Traditional recipes

Austin's Taco-Mex

Austin's Taco-Mex

The taco — one of the world's greatest creations. One of my favorite things about visiting Monterrey, Mexico is when my friend's mom makes tacos from the leftover barbecue we always eat. Our subject today, Taco-Mex on Manor Road, is most definitely one of my favorite places in Texas for a taco.

The owners are from Monterrey, Mexico, or Nuevo Leon at least, which may explain why I love their take on tacos as dearly as I do. All of their meat is well-seasoned, the tortillas nice and tender. Their salsa verde (green sauce) may just be the best I have had, other than that made by anyone in my friend Patricia's family. The spice is just right and doesn't drown out the other flavors in the salsa, nor does it overpower your palate and the meat in the tacos.

We were joined this time by our close friends Colby and Janai as well as their son Josiah, who is like a nephew to me. I ordered one picadillo, one barbacoa, and one migas taco. Picadillo, a mixture of ground beef, onion, potatoes, and spices, is one of my favorite dishes. The seasoning was perfect, the potatoes soft — in all a well-balanced dish. I loved it. Their barbacoa is perfectly tender with just a little sweetness from the meat and topped with a great pico de gallo salsa.

What is barbacoa, some of you wondering? Barbacoa, at least on this side of the border, is the meat from the cheeks of a cow, braised to perfection. Some folks will tell you barbacoa is a whole sheep, slow roasted in a pit overnight, which is also fantastic. So who is right? Well, I put this to you: in Spain a tortilla is an omelet, not a flour or corn flat bread, so it really depends who you are talking to, doesn't it?

The migas were wonderful, a mix of tortillas, jalapeños, cheese, and eggs. These are good, the eggs not too wet, or too dry and the jalapeños are a nice touch. And the chips are added in right at the end so that they stay just a touch crunchy.

We also tried the carne guisada plate. The plate comes with refried beans, rice, and of course, the carne guisada. Carne guisada is simply beef stew. At Taco-Mex it is rich, flavorful, and just a touch spicy. The meat is cubed and slow-cooked in the sauce until it is nicely tender. The beans are made, as any proper refried beans are, with a little lard to fry them. The result is a rich and slightly meaty flavor. I have always felt that carne guisada is usually a good measure of the quality of a Mexican restaurant, and this is some of the best. The carne guisada at Taco-Mex tastes like home cooking: simple and full of flavor.

How are the prices at Taco-Mex? All breakfast tacos are $1.75, and all lunch tacos are $2. You can have a tasty lunch for about five bucks. So, to answer the question: fantastic. All things said, if you want an authentic Mexican taco, this is the place to go get it.

Austin Food Junkies' Rating: Four Lone Star Points

The Austin Food Junkies are Alex Artibee, Matt Braley and Dave Braley, "Two guys who love food, and one chef, trained at the Texas Culinary Institute." Check out their reviews of other Austin area restaurants on their blog, Austin Food Junkies.


Austin-Style Migas

When I miss Austin, I make this migas recipe for breakfast. Made with a handful of basic ingredients, it's fun, flavorful, and easy to make!

Looking back now, I can’t believe that there was a time when I hadn’t heard of migas. Growing up in the Midwest, I ate muffins for breakfast every morning. When I went to college, I started each day with a bowl of oatmeal. If you asked me where to find great migas, I would have looked at you like you were crazy.

But in Austin, migas are everywhere. Go out to brunch, and they’ll be on the menu. Stop at a taco truck in the morning, and everyone there will be getting migas breakfast tacos. It didn’t take me long to understand the hype. Crumbled tortilla chips, melty cheese, and soft scrambled eggs create an incredible creamy/crunchy texture. Onions, tomatoes, and cilantro add lots of fresh flavor, and jalapeños amp up the heat. Splash your migas with salsa and stuff them into tortillas, and you’ll be asking for seconds before you know it!

I loved getting migas out to eat in Austin (my favorites were at Veracruz All Natural, Taco Deli, and South Congress Cafe), but now that we’re back in Chicago, I make this migas recipe at home instead. If you’ve never tried migas before, please give this recipe a go! It uses a handful of basic ingredients, and it’s really flavorful and fun. After years of living in Austin, it’s become one of my favorite breakfast recipes. I hope you love it too!


