Thursday, July 17, 2008

Breakfast Tacos

Outside of Texas, the breakfast taco is an annomally. People think it's strange to eat eggs inside a tortilla. The concept was not so foreign to me when I first to moved to Austin a year ago. My mom would make us breakfast burritos growing up, but I was never a fan because our store-bought tortillas were always dry and the eggs were usually overcooked.

(For the record, my mom's cooking is excellent, the exception being eggs).

So after years of turning down my mom's breakfast burritos, the idea of eggs and tortillas together, well, sort of nauseated me.

But Austinites wore me down, constantly insisting I try them. I had my first breakfast taco in November, and since then, I've been hooked. I've eaten enough to make up for years of bad breakfast burritos. In all my taste tests around town, here are my favorites:

  • Maria's Taco Xpress. Maria rises out of her restaurant's reused rubble like an earth goddess beckoning the people of Austin to her Tex-Mex bounty. Literally. There is a half statue of Maria coming off the roof. I've only ever had egg, potato, and cheese breakfast tacos at Maria's, which are so good I don't want anything else when I'm there. The serving of eggs is hearty, with just enough potato and cheese to keep it balanced. I like to add a little pico de gallo for some spice. Otherwise, it's taco perfection.
  • El Chilito. I refer to El Chilito as the East Side's most glorified taco stand. That's all it it is - a taco stand. It's a bit over-rated, a bit too trendy, honestly. Go there on a Saturday or Sunday morning around 11, and all you'll see are hungover hipsters. No wonder there used to be grafitti across the street that read "Yuppies off the East Side." That aside, the breakfast tacos are good. I can get a full meal for under $4, and I appreciate all the cheese. (Unlike Maria's, El Chilito covers the eggs in cheese and it's always hot and melted.) So, yes, the overall stand is hyped up, but the breakfast tacos are delightful.
  • Juan in a Million. An East Austin staple for the last 25 years, Juan in a Million serves the mother of all breakfast tacos - the Don Juan. It's a pile of eggs, bacon, cheese, and potatoes all mashed up together and served on top of small tortilla. It's too much food for one person and you almost always have to order extra tortillas. The friendly service combined with the low price might just make it the best deal in town.

The Basics
Maria's Taco Xpress
Locations: 2529 S. Lamar Blvd., beside Walgreen's
Hours: Mon. 7 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Tues. - Fri. 7 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Sat. 8 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Sun. 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.

El Chilito
Location: 2209 Manor Dr., intersection of Manor and Chestnut
Hours: Mon. - Fri. 7 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Sat. 8 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Sun. 8 a.m. to 9 p.m.

Juan in a Million
Location: 2300 Ceasar Chavez St., intersection of Ceaser Chavez and Mildred St.
Hours: Every day 7 a.m. to 3 p.m.

All take major credit cards and cash

Monday, July 7, 2008

So Happy for Flip Happy

Excuse my absence.

Austin seems to attract the ever-amusing blend of quality high class with ironic kitsch, and nothing seems to embody this more than the gormet air stream trend. This is high quality food served for less because it's made in an air stream or truck or road side stand, and it's all over this city. Take a look at previous posts on Lulu B's and P. Terry's.

Now add Flip Happy Crepes, the gormet French staple served out of a 50's classic, gruyere and all. Flip Happy is notorious in Austin for beating Bobby Flay. Yep, that's right, Iron Chef grill-master Bobby Flay. He asked for it, seeing as he challenged them to a throw down for Episode 1 of Season 3.

Even still, it seems many people are surprised to hear about this local treasure and their Food Network victory. Tucked behind S. Lamar (in walking distance from P. Terry's) it still feels low-key, somewhat hidden. I talk about this place on a regular basis, telling people they must go, must try the savory crepes.

I then go on to tell them about the crepes. The roasted chicken, sauteed mushrooms, gruyere, carmelized onions. It is as wonderful as it sounds. My mouth is watering now as I write about it.

I've also tried the shredded pork with carmelized onions and gruyere (seems we can't get away from gruyere... oh gruyere!) Even the vegetarian options sound full of flavor. I could go meatless for spinach, feta, and roasted garlic. Or for tarragon mushrooms, caremlized onions, gruyere, spinach, tomato, and chives.

The downside to Flip Happy is its limited hours. Typically, it's open Wednesday through Saturday from 10:30 to 2:30. But check their blog to make sure they're open. Also, it's getting busier and busier, so keep in mind that it's not fast. You'll have to wait about 30 minutes.

But it's worth it. Oh yes, worth every mouth-watering bite.

The Basics:
Location: 400 Jessie Street, just behind P. Terry's on S. Lamar
Hours: Wednesday - Friday 10:30 - 2:30 p.m.; Saturday 9:00 - 3:00 p.m.
Accepts: Cash only
Rating: 5 stars
Bottom line: They beat Bobby Flay for a reason.