There is nothing I'd rather do than drive a piece out to the country to eat some roadfood....hopefully to a place I've never been.It's with this in mind that I set sail on this gorgeous first Saturday of Spring 2008.
I love FM 812.It's a winding country road through southern Travis county that eventually ends up in Red Rock Texas.The drive is bucolic,the trees are greening up real nice and the farmland is coming to life with big tractors tearing up the earth for spring planting.The traffic hammers along at a frightful pace with the average speed being 80-90 mph.I'm not feeling all muscle-y so I routinely shift far right and wave the mini-vans and pickup trucks past me.
I pass Taqueria El Chanclas in Pilot Knob http://www.chowhound.com/topics/493288 with a heavy heart.I love it but I'm determined to eat something new and foreign.A good 30 or so miles out of Austin I spot a very promising looking taco cart tucked a hundred feet or so off the road.Taqueria La Veracruzana 1865 FM 812 Cedar Creek Texas 78612 butts up right against a pasture and sits next to a tumble down drive through beer store called Tabor Town[6 pack of Corona $10].I'm greeted by a friendly Mexican lady who turns out to be the owner as well as my cook.I've got more eating to do so I limit my choices to a Chicken Tinga Taco and a Lengua Taco,both are ordered on Corn Tortillas,I ask if they're homemade and am honestly told "no".I know at this point that the food may be good but it cannot be superb.If the sandwich shop doesn't make the bread it can be good but greatness will elude it.The same goes for tacos.
After 10 or so minutes my food arrives and proves to be a mixed bag.First the bad:The Lengua is not edible.In all my excursions to Food Carts all over USA,Mexico and Europe this is the first time I get food that simply cannot be eaten.It's old.The flavor of old meat is disgusting so I surreptitiously tuck it into the pocket of my leather jacket,hope the nice lady doesn't see me and tack into taco #2.The Chicken Tinga is very good.Slightly dry but tender and flavored with mild red chiles.It's served on non- oiled doubled up Corn Tortillas and garnished with Sweet Onions.Both of the Salsas are good.The Red is wonderfully smoky pureed Chiles and little else.The Green is hot and fresh...Pureed Poblanos would be my guess.Service is good.Tere,the owner asks after me and generally concerns herself with my weal.Each taco is $1.50 and is a plump portion.
Hossing back onto the bike I point North back toward Austin and enjoy more of my ride.A few miles north I spot a sign saying "Gary's Grill" with an arrow toward the East.I'm game so I motor down 2430 for a few hundred yards before I spy a homely hand painted sign proclaiming "Letty's Tacos"(316 Mesa Drive,Del Valle Texas]I hook a left and pull up a gully washed driveway to a tiny,nicely maintained cart with a patio wrapped in plastic to keep the cold out.I can feel a score coming on good and hard when I notice the Saturday special is Birria,one of my favorite Mexican dishes ever.I'm greeted warmly by the three ladies in the cart and proceed to order two tacos.One Suadero[Brisket] and one Birria[lamb].The tacos are quickly trotted out on homemade Corn Tortillas and both are good.The Suadero is cubed,roasted Brisket topped with raw Sweet Onions and garnished with half a key lime.It's tasty but I'm fascinated by the looks of the Birria,it's a glorious wreck of stewed Lamb topped with Fried Sweet Onions and tasting of Annatto.I must look hungry as one of the girls walks out with a small cup of creamy refried Pinto beans,smiles and places it on the table.They're good and fatty with plenty taste of Hog but slightly gummy.I'm stuffed to the gills at this point so I lean back to watch a little Mexican Beach Party on the tiny color tv up near the counter.Through a rent in the plastic I can see a group of carpenters hammering away on a small barn in a pasture across the way.It's glorious...eating delicous food,feeling the warm sun and watching some good country folks putting up a barn in a field dotted with young goats.I ask if they have Cabrito[anytime I see a goat I get hungry]and they laugh and report "no".I gesture toward the field of goats and they laugh harder.We all share in the hilarity but I wonder what would happen if I slaughtered a goat and brought it to Letty bright and early one morning.My guess is she'd get down to business and around dusk we'd be eating the Hell out of some Cabrito.The Corn Tortillas are delicous,thick and rustic with a nice fatty flavor and little char marks all over.Both Salsas are good but not amazing.
I've eaten Austin dry in the last few years.The food is good but I need new feeds to keep me happy.My instincts tell me there's plenty fine eating in the rural parts of unincorporated Travis and Bastrop counties and I intend to prove this notion with lots more field work this Spring.