Breakfast served ONLY on Saturdays and Sundays

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Denise Austin’s Meal Plan Benefits

How can my DeniseAustin.com meal plan help you? It is:

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Breakfast: White Corn Scramble with Turkey Bacon and Fruit

Delicious, hearty scrambled eggs with white corn is served with a side of turkey bacon and your favorite fresh fruit.

Ingredients
1 serving White Corn Scramble (see below)
2 slices cooked turkey bacon
1/2 grapefruit (or 1/2 banana or 1/2 cup grapes)

1. Prepare the White Corn Scramble and plate one serving. Serve with the turkey bacon and grapefruit on the side.
Sub-Recipe
White Corn Scramble

1 whole egg
3 egg whites
1/4 cup white corn (fresh or frozen, thawed)
1 cup spinach (1 handful)
3 Tbsp. chopped fresh parsley
2 Tbsp. chopped fresh chives
1 large tomato, diced

1. Coat a skillet with oil spray and heat over medium-low heat.
2. In a bowl, whisk together the whole egg and egg whites. Stir in the corn, spinach, parsley, chives, and tomato.
3. Cook the egg mixture, stirring occasionally, until the greens are wilted and eggs are no longer runny. Transfer to plate and enjoy!

Snack: Veggies and Hummus

Pair your favorite colorful veggies with some delicious White Bean Hummus for a savory snack.

Ingredients
1/4 cup White Bean Hummus (get my hummus recipe when you join, or use store-bought for ease of use!)
1/2 cup red pepper strips
1/2 cup baby carrots

Lunch: Chickpea Curry Wrap

Explore another world of cuisine with this flavorful, protein-packed vegetarian wrap, brushed with spices hailing from the heart of India and a pop of fruit.

Ingredients
1 cup cooked chickpeas (if using canned, choose no-salt-added or low-sodium chickpeas and rinse and drain well before use), roughly chopped
1/2 red bell pepper, diced
2 Tbsp. raisins
2 Tbsp. chopped cilantro (optional)
1/2 lime, juiced
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 teaspoon honey (or coconut nectar)
1 teaspoon curry powder
2 cups baby spinach leaves
2 whole-grain wraps (100 calories or less use gluten-free wrap if following a gluten-free diet)
2 reduced-fat (or part-skim) cheese sticks

1. In a medium bowl, combine the chickpeas, red pepper, raisins, cilantro (if using), lime juice, oil, honey, and curry powder. 2. Place about 1 cup baby spinach down the center of each wrap. Top with half the chickpea salad mixture. Roll each wrap tightly. 3. Serve each wrap with 1 cheese stick.

Dinner: Sesame-Ginger Beef and Veggie Kebabs
Tangy sesame and ginger are combined with sweet honey to glaze these kebabs, then served with a side of warm quinoa.

Ingredients
2 Tbsp. toasted sesame oil
2 Tbsp. lower-sodium soy sauce (if following a gluten-free diet, check ingredients to ensure soy sauce is gluten-free)
1 Tbsp. lime juice
1 Tbsp. honey
1 tsp. grated ginger
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes
12 oz. grassfed sirloin steak, cut into 1-inch cubes
1 bell pepper, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 cup mushrooms, trimmed and halved if large
1 cup grape tomatoes
1 1/2 cups cooked quinoa (or brown rice)

1. Soak 6 wooden skewers in water for at least 15 minutes. 2. In a large bowl or 1-gallon resealable bag, combine the sesame oil, soy sauce, lime juice, honey, ginger, garlic, and red pepper flakes. 3. Add the steak and vegetables and toss well to coat. Marinate for 1 hour in the refrigerator. 4. Heat a grill or indoor grill pan over medium-high heat. Coat the grill or pan with oil spray. 5. Thread the beef and vegetables onto the skewers (alternate between meat and veggies). 6. Grill the kebabs for about 8 minutes, turning once halfway through, or until beef reaches the desired degree of doneness. To serve, plate 3 kebabs with 3/4 cup quinoa.


