Though Austin’s claims to taco domination are often wildly overstated, 2019 has seen a taco renaissance with an explosion of new concepts entering the scene. From food trucks that carefully follow tradition to restaurants that throw out all the rules, this year’s freshmen class proves that even in one of the Capital City’s most crowded dining sectors, there’s still plenty of room left in the tortilla.
The West Austin eatery under the Peached Tortilla umbrella expands on the original's taco menu with the same "anything goes" approach. Joining established favorites banh mi and barbecue brisket are a slew of new choices, including a lavishly spiced cauliflower option in a corn tortilla. Even more fun are the large formats plates that invites diners to build their own wraps. The panko-crusted whitefish sparkles with cilantro chimichurri and sriracha mayo.
This Warehouse District restaurant showcases celebrity chef Jason Dady at his most playful, serving tacos with a wink. Braised chicken thigh is slathered in a Nutella mole, al pastor is reinvented with tofu, and a lengua and barbacoa option is goofily called Tongue ’n’ Cheek. Still, all the fun doesn’t translate to lax standards. Even diners who have had a couple of hefty margaritas will be able to appreciate the way sweet caramelized onions dig out the earthiness from cremini and shiitake mushrooms.
One of the newest taco trucks to park on the east side, this unassuming concept specializes in Mexico City-style tacos brimming with bisteck, chicharron, pastor, and fish. Though not reinventing the form, owner Jose Santos excels at the details. Plates aren’t garnished with anemic slices of lime but instead a veritable salad of striped cucumbers and crisp radishes. The red and green peppers don’t just offer sizzle but electric tang. Toyloco doesn't have a website but can be found at 2615 E. Seventh St.
Chef and owner Nick Belloni is an alumnus of farm-to-table stalwart Eden East, a fact reflected in the hyper-local sourcing found at this East Austin trailer. Now, he uses peak produce on handmade tortillas to create some of the most interesting tacos in town. Though the menu frequently changes, guests can expect seasonal vegetables, game, and cross-cultural flavor combinations. A recent offering unexpectedly paired boar chorizo with Japanese kabocha squash, and both slicked with the sunshine orange of artisan cheddar.
A partnership between Mi Cocina, El Arroyo, and Taco Diner vet Chris Martinez and Parkside project’s Shawn Cirkiel, this Tex-Mex place replaced Bullfight in April. Replacing a brooding color scheme with primary pops, it now serves friendly fare like nachos and enchiladas. Guests can choose from several taco choices like picadillo, adobo chicken, or seasonal veggies, but the grilled redfish is the best, thanks to a drizzle of only slightly stinging habanero salsa.
The brick-and-mortar version of a popular Hyde Park food truck, this concept is a valentine to owners Miguel and Daniel Cobos’ old stomping grounds in the Rio Grande Valley. In April, CultureMap crowned its al pastor Austin’s Favorite Taco during the 2019 Tastemaker Awards, but the breakfast is the sleeper hit. Even the bacon, egg, and cheese is wholly unexpected with its mantle of pan-seared Oaxacan cheese.