In Austin, we take tacos very seriously. Paul Qui, Top Chef Texas winner and one of Food & Wine’s "2014 Best New Chefs," is no different. We asked the owner of QUI (and co-owner of East Side King) to tell us which tacos he loves to eat. His choices were surprisingly humble and, not surprisingly, each pick reveals some part of Qui’s own personal food style -- comforting, fresh, inspired, and fearless.
Tripas and buche tacos
Las Trancas (address and info)
Buche is pig’s esophagus and tripe are beef intestines, and either way, this authentic street taco-style truck is doing them right. Paul likes them "done crispy on a corn tortilla with tomatillo salsa." Paul also claims, "This taco trailer probably has the best street tacos in the city, I can't stop eating their tacos. They’re as good as any I've had in Mexico City."
Adobado and Akaushi tacos
Tacodeli (address and info)
The Akaushi is filled with local Akaushi beef and oniony, cheesy goodness. The Adobado is adobo-marinated chicken topped with fresh cilantro and onions. Paul says, "These tacos are an awesome representation of Austin Tex-Mex, plus I love the Doña Sauce." We’d have to agree -- and the line of people out the door any given weekend demonstrates this perfectly.
Joe’s Bakery & Coffee Shop (address and info)
Whatever combination of eggs, beans, potatoes, or bacon you choose, the magic healing powers of Joe’s breakfast tacos are undeniable. Paul Qui is also a fan, "you can’t beat their fresh tortillas," he says. An Eastside landmark, Joe’s has been serving baked goodies and homestyle Tex-Mex for more than 50 years.
Migas and fish tacos
Veracruz All Natural (address and info)
E Cesar Chavez
This modest operation consistently makes "Best of Austin" lists and easily holds its own amongst the culinary heavy-hitters (also, their incredibly tasty tacos are HUGE). "Overall great tacos with really fresh ingredients," are why this is one of Paul’s favorite spots. Also, try their watermelon agua fresca -- the perfect drink for the inevitable ATX heatwave.
La Fresa taco
Fresa’s (address and info)
Paul loves Fresa’s because of their "happy chickens and fresh ingredients." With a cool drive-thru concept, Fresa’s earns major brownie points for using humanely raised, pastured chicken from a local farm. The "La Fresa" is full of juicy achiote chicken and topped with avocado, cilantro, Cotija cheese, white onion, and cabbage.
East Side King (address and info)
Qui’s own creation deserves a spot on any local taco list, just get a load of this description: butter-poached, sashimi-grade octopus served on a crispy moo shu wrap with vegetable ceviche and topped with tobiko (flying fish roe). Paul says, "this is a great example of where taco culture can be directed." Our advice: direct one into your belly.
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Head out to this food truck, situated in an empty parking lot, and grab some of their cheap tacos. The sauces, like Monterrey Mesquite BBQ, add a nice kick. The best move? Corn tortilla, extra crispy, extra green sauce. Don't think, just order.
At its current East Side Austin location since 1969, this family-run Tex-Mex diner serves all-day breakfast and lunch plates like house-made tortillas, thick-cut bacon, breaded pork chops, and refried beans. Don't leave without stopping at the pastry counter for cookies, pan de huevo, and other Mexican baked goods.
Owned by sisters born and raised in Veracruz, Mexico, this trailer (with a few locations across the city) serves tacos, tortas, and smoothies. The migas -- cloud-like scrambled eggs mixed with house-made tortilla chips, pico de gallo, cheese, avocado, then served atop a fresh tortilla -- are the stand-out dish.
Offering a Pollo Rico alternative for the rico is Fresa's: a gourmet take on charcoal-grilled chicken drive-thrus in the old Emerald City Press spot, from the dudes behind Lambert's, Perla's, and Elizabeth St Cafe, another successful example of a regional delicacy made really pho-king expensive.