Where The Locals Hang In Austin

The raucous Sixth Street strip attracts more and more bachelorette parties and its thriving barbecue scene has created a cult following of smoked meat enthusiasts. Natives will tell you the bohemian days referenced by “Keep Austin Weird” T-shirts are long gone (and with condos rising as quickly as property taxes, they may be right). But in a city where Wendy Davis is nothing short of a hero and Willie Nelson has a street named after him, Austin’s still the belle dressed in blue at the red ball.

BRUNCH RELIGIOUSLY

In Austin, brunch is a more than just another meal it’s often a day-long, cocktail-fueled rite of passage. And, if anyone understands that, it’s the fine people of Maria’s Taco Xpress. The colorful South Austin eatery has been hosting Hippie Church each Sunday for the past twenty years. Tap your toes to live gospel music while devouring cheesy migas breakfast tacos, crispy tortilla chips, and a rainbow of homemade salsas. For an entirely different brunch experience, head up the road to Odd Duck, where playful dishes are crafted using ingredients sourced from over 40 local farms, ranches, and fisheries. Expect creations like pancake-battered quail with fried egg foam and spicy maple or a calzone stuffed with collards, smoky scamorza, mushrooms and pear butter— both equally delicious when accompanied by a beet Bloody Mary.

Local’s tip: For a quicker bite, opt for breakfast tacos at one of the family-owned taco joints around town. Veracruz All Natural has gained mass popularity (and the lines to go with it)—and for good reason. Their veggie-packed tacos and fresh-squeezed juices are just what the doctor ordered after a late night. But for delicious tacos without the wait, try Taco-Mex, Tacos Guerrero, Taqueria La Canaria, Rosita’s El Pastor, Marcelino Pan y Vino or La Fruta Feliz.

SOAK IT ALL IN

Ask a local about Barton Springs and they’ll likely wax poetic about the city’s spring-fed aquifer, a sanctuary which attracts a diverse crowd throughout the year. (Since the water remains a steady 68°F to 70°F, some devotees even swim laps during the winter.) There is no faster relief from the relentless central Texas heat than a plunge in the spring’s cooling waters. Barton Springs marks one end of the lush Barton Creek Greenbelt, a 7-mile network of hike and mountain bike trails, swimming holes, and limestone bluffs for climbing. Though most of the popular spots can be mapped online, going with someone familiar with the trail is best, as many of access points can be hard to locate.

Local’s tip: The best swim spots are the ones located outside the city, like breathtaking Hamilton Pool Preserve. Just a short drive from Austin, the natural limestone formation has created a 50-foot waterfall which spills into a reflective lagoon.

FIND THE BEST BARBECUE IN TOWN—WITH THE SHORTEST WAIT

Sure, Texans love their barbecue. But it’s hard to justify standing in an hours-long line for it when you actually live here. The good news is that there is no shortage of slow-smoked meats in town! While trailers like Micklethwait Craft Meats and Kerlin BBQ are both popular and centrally located, they’re still much more easily accessible than the likes of the highly publicized (though undeniably delicious) Franklin Barbecue and La Barbecue. Plus, they feature more unique selections outside the standard Texas trinity (brisket, sausage, and ribs) and standard sides (potato salad, beans, cole slaw). MCM handcrafts unique sausages (lamb tangerine, pork belly andouille, duck fig, bierwurst) and makes their bread and pickles in-house. And the brisket Frito pie is truly a regional delicacy, as are Kerlin BBQ’s artisanal kolaches filled with everything from pastrami and kraut to fontina and red pepper.

Local’s tip: Thanks to eastside food trailer BBQ Revolution, vegans and vegetarians can also experience this piece of Texan food culture. Enjoy plant-based dishes like No Bull Brisket (made with wheat roast) and tempeh ribs. Just north of downtown, and adjacent to UT campus, Ruby’s BBQ knows a thing or two about smoking meats after all, they’ve been doing it since 1988. Regulars love their smoked turkey, Elgin sausage links, and tender brisket— plus the best étouffée in town!— all best enjoyed on their wood-paneled porch, plastered with show posters of years past.

