Tacos have their own vocabulary that I never learned in Spanish class. Like what is barbacoa, exactly? It takes on different forms throughout Mexico, but the South Texas version most prevalent in Austin is rooted in ranching traditions. When a cow is slaughtered, the head is roasted in a pit dug into the ground and lined with hot mesquite coals and maguey leaves. Every bit of the head, from the eyes to the brains, is consumed. In the Rio Grande Valley, the velvety shredded beef is traditionally eaten on Sundays with fresh tortillas, cilantro, onion, and tangy salsa. I ate all over Austin to find the best barbacoa I could; here are the ten standouts.
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Why are college neighborhoods often food wastelands? Yes, students are notoriously cheap, but the world is full of inexpensive yet delicious eats, so that's no excuse. Do campus area spots rely on a captive audience of car-deprived students? Or are they just too drunk to care about food? It seems like every large university is surrounded by boring chain restaurants mixed with mediocre pizza, burgers, and Thai food.
The Dirty Sanchez is a vegetarian hangover helper that's every bit as sloppy and satisfying as its meatier counterparts. A fried poblano is the centerpiece, with that pepper's great ability to taste reasonably tame and vegetal on first bite, but build to an ever-increasing heat.