Austin is overflowing with epicurean entries in the food trailer game, but the original food truck was just a mobile restaurant with low overhead that could serve a good cheap meal wherever the people are.
So while fusion dishes, potted plants and outdoor seating are nice, it’s still good to visit a truck that exists to serve the working stiffs.
Down south on Todd Lane (near where I-35 and 71 meet), surrounded by office parks, construction sites and industrial buildings, there’s a tiny taco truck called Chilango’s that sells $1 breakfast tacos, $2.50-ish lunch tacos and tortas .
We didn’t go for the breakfast tacos, but based on the smells emanating from the tiny one-man operation I’d wager they’re pretty good.
With a friend I ordered the Chilango’s Torta as well as an al pastor taco and a carne guisada taco. The menu said they had agua frescas, but on Wednesday it was horchata instead, which I was perfectly happy with.
Horchata – a rice-based drink flavored with cinnamon – is often hit or miss as many places water it down. This fresh horchata was sweet, tasted strongly of cinnamon without having nasty floating bits in it, and avoided wateriness in favor or refreshing creaminess. In short, it was kick-ass horchata.
The tacos were both winners, with the al pastor slightly beating out the guisada thanks to a delicious smoky char on the meat that also tasted slightly carmelized. Both meat entries were perfectly cooked, and the guisada was moist, as the stewed meat should be. The tacos came with onions and fresh un-chopped cilantro leaves that were too overpowering for my friend Cassandra.
We ordered the Chilango’s Torta because I figured it was a good idea to order the dish that bore the trailer’s name (not because I knew anything about what was inside). It turned out to be a rather large and layered sandwich. First, on the bottom was some kind of breaded, grilled beef that was tasty, and then a layer of what Cassandra generously assumed were sausage spears, but which I thought looked more like hot dog slices. (If it looks like a hot dog and tastes like a hot dog, it’s a hot dog.) For the first couple bites, the meat and bread were all you could taste, but the middle of the quite large sandwich held more enticing surprises. In with the beef and hot dogs was a layer of well cooked and flavored scrambled eggs, plenty of thin jalapeno spears, onions, avocado and large slices of juicy tomato.
Overall the torta was a good hearty and filling sandwich – perfectly serviceable but certainly not perfect.
At Chilango’s, you’re going to get damn good Mexican street food for a damn good price. Our torta, two tacos and a giant cup of horchata that more than filled two tall glasses cost only $12. I can safely mark that in the win column.
Chilango’s is open Monday through Saturday from 5 a.m. to 2 p.m. at 4125 Todd Lane.