While it's no secret that North Austin is home to some of the city's best Asian cuisine, Asian-Tex-Mex fusion certainly isn't something you'd expect to find in a little retail strip on Research Boulevard. But, for the past three years, Yummitaco has been tucked inside Oak Knoll Village, just south of Spicewood Springs Road.
Vicky Nguyen, who's lived in Austin for the past 26 years and worked in a variety of different restaurants, says the fusion of Austin's beloved Tex-Mex with Asian flavors was her son's idea. And, despite its discreet location, the brightly colored little cafe is anything but secret to the people who frequent this particular neighborhood.
"We get lots of people who work around here," says Nguyen. "They want something fast and healthy so I try to make it easy for them."
Breakfast, which is offered all day, includes tacos filled with migas; steak and eggs; or a DIY combination of eggs, bacon, chorizo, potatoes, sausage, beans, cheese, and veggies. A breakfast bowl heaped with eggs, potatoes, cheese, grilled peppers, onions, and your choice of meat comes to a total of just $5.49; those ingredients come wrapped in a breakfast burrito for the same low price.
Signature burritos include veggies on wheat tortilla or the Big Tex Yo-rito, which is filled with rice, fries, veggies, and marinated beef bulgogi — add a fried egg to make it a signature Rising Sun. Yummitaco has also become known for its kimchi fries, topped with house-made kimchi, beef bulgogi, spicy mayo, cilantro, and sesame seeds. This same combination of flavorful bulgogi and kimchi can also be added to a burger.
While Nguyen says she's never owned a restaurant before, she did develop all the recipes, including some family recipes from her native Vietnam. Each day, she features a $5 special, like a Vietnamese chicken curry filled with potatoes and carrots and sprinkled with onions and cilantro. Banh mi sandwiches are another popular choice on the menu and can be made with a variety of proteins and fillings, from lemongrass chicken and spicy eggplant to garlic fish and crispy tofu. And just about any menu selection is great accompanied by one of the bubble teas, in flavors like Vietnamese coffee, Thai tea, and green tea.
Since each element of the menu is made from scratch — from the house-made salsas to the fresh-cut fries — Nguyen says her staff arrives very early to start prepping each day. And business is only getting busier, especially during the lunch rush.
"You need to open another location in the south!" pleads one of her regulars as he picks up a to-go order. While business primarily comes from the neighborhood, others will make the drive for her flavorful fusion of East and West.
"A lot of people ask me about that," says Nguyen, who has her husband helping in the eatery until she finds more employees to hire. "I will try, but in the future. First, I need to find more people to help because I am very tired!"