One Austin man is on a mission to eat — and review — 500 tacos in 2015. From cheap breakfast bites served up at popular dives to complicated creations from upscale eateries, no tortilla will be left unturned.
Professional food journalist and former Austin American-Statesman restaurant critic Mike Sutter introduced his new 500 Tacos Project on January 1. This year, Sutter will review at least one taco per day on his website Fed Man Walking, culminating in 500 taco reviews by the end of 2015.
"It's time to give tacos the same respect we show the latest 'elevated comfort food' project," says Mike Sutter.
"Five-hundred represents the reach and scope of the taco," Sutter tells CultureMap. "Are there 500 Mexican or Tex-Mex taco shops around Austin? No, but the taco doesn't respect borders — it smashes right through them. Barbecue, Southern food, Asian influences, seafood, vegetarian. Some work, some don't. But it's my job to find them all."
During his journey, Sutter will visit popular staples (Torchy's Tacos), underground faves (Taqueria Chapala), fancy spots (Fork & Taco) and non-traditional joints like diners and cafes. He's already dished on heavy-hitters such as Taqueria Arandas #5, La Mexicana Bakery and Juan in a Million, where the famous Don Juan was deemed mediocre.
When Sutter visits a restaurant, he doesn't stop at just one taco. As his coverage of Las Cazuelas demonstrates, Sutter's review may focus on one taco, but he gives nods to others on the menu, while also dishing on the quality of the salsa and tortillas. "I figure my research will cover at least a thousand tacos," he says.
Some may say there's no need to go that far down the salsa-drenched rabbit hole, but Sutter disagrees. In a time where our city fawns over local celebrity chefs and new restaurant concepts seem to open every other week, he reiterates that it's just as important to pay homage to our city's history and the food that we eat regularly. "Austin restaurant culture has evolved, but the taco's been a steady line through the middle of it," says Sutter. "It's time to give tacos the same respect we show the latest 'elevated comfort food' project."
The 500 Tacos Project will continue through 2015, making this the year of the taco. But why now? "[The year] 2015 has a nice round tortilla zero in the middle of it," Sutter points out. "A coincidence? I think not."