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October 17, 2007

La Victoria Bakery, 5245 Burnet Rd.

I'm starting to like Burnet Road as a peculiarly Austin-style culinary destination. It lacks the pretense and arch-hip attitude of South Congress, and is apparently still cheap enough to support tiny family restaurants like Consuelo's and one of the best breakfast taco joints in town, La Victoria bakery. La Victoria (neé Mi Victoria — I guess changing the signage was cheap) pumps out a bewildering array of traditional Mexican pastries (mostly panes dulces) and other sweet Mexican treats like gelatina and flan, but the star attraction here is the taco.

A good breakfast taco needs to satisfy three basic requirements. First, it needs to be cheap — otherwise you might as well sit down and order a plate of food. Second, it needs to be filling, so you can make it through your hellish morning without opening fire on your co-workers. Finally, of course, it needs to taste good — and, given the slightly monochromatic porkiness/saltiness of most breakfast ingredients, that means good salsa.

Now, you clock-punchers who argue that speed is a critical component of the breakfast taco experience can continue to gorge on the execrable steam-table eggs of Taco Shack. The rest of you should set that alarm five minutes earlier and experience the multifarious greasetasticness of fresh, flat-top cooked eggs. It's worth the wait.

Don't be daunted by La Victoria's early morning line; they crank the food out fast enough, and at $0.99 for a two ingredient taco (plus one thin dime for each additional), this is a bargain breakfast. The tacos come out hot and improve with a car ride to work (or a bus ride to the courthouse) because the cheese has time to melt. The salsa won't win any awards, but it's just right for the eggs, a touch of fruitiness and heat to cut through the grease.

If you're still pulling in the unemployment checks and have some time to kill, try to find an open chair or one of their charming, busted old booths and relax in the lost-in-time, semi-industrial ambiance of a place that looks like it hasn't changed a light bulb in thirty years. The "authenticity" police call this atmosphere; most others might note a lack thereof. I'll leave it at funky, weird, angular and damn tasty.

Posted by brentbuford at 08:28 AM | Comments (0)

October 01, 2007

La Cocina de Consuelo, 4516 Burnet

This cozy eatery opened by local catering luminary Connie Rodriguez brings hole-in-the-wall ambiance to tony Rosedale, on a strip of Burnet that is undergoing a culinary renaissance of sorts. While Blue Star missed the mark (just slightly) the last time for me, Maru is turning out decent sushi and Sampaio's menu, though bank-breaking, has some genuine treats.

I keep going back to Connie's for the breakfast burritos - really, somewhere between a burrito and a taco, if you subscribe to the Mission-size criteria for true burrito-dom. "Stacy's" burrito packs egg, machacado and avocado into a homemade flour tortilla and makes a solid breakfast for under three bucks - in some ways, it's a better deal than two breakfast tacos, and a welcome break from the holy grease/cheese/egg trinity of Texas mornings.

Go here for lunch and, if you can find a seat in the four-table dining room or the two-table patio (yes, it really is damn tiny – the kitchen is bigger than the dining area), get the signature chicken enchiladas with green tomatillo sauce; they're exemplary – impossibly light and almost refreshing, something you don't expect from a plate of enchiladas. Combined with Connie's subtle, earthy preparation of nopalitos, this is a dish I'll come back for again and again.

Sadly, the light hand didn't fare well for the carne guisada, which was slightly bland and, worse, insubstantial. A dish that brooks no "light" interpretations, carne guisada should be hearty and plentiful, but this entree was neither, despite a big push from the server.

Whatever you get, try some green sauce with it, because Connie has refined her tomatillo recipe to a near-perfect blend of flavor and heat. This is a model green sauce, complex and bracing, showcasing every ingredient without allowing one to dominate. It's smack-your-mama stuff, making even the oppressive Mexican Jesus music recede for a moment as you revel in its verdant bounty. Uh, or something.


Posted by brentbuford at 06:10 PM | Comments (0)