EXLORE AUSTIN'S (OTHER) MUSIC SCENE

The “live music capital” attracts musical talent from all over the world to play on main stages like at ACL Live at the Moody Theater, Stubb’s, and Bass Concert Hall. But performances that exude the very essence of Austin happen weekly at some of the city’s smaller venues. The Broken Spoke, on South Lamar, is easily the city’s most iconic honkytonk, featuring some of the city’s biggest country musicians and a spacious dancefloor. Further north on flourishing Burnet Road, Ginny’s Little Longhorn Saloon draws big talent to its tiny stage and hosts weekly Chicken Shit Bingo, a Sunday afternoon spectacle which is not to be missed.

The White Horse is a more modern honkytonk on the eastside, as well-loved by hipsters as it is by bikers, with a range of country and roots music each night. Catch a wealth of bands from near and far playing garage rock, neo-psych, post-punk, indie pop and good old fashioned rock and roll at rough-around-the-edges clubs like Hotel Vegas, Barracuda and Beerland. Further east, break a sweat dancing to hip hop, funk, Brazilian, and West African music at the charmingly divey Sahara Lounge or slip into a booth at the Skylark Lounge, a gem of a blues bar that still hosts legendary performers like Miss Lavelle White.

Local’s tip: If it’s a dancefloor you seek, follow DJ Orion and the rest of Peligrosa, a DJ collective who consistently electrify dance parties with a blend of hip hop, salsa, cumbia, reggae, baile funk, and afro-beat at venues around town like The Volstead Lounge and Vulcan Gas Company. If you’re in town on a Monday, get low at Nasty’s, when DJ Mel takes over the turntables to spin hip-hop for the city’s longest running weekly party.

ESCAPE TO THE HILL COUNTRY

One advantage to living in Austin is how easy it is to escape urban sprawl. Drive west 40 minutes and you’ll be on your way into the picturesque central Texas landscape known as the Hill Country. One of the easiest (and tastiest!) ways to see the area is a trip to some of the area’s best local breweries and distilleries, many still within city limits. Jester King Brewery specializes in farmhouse ales made using local grown and malted grains, well water and native wild yeast. Take a tour of the brewery and then order beer in their tasting room and enjoy it on the dog-friendly grounds, where you’ll find live oak-shaded picnic tables, a spacious hay-filled barn, and Stanley’s Farmhouse Pizza which serves rustic, wood-fired pies.

Nearby, Argus Cidery opens their tasting room each weekend, offering variety of different ciders and fruit-based fermentables, with Revolution Spirits, and Last Stand Brewing Company right next door. A little further down the same road, Treaty Oak Distilling produces a number of small batch spirits (Red-handed Bourbon, Treaty Oak Rum, Waterloo Gin, and much more) on their 27-acre ranch. Begin with a distillery tour, then stay for cocktails on tap, yard games on their grounds, and creative dishes from the mobile test kitchen where their future restaurant will be. Plan for a safe trip home by calling an Uber or Lyft or arrange a tour with the Hill Country Craft Beer Trail or The Austin Tour Company, who specialize in brewery and distillery tours.

Local’s tip: If you plan a trip to Austin at the start of spring (late March to early April), you might be lucky enough to catch the brief, but magical, wildflower bloom. Take a day trip into the Hill Country at the right time and you’ll find yourself surrounded by dreamy fields of bluebonnets, black-eyed Susans, and Indian paintbrushes.

More on Salt & Wind

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Opening photo by Veronica Meewes, Odd Duck brunch by Richard Casteel, Hamilton Pool photo by Dave Mead, Micklethwait sausages photo by James Besser, Ginnys Little Longhorn by Leah Overstreet, Jester King Brewery photo by Wes Kitten, BBQ photo courtesy of Micklethwait Craft Meats


Migas

Some years ago, I dispatched a lifelong aversion to scrambled eggs over a plate of migas at Austin’s legendary Las Manitas. It was a revelation. Apparently, all that those bland, rubbery little curds needed was to be subjected to a well-seasoned griddle, lashed to rafts of toothsome corn tortilla, and blitzed with spicy green chiles and fresh tomatoes. Properly called huevos revueltos con migas (migas meaning “crumbs”), this humble creation springs from the grand tradition of scraping together something out of nothing. It is one of many adaptations of a Spanish “peasant dish” that, in its simplest form, consists of bits of day-old bread pan-fried with garlic. In central Mexico, migas is a garlicky soup thickened with stale bolillos and amped up with pig parts. As for the version we Texans know and love, it’s believed to hail from the border region, as so many good things do, and though it may be slightly less exotic, it’s no less soul-affirming. Indeed, the traditionally meatless meal is a go-to during Lent in some households. Though if there’s one thing every iteration of this dish is known for, it’s as an antidote to spirituous overindulgence, the sort that inspires a whole different kind of penitence.

