The first in a series of posts about the best tacos and where to find them in and around Austin, Texas.
With an almost unquantifiable number of taco trucks and Mexican restaurants in this town, I hesitate to name any of them the "best in Austin," but the little blue trailer that is Tacos La Flor comes as any to winning that designation.
La Flor camps out beside a nondescript convenience store on a transitional stretch of South First Street, some ten to twelve minutes from downtown by car. Guarded by two warped wooden picnic tables and a four-legged umbrella, La Flor offers little in the way of dine-in atmosphere, catering mostly to drivers en route.
What puts La Flor above all the other taco poseurs are their homemade tortillas, hands down the best in the city. (Full disclosure: I can only speak for the corn tortillas, in part because that's the way a real taco should be ordered, but mostly because of my wheat-intolerance). The corn tortillas at La Flor have an unparalleled strength and a powerful, ever-present flavor, pleasantly reminiscent of warm pita bread. They also bear a miraculous crispy rim, almost like a tiny pizza crust. As you bite into your taco you might think you've hit a tortilla chip, but no, it's just the crunch of the hardened circumference.
La Flor does five types of beef tacos (six before they nixed the B.B.Q.): bistec, slightly fatty and marinated in tomato sauce with onions; desebrada, shredded; guisada, stewed; picadillo, sloppy joe-style ground beef with squares of stewed potato; and fajita, char-grilled with onions. Both the beef and chicken fajita come out charred and a little crunchy, making them the best of the bunch. The carnitas are good too, not quite as crispy or fatty as I usually like, but still very flavorful and served in generous portions. Chicharrones (fried pork rinds) are moist and doughy, a primarily textural experience that's more like eating torn bits of salty, fatty fried bread than the skin of a pig.
But La Flor's best creation has to be their simple bean-and-egg taco, my favorite breakfast taco in the breakfast taco capitol of the U.S. Anchored by a hearty corn tortilla, the egg is fresh-cracked, barely scrambled and fried into a thin disc, and the pinto beans are only halfway to refried. Other options include bacon, ham or sausage, grilled potatoes, and fresh nopales (cactus). And when it comes to salsa, La Flor removes any choice in the matter and makes only one: a mild peppery red tomato mixture that works perfectly on every taco.
I recommend lubricating your meal with a Mexican Coke, Topo Chico or six pack of Negra Modelo from the convenience store. And be sure to plan the trip to La Flor in advance. It's out of the way even for most Austin residents, and like a number of the best Mexican food spots in town (Juan in a Million, Tacodeli, El Meson) they close early.
Tacos La Flor
4901 South 1st Street, Austin TX 78745 512-417-4214 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily