On Saturdays and Sundays, a cluster of vendors appear behind El Gran Mercado on Pleasant Valley Road in Southeast Austin. They huddle under a network of tents and tarps that just barely shields the compact market from the intense sunlight. Here, you'll find things like cowboy boots, phone cases, toys, and even used cars—and some of the best Mexican food vendors in town.
Huge jars of colorful aguas frescas line the paths weaving through the different stalls while women slice through towering piles of mangos, watermelon, and pineapple. Paleta vendors ring bells while pushing their carts. The menus are all in Spanish, but it's still easy to order even if your language skills are limited.
Although each truck seems to have its specialty (barbacoa, pastor, carnitas), one theme seems to unite them all—freshness. All of the tacos are made with fresh corn tortillas, huaraches and sopes are made with fresh masa, the aguas frescas are made with fresh fruit, and one vendor even sells freshly cut coconut. There's also a Honduran truck selling some of the best pupusas I've had anywhere. Most of the carts set up impromptu restaurants complete with plastic tables, chairs, and sometimes even waitstaff. But by Sunday evening, everything has disappeared until next week.
About the author: Meredith Bethune is a writer, blogger, and sausage and bacon maker. She is currently living in Austin and learning about the wonders of barbecue and chicken-fried steak. Follow her on Twitter (@MeredithBethune).