Vaquero Migas

16 yellow corn tortillas
vegetable oil for frying
12 eggs, beaten
1 /2 teaspoon salt
1 /2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1 cup grated cheese, like cheddar or a good Mexican white (some argue that cheese is not traditional I feel sad for them)
1 /4 cup finely chopped onion
1 /4 cup finely chopped firm but ripe tomato
2 finely chopped jalapeños

Cut the tortillas into rectangles, about 1 by 2 inches. Heat 1 1 /2 inches of oil over medium-high heat (if you have a favorite cast-iron skillet, this would be a good time to use it). When the oil is hot but not smoking, fry the tortilla pieces, stirring to keep them from sticking together. Before they are crisp, transfer the chips to a plate covered with paper towels to drain. Set aside.

Discard about half the oil (or a little more if you’re alarmed), return the skillet to the heat, and add the eggs. Add the salt and pepper and stir constantly. As the eggs begin to set, add the tortilla chips and continue to stir, scraping the bottom of the pan. When the eggs reach a soft scramble, fold in the cheese, followed by the onion, tomato, and jalapeño. Serve right away, preferably with hot flour tortillas and refried beans.


The breakfast taco spots

Valentina's Tex Mex BBQ

Valentina’s Tex Mex BBQ is a fusion of Austin’s greatest cuisines: Tex-Mex and barbecue. There’s nothing else quite like this food - especially their breakfast tacos. The foundation is the phenomenal flour tortillas that you’ll beg and plead and offer to trade in your car for a stack to take home (until you learn you can buy them by the dozen). Those get topped with exceptional barbecue (brisket or pulled pork), scrambled or fried eggs, and tomato serrano salsa, to make some of the greatest breakfast tacos in the entire known universe. Just know you have to get your order in by 11am - and there’s usually a line.

What to get: Potato, egg, and cheese (add pulled pork) Real Deal Holyfield (with brisket)

Veracruz All Natural

The migas taco at Veracruz All-Natural sets the bar for all other migas tacos. Like Super Mario Bros. 3 or the brisket at Franklin Barbecue, they’re best-in-class - a legend. What makes these migas tacos so much better than all the other ones out there? The ingredients (they make their own tortilla chips), the execution, and the attention to detail (they take their time cooking things). Veracruz has three trucks and two brick-and-mortar locations, and you’re probably going to have to wait in line no matter which one you go to. But just know these tacos are always worth it.

What to get: Migas Originales (add the molcajete salsa) Migas Poblanas

Franklin Barbecue’s Tacos & Coffee

The barbecue at Franklin Barbecue is the best in Austin, the best in Texas, the best in America, and the best in the universe. So when the meat whisperers opened a breakfast taco trailer in their parking lot, our expectations were high. Are these the very best breakfast tacos in Austin? No - but they’re close. Especially the ones made with the legendary Franklin brisket, where it gets crisped up and caramelized on a griddle and paired with fluffy eggs and guacamole, all on a warmed flour tortilla. And unlike Franklin Barbecue, there’s often no line at all. (Bonus: they serve good espresso.)

What to get: Brisket, egg, and guacamole taco

Joe's Bakery & Coffee Shop

Joe’s Bakery & Coffee Shop is an East Side staple that’s been around since 1962. Is there always a wait? Yes. But that’s because of the exceptional Tex-Mex/Mexican diner food (and the pan dulce, too), especially the breakfast tacos made with fluffy house-made flour tortillas. Get the miga taco con todo, with still-crispy tortilla chips, as well as the super-crispy bacon that defies the laws of pork belly physics. Either order a side of it or add it to your breakfast taco, where it’ll hang out of the sides like the tortilla is a hammock that’s too small.

