips and you’ll probably get to spend more time on that sweet patio.

Highlights: chips, salsa, patio, waitstaff, breakfast plates

image

Papalote
2803 S Lamar Blvd, Austin, TX 78704 (Other location on Research Blvd)
Breakfast tacos served all day | Prices start at $1.99

Papalote is one of my favorite non-breakfast taco spots. Guajolote en Mole, Puerco in Pipian, cauliflower cake tacos, a tinga de res topped with plantains. Plantains! The breakfast tacos offer some off-the-beaten-path options too: chicharon, calabaza, FRANKS. There are no preset tacos on the menu, everything is customized to your preferences. Eggs are fluffy, cheese is real, and the chorizo is one of the few in Austin that has a vinegar tang, which I want and need in my chorizo. The potatoes are big and chunky and undercooked. The sausage is cut up links, which I find far inferior to the crumbled stuff. Tortillas are mass-produced and not griddled, near as I can tell. There are great tacos to be had here, for breakfast or later, but it might take some experimenting before you settle on your favorite combination.

Highlights: chorizo, fluffy eggs, salsas, unusual ingredient options, absolute power in designing your own taco, brilliant non-breakfast tacos, aguas frescas

image

Tacodeli
1500 Spyglass Dr, Austin, TX 78746 (Other locations on North Lamar, Burnet, and in Westlake)
Breakfast tacos served till 11 AM M-F, all day on weekends | Prices start at $1.95

The first time I had Tacodeli breakfast tacos was at the farmers’ market stand at Sunset Valley. I ordered a beans, papas, and cheese and was totally and completely weirded-out by having gummy mashed potatoes instead of the standard griddled chunks. But you know what? It grew on me. It got to the point where I craved that weird soft squishy taco with it’s pasty potatoes and beans. And the salsas are honestly wonderful. Each one a shining example of its class. Everything’s soft at Tacodeli. The tortillas aren’t griddled- they’re warm and pliable with a waxy sheen. The eggs are light and fluffy. The beans, potatoes, even the chips in the migas- everything could be enjoyed just as much by a toothless individual. There is not a lot of textural variation. Even so, the chorizo taco I ate there might have been my favorite of all the dozen-plus-one places I tried in my first round of testing last year. It’s scooped on top of your soft pile of eggs with an ice cream scoop, and is so saucy and moist it felt a little like eating a sloppy joe. It’s got way more acid than other versions around  town, vinegary, and it has a warm lingering heat that you don’t get from most chorizos. They’ve got options, delicious ones, for every dietary restriction under the sun, the salsas are good, the fillings are good, the staff is great, the tortillas are not, and taken all together I like Tacodeli and I don’t care who knows it.

Highlights: salsas, vinegar-y chorizo, options for those with dietary restrictions, soft and gummy mashed potatoes (if you’ve acquired a taste for that sort of thing)

Processed with VSCO with c1 preset

Taco More
9414 Parkfield Dr, Austin, TX 78758 (Other location on E. Riverside)
Breakfast tacos served all day | Prices start at $2.00

You guys! The salsa is warm. Warm! It’s the most marvelous thing. They bring a basket of chips and this beautiful warmed salsa to your table the second you sit down. It feels luxurious. They have an incredible salsa bar too, with many more varieties and whole roasted jalapeno peppers for you to embellish your meal with as you see fit. The air around and inside the restaurant is intoxicating and we loved every taco we ate there. And they came out only a few minutes after we’d ordered them. There is an insane amount of bacon in the bacon and egg taco, and it’s not super crispy but it has a delightful campfire-y smokiness. The chorizo is wonderful and unique too. It’s not very spicy but it has a pleasant chew to it, almost like a cured sausage. The beans are well seasoned and saucy and delicious with a mound of finely shredded white cheese. They just do everything well, start to finish. These are easily some of the best breakfast tacos we ate this month.

Highlights: free and delicious chips and warm salsa for everyone! great salsa bar, near-perfect tacos

0c08308e-68cf-4cfc-9868-0d5fd62d33b7

Taco Palenque
1270 IH 35 North, New Braunfels, Texas 78103 (Other locations in Houston, Laredo, and elsewhere throughout the valley)
Breakfast tacos served all day | Prices start at $1.79

When a writer for Eater Austin wrote a post suggesting that Austin was the cultural home of the breakfast taco last year, food writers from San Antonio to the valley rose as one to condemn his claim and in one case, to call for him to be exiled from Texas. Taco Palenque, a fast food taco chain from the valley, was cited in a few of these condemnations as having better food than the big players in the Austin breakfast taco scene. Could this be? Is a South Texas fast food chain pumping out better breakfast tacos than the Torchy’s and Tacodeli’s of Austin? We headed down to New Braunfels to see for ourselves. If you didn’t look at the menu boards or the bright and varied salsa bar in the center of the seating area, you might think you were in an old wood-paneled Dairy Queen location. The tacos we tried were okay. The tortillas, though, were really good. They’ve got that homemade oily feel with browned patches from being griddled- a huge improvement over the ungriddled and waxy tortilla that is common in Austin breakfast tacos. The bean and cheese taco, in spite of the huge mound of neon orange cheese, was delicious- my favorite of the ones we tried. The beans were perfect- smooth, creamy, and well-seasoned. The egg and chorizo and egg and bacon tacos tasted mostly of overcooked egg, with hardly noticeable meats. The barbacoa was super greasy, even by barbacoa standards, and was okay too. If you’ll permit me to draw conclusions based on this very limited sample, I’d say that they’ve got most Austin places beat on tortillas, but not necessarily on fillings. That being said, I’ve read that the thing to order at Taco Palenque is a carne guisada taco with refried beans and cheese, and if you can eat those for breakfast maybe they are better than us in every way.

Highlights: nicely oily griddled tortillas, salsa bar, great beans

image

Tacos Guerrero
96 Pleasant Valley Rd, Austin, TX 78702
Breakfast tacos served all day | Prices start at $2.00

This place got a nod on the Texas Monthly list of the best tacos in Austin (linked at the bottom of this post) for its chorizo, potato and egg. That taco, the red one in the center of the above photo, really is great. The chorizo is way more garlicky and paprika-y than most around town, and tastes more like Spanish chorizo than the Mexican stuff, which is a fun change. The potatoes were undercooked though, and the other tacos were all really not good. The bacon was tattered and soft and spongy, the thick layer of cheese felt oppressive, and the tortillas, which are heralded as being homemade, really felt like store bought. If you want to try it, skip the bacon, skip the potatoes, skip the cheese, and get chorizo on everything.

Highlights: a garlicky chorizo that’s more flavorful than most, all the stuff you want to cram in a taco for $2

1bdb8966-2182-44e0-9b29-f5a079e020d9

Texas Honey Ham Company
3736 Bee Cave Rd, Suite 6, Austin, TX, 78746
Breakfast tacos served all day | Prices start at $2.29

I was suspicious when a friend suggested I include a place called “Texas Honey Ham” in my breakfast taco post. It fell into the same category in my head as Ken’s Subs, Tacos, and More and Donut Taco Palace– places that don’t sound like they have any business serving breakfast tacos. I was so wrong- these tacos are wonderful. They are the most like the tacos I would make at home on a Sunday morning than any of the others I’ve tried. The tortillas are thin and griddled and a little sweet. The ham taco has a generous amount of wide squares of a delicious smoky-sweet ham with creamy egg and a nice sharp cheddar. The chorizo taco is more meaty than any of the other tacos I tried, and it’s good, and moist and flavorful. The sausage in the third taco is tender and plentiful too, and tastes great with more of that sharp cheddar. The red salsa looks like it would taste like ketchup- it’s too thick and red- but is surprisingly spicy. The green is milder and the sour tomatillo flavor is great with these incredibly rich tacos. Also you can get a big fat pancake topped with butter from little plastic cups and peach jam. And an 8 pound spiral sliced ham for the road. This place has it all.

Highlights: great meaty tacos with creamy eggs and sharp cheddar. also, ham

image

Torchy’s Tacos
2809 South First St. Austin, TX 78704 (plus a dozen other locations all around Austin, and way way more all around the state)
Breakfast tacos served all day | Prices start at $2.25

Like Tacodeli, Torchy’s is polarizing. It’s hugely popular, but mention it online and you’re gonna get tons of comments about their mass-produced tortillas, inauthenticity, and over-hyped, overstuffed, over-the-top tacos. And, yeah, I get it. I’m not a huge fan of their breakfast tacos- the eggs are of the overcooked, omelet-style variety, but with a nice amount of crispy bacon pieces or decent chorizo embedded in the underside. Tortillas have that weird raw quality from not being griddled, and a vague industrial solvent-flavor from the lubed-up conveyor belt they were conceived on. But Torchy’s has stuff going for it too. The Jack of Clubs, from the secret menu, is a study in excess but is pretty damn good. The guy behind the counter said it was amazing with pickled onions added, so I did that, and I enjoyed the whole thing, runny yolk oozing down the side of my taco and between my fingers. I love the shady patio in this location, I love the missionary style green chile pork, also from the secret menu, and even the most hard-hearted Torchy’s hater would have to agree that they’ve nailed the queso. Also, if you have a 5 year old who is devastated to have to eat at another breakfast taco joint because he doesn’t care for the things, Torchy’s kids menu has The Little Devil, a peanut butter and banana “quesadilla”, coated in cornflakes, deep-fried, and served with strawberry jam. So chill out with your Torchy’s-bashing and let’s go eat some queso.

Highlights: outrageous and generally more delicious secret menu fare, queso, shady patio

image

Tortilleria Rio Grande #2
500 W William Cannon Dr, Austin, TX 78745
Breakfast tacos served till 10:30 AM | Prices start at $1.83

This is one of only a few places on my list that passes the authenticity test: are there more Hispanic people in the place than white people? Yes. Are order numbers called out in Spanish? Yes. The tortillas are made on site, obviously, this being a tortilleria and all, and it shows. The flour tortillas are thin and elemental. They’re flaky, with a paper-thin crispy layer on the griddled outside. The egg and chorizo is simple and delicious, and the bean and cheese is great too- the beans oozy in a good way and the cheese is a real Mexican melting cheese, not the pre-shredded orange stuff you typically find. The creamy green tomatillo and avocado sauce has no heat but adds a lovely brightness, the red sauce is 40% pepper seeds and is fiery and toasty. They’re great together. There’s a constant hum of activity while you eat as people come in to buy the salsa in 8 ounce containers from the cooler, or a fat stack of corn tortillas, fresh off the griddle. It’s outside the purview of this guide, but their lunch tacos are fantastic too, especially the desebrada, a simple and delicious stewed beef. If I’m not up for driving to Buda, or interested in spending $7 on a taco stuffed with sweet sweet barbecue (coming up soon!), then Tortilleria Rio Grande is one of your best bets for great standard breakfast tacos.

Highlights: light and flaky flour tortillas, creamy bean and cheese tacos, nice chorizo, really cheap prices

Processed with VSCO with f2 preset

Tyson’s Tacos
4905 Airport Blvd, Austin, TX, 78751
Breakfast tacos served all day | Prices start at $1.60

My order number was 69. Does it make me seem like a prepubescent boy for being aware of that, or does everyone hear the number 69 yelled out and think that’s worth noting? Tyson’s Tacos feels like what Torchy’s once was, lo those many years ago before it went all corporate, when it was just a funky trailer making outrageous tacos with sex names. It’s worth reading every word Tyson’s has posted on their website because whoever wrote that stuff is clever and funny and you might be able to get yourself some free tacos through their ukulele policy. The space is ecclectic and fun and the breezy patio is perfect in any season but summer, when it is likely less-than-perfect. The tacos have the requisite silly names that go along with a hipster-style taco place, but they all sound incredible. I got the King George- migas with fried avocado, bacon, and a sriracha sauce, and my standard chorizo and egg. The migas in the King George had sparse bits of onions, jalapenos, tomato, and white tortilla strips that were not at all crispy. It tastes amazing. The egg is nice and soft, the bacon is great, fried avocado should be on every taco, and the sauce was nice with it too. The chorizo is that same weird powdery shit I got at El Chilito, except that this one is a lot spicier- you can see all the pepper seeds it’s flecked with, or you could if I took better pictures, anyway. The salsas were okay and the cup of onions and cilantro is nice to have on hand, probably more for the lunchy tacos than the breakfast ones. I thought it was a fun place to eat a fun taco. Next time I’ll stick to their outrageous ones instead of the humble two ingredient cheap tacos.

Highlights: a better than Torchy’s outrageous-style breakfast taco, inventive menu, fun space, good bacon, nicely cooked eggs.

image

Valentina’s Tex Mex BBQ
11500 Manchaca Rd., Austin, TX 78748 (The trailer is open in this new location while they’re building their brick-and-mortar restaurant)
Breakfast tacos served till 11 AM | Prices start at $2.50

Is it fair to compare these to other breakfast tacos? Would you like this bean and cheese taco or this  bean and cheese taco that comes with a gold watch on top? I’m gonna pick the gold watch taco. Does this allegory make any sense? Do you understand what I’m saying? The fantastic barbecue they’re stuffing into already over-the-top breakfast tacos (with peppery fried eggs, perfectly crispy bacon, and flavorful homemade tortillas) is the gold watch. It feels like cheating- it’s just all too good. We tried all three breakfast tacos they offer: the potato egg and cheese with smoked chorizo added was good, but the other two, the expensive ones, were insane. We added the pulled pork to the Ultimate Bean and Cheese ($5), and the heap of sweet, moist meat, with a strip of bacon in the mix too, was one of the best things I’ve eaten in the past year. The Real Deal Holyfield ($6.50) is a fried egg, potatoes, refried beans, bacon, and your choice of pulled pork or mesquite smoked brisket stuffed into that glorious tortilla. We picked the brisket for this one, and it was tender and juicy with a thick and glorious bark that added a delightful crunch and an explosion of sweet peppery flavor. A bite that included the bark and the yolk of the runny egg was everything good in the world. Valentina’s is my new favorite thing.

Highlights: sweet and juicy pulled pork and tender, peppery brisket mingling with well-executed traditional breakfast taco ingredients, homemade tortillas

image

Veracruz All Natural
4208 Manchaca Rd., Austin, TX 78704 (Other locations on Cesar Chavez and in Round Rock)
Breakfast tacos served all day | Prices start at $2.00

Lots of folks cite this place, specifically the Radio Coffee and Beer location, as their favorite breakfast taco, and I totally get it. Parking sucks and it’s always crowded, so I resisted, but it’s worth it. This is the best corn tortilla I’ve had in the city. It’s soft and pliable, but sturdy enough to support your taco without ripping down the side or getting soggy. It’s crisp in spots from the griddle and tastes simply and purely of corn. The migas is so good that I think it may have even bested Casa Alde’s queso-drowned version. It’s one of the few places that keeps the chips thick and crunchy. There’s tons of freshness from cilantro and bell pepper, and a perfect avocado slice on top. They have beautiful salsas too, one of which has little bits of diced avocado in it. The egg and chorizo taco wasn’t in the same league- the chorizo had very little flavor, the egg was overcooked. Skip it and get two migas tacos. I’ve heard their barbacoa is great too, but it’s only available in taco-form on the weekend.