What to get: Miga taco con todo Bacon, egg, and cheese taco Carne guisada taco


My Favorite Tacos of 2014

Get me talking about tacos and see me light up like a child who receives the exact gift he wished for Christmas morning. From their history and folklore to their variability, there is much joy in tacos. In no particular order, these are the tacos that brought me that joy in 2014.

A plate of tacos at Los Torres.

Taco de Barbacoa Roja Estilo Sinaloa at Los Torres Taqueria
Unlike the barbacoa commonly available in Texas, this specialty of Sinaloa (where the Torres family has roots) is a mix of beef and pork, dark red from chiles colorados and fragrant spices. It’s always included in my order at Los Torres, where homey braises and handmade tortillas band together to give Dallas it’s best taqueria. When you visit the little spot in Oak Cliff—and you will—resist the urge to order tortillas de maiz hechas a mano. Go for the thin, nearly translucent handmade flour tortillas characteristic of Sinaloa.

Taco de Barbacoa de Cabeza at Gerardo’s Drive-In
The table-hushing barbacoa at Gerardo’s on Houston’s east side is among the best I’ve had in Texas yet. It’s silky and full, though delicate, and pulled directly from the cows’ head. My visit to Gerardo’s included a kitchen tour from Owner José Luis Lopez—Gerardo is his son—who obviously has pride in his work. He propped the cow heads for photos taken by the crew I was running around Houston with that morning, amigos in food J.C. Reid and Michael Fulmer, cofounders of the Houston Barbecue Festival, and photographer Robert Strickland.

Taco al Pastor at Taco Flats
Austin isn’t a taco al pastor town. It’s strength resides in breakfast tacos and Tex-Mex. So this killer version of the undisputed king of tacos on a housemade tortilla from Taco Flats, a new Burnet Road bar with taco-focused pub grub came as a surprise. Sit at the far end of the bar for a view of the trompo. Continue reading &rarr


Breakfast Tacos Around Austin

When you think of Austin cuisine, what&rsquos the first thing that comes to mind? For many people, breakfast tacos are a mark of cultural importance in Texas&rsquo capital city, with options ranging from authentic Mexican fare to contemporary takes on this delectable, evergreen Austin dish. These local favorites will have your mouth watering, and your morning looking just a little brighter.

Try any of the four breakfast tacos with jalapeño ranch.

Juan In A Million

Try the Don Juan El Taco Grande.

Joe&rsquos Bakery and Coffee Shop

Try the Miga Taco Con Todo from this Eastside gem.

Build your own breakfast taco, or opt for a breakfast bowl with up to four toppings.

Try The Otto and be sure to grab their creamy salsa Doña.

Try Pete&rsquos Tantalizing Taco.

Veracruz All Natural

For a vegetarian option, try the #8 vegetarian migas and cheese.

Torchy&rsquos Tacos

Taco Mex is a walk-up window on Manor Rd. Try any of the simple, authentic breakfast tacos.

Tacos n&rsquo Tequila

Create your own taco from the Street Taco Bar.

Texas Honey Ham

No matter how you take your breakfast tacos, these taco joints will have you coming back for more.


Mexican Hummus

Ingredients:

1 -15 oz can chickpeas, reserve the liquid
1 large lemon, juiced
¼ cup sesame seed butter (tahini)
½ tsp minced garlic
2 TBSP extra-virgin olive oil
½ tsp ground cumin
Salt
½ cup roasted red peppers
1 small can diced jalapeños, set aside half of the can for garnish
1 bottle of Tabasco sauce

Directions:
Place sesame seed butter (tahini) and lemon juice into a food processor together. Process twice for 30 seconds at a time, so it has a whipped texture. Drizzle the olive oil into the food processor. Also add the minced garlic, roasted red peppers, cumin and a dash of salt. Process again for 30 seconds or until well blended. Add the jalapeños and process until blended. Rinse the chickpeas before adding to the processor. Scoop in ½ of the chick peas at a time and as needed pour in the liquid reserved from the can. Continue to process until it has a thick yet smooth consistency. Scoop into a bowl.

For garnish: add the remaining diced jalapenos to the center of the serving bowl and drizzle Tabasco sauce in a circle onto the hummus.

Do you have a favorite hummus recipe? Share it with us below in the comments!