Highlights: handmade corn tortillas that are crispy from the griddle, a pitch-perfect migas taco with thick and crispy tortilla chips, great salsas

——————————————–

You guys, we did it. 24 taco joints, almost 8,000 words. Did you skip some of it and want the cliffsnotes?  Here are my favorites:

1.Casa Alde is my pick for the best breakfast tacos in the Austin area, though you’ll have to drive to Buda. The flour tortillas are the best I’ve had anywhere, and the fillings are more than a match for them. Plus they’re super cheap. Try the migas or the fattie.
2. Valentina’s Tex Mex BBQ is the clear winner if money, gluttony, and tradition are no object. Eat any and everything they have to offer you.
3. Taco More is my favorite Mexican-style breakfast taco place. Savor that glorious salsa, and a perfect bean and cheese taco and a great chorizo.
4. Tortilleria Rio Grande #2 is my choice for standard breakfast taco fare in South Austin. Pick up some tortillas and some of that great green salsa while you’re there.
6. El Taquito offers the best breakfast tacos for the least amount of money in Austin.
7. Tyson’s Tacos is where you should take out-of-town guests who want to go to Torchy’s when you don’t want to go to Torchy’s- it feels more like the weird Austin of yesteryear.
8. Veracruz All Natural is your one-stop migas shop with great corn tortillas.
9. Texas Honey Ham should be at the top of your list if you like a variety of sweet meats in your breakfast tacos with an optional side of giant pancake.
10. Joe’s Bakery is where you should go if you love bacon and barbacoa and also long lines.

So that’s it! Do you disagree with me? Did I miss your favorite taco and you want me to know about it? Do you think Jews shouldn’t get to rank breakfast tacos? Tell me in the comments! Unless it’s about the Jew thing, cuz gross.

Need to spend more time reading about tacos? Check out these links:

2015 AFBA City Guide to the Best Breakfast Tacos over at Full and Content
Honest and hilarious reviews of Austin’s taco scene at Taco Journalism
Eater Austin’s Latest Breakfast Taco Map
120 Tacos to Eat Before You Die over at Texas Monthly
Austin’s Best Tacos over at Bon Appetit
The Thrilla in the Tortilla over at the Austin Chronicle. A breakfast taco tournament.

Do with this information what you will, but here’s a list of places I wanted to try for this guide and didn’t get to. Maybe next year.

Cenote – I’ve had ’em, they’re awesome. I like the patio a lot too. Just didn’t make it up there to get the photograph.
Donut Taco Palace – They’ve got a breakfast taco with a donut tortilla. Maybe all their tacos have donut tortillas? This is a question that begs answering. I’ll report back next year.
Ken’s Subs, Tacos, and More – Huge tacos with a cult following. The confluence of subs and tacos is intriguing to me.
La Flor – This food truck is around the corner from my house and was written up in that Bon Appetit list above. I’ve eaten their meaty lunchtime tacos but haven’t tried the breakfast ones. Homemade corn tortillas.
Quickie Pickie – I’d already met my quota on hipster breakfast tacos for this post, but I have heard really great things about these tacos.
Paco’s Tacos – They’ve got a half corn-half flour tortilla that’s supposed to be pretty good. I’ll drive anywhere for the chance at a good tortilla.
Pueblo Viejo – People love ’em and they’ve got some flashy breakfast taco fillings, including ham + jalapeno and mushrooms + spinach
Tamale House East – The Tamale House on Airport was an Austin institution that shuttered in 2014 after the owner passed away. Tamale House didn’t serve tamales but did serve great cheap migas breakfast tacos. Tamale House East has risen to fill the void left by the closing of the beloved Airport Blvd location. And they’ve got tamales too.
The Vegan Nom: Rockin’ Vegan Tacos – Are you vegan and still want to experience breakfast tacos? Keep